The evolution of educational inequalities through secondary school: evidence from a South African panel study
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Schooling outcomes in South Africa are characterised by significant inequalities on the basis of race and socio-economic status. This paper reports on findings from a unique panel dataset that follows individuals who participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study in 2002 as Grade 8 students through to their secondary school-leaving examination (known as 'matric') in Grade 12. The paper investigates the extent to which secondary schools differ in converting Grade 8 achievement into matric outcomes. Achievement in Grade 8 is strongly predictive of survival to matric, passing matric and performance in matric. Many
students had extremely weak mathematical proficiency in Grade 8 and yet decided to take matric mathematics, only to fail the subject. Increasing the number of matric mathematics passes is a strong policy imperative. Our analysis suggests that the way to achieve this is to improve mathematics learning at earlier stages of the school programme rather than through indiscriminate mathematics participation in matric.