Resep leading SA nowhere
Research on Socio-Economic Policy (Resep) has played a major role in leading South African basic education policy down a cul de sac by denying the role played by limited fiscal resources. Servaas van der Berg says there is a misunderstanding of their research; I think not (Our school of thought, May 4).
He claims that Resep has “consistently shown that a general increase in fiscal resources … is unlikely to improve the quality of education significantly”. I challenge him to cite any paper Resep has produced that “shows” this. In return, I commit to publishing a detailed refutation and arranging a public debate on the matter.
The fundamental error in Resep’s research can be dated to a claim in a 2008 paper in the Journal of African Economies, where Van der Berg argued that South African expenditure on basic education was adequate because as a percentage of GDP it was high by international standards — an assertion that became entrenched in policy circles. I showed in 2013 that the logic of that argument was fatally flawed. But Resep’s 2016 report on “binding constraints” in basic education nevertheless excluded fiscal resources as a binding constraint.
So when a Resep researcher attacks Treasury for failing to recognise the importance of basic education funding, he is attacking policymakers who have been misled by Resep’s own advice — including to the National Planning Commission.
The state needs to free itself from this flawed research programme before more harm is done.
Dr Seán M Muller Senior lecturer: School of Economics and Econometrics, University of Johannesburg