What international educational evaluations tell us about education quality in developing nations


  • Servaas van der Berg Stellenbosch University




International educational evaluations, SACMEQ, SERCE, education attainment, social gradients, developing countries, South Africa, Mexico


Few developing countries participate in external educational evaluations. Information gaps on education quality make it imperative to expand such evaluations. Furthermore, international comparability across different evaluations should be improved. In addition, data from evaluations must be combined with data on access or coverage. Finally, educational evaluations reveal social inequalities; socioeconomic status has a systematic influence on educational outcomes, but social gradients vary over countries. Resources alone cannot explain massive performance gaps between developing and developed countries. Large efficiency improvements must occur in classrooms and schools. The need is not for “league tables,” but for data that allow countries to judge the appropriateness of their policies and strategies in an international context. Efficient and targeted application of resources and policies to improve education in developing countries requires information on system performance, inequalities, progress and stagnation. International evaluations should be expanded to more countries, should be better anchored and comparable, and should be demystified. Too little international educational evaluation is the enemy of progress.


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Author Biography

Servaas van der Berg, Stellenbosch University

Servaas van der Berg is Extraordinary Professor of Economics at Stellenbosch University and holds the National Research Foundation’s Chair in the Economics of Social Policy. He leads ReSEP (Research on Socio-Economic Policy), a group of 25 researchers engaged in research on the Economics of Education, Economics of Health, Labor Economics and analysis of poverty and inequality. He was closely involved in debates about post-apartheid South African economic policy and served in inter alia the technical team that drew up the country’s post-apartheid macroeconomic policy, GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) and the Lund Committee that recommended South Africa’s massive child support grant program He has done considerable research on education in South Africa and other countries in the region, such as Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. He has served as technical adviser to SACMEQ (the Southern and Eastern African Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality). Recent publications include three influential co-authored reports (How Unequal Education Quality Limits Social Mobility in South Africa; Identifying Binding Constraints in Education; and The Impact of Incentives for Recruitment and Retention of Qualified Teachers in Namibia’s Remote Schools) and a book co-authored with Nick Taylor and Thabo Mabogoane, Creating Effective Schools.




How to Cite

van der Berg, S. (2018). What international educational evaluations tell us about education quality in developing nations. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 26, 50. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.26.3816



Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Educational Evaluation