Labour market and inequality
Working paper

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study Numeracy 2015 — An analysis of South African mathematics performance

Rebecca J. Selkirk
July 2019


South Africa has consistently performed poorly on international mathematics tests, but there has been a lack of recent data on primary school mathematics achievement. South Africa’s participation at Grade 5 level in the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study Numeracy test provides the opportunity to gain insight into recent primary school mathematics achievement. This paper uses ordinary least squares regression to investigate the factors affecting Grade 5 mathematics performance in South Africa, and the reasons for the inequality in achievement in the South African schooling system are investigated using a three-stage Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition. It is found that the difference in achievement between wealthier and poorer schools (as measured by average learner socio-economic status) is not solely attributable to differences in factor endowments, but that significant differences exist in the returns to factors such as absenteeism, attitude towards mathematics, learner age, and the presence of a school library.