Ecological approach to childhood in South Africa: An analysis of the contextual determinants

  • Nicole de Wet University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
  • Ruksana Osman University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa


In South Africa, the educational attainment of African children has been a focal point of policy and research since the end of apartheid in 1994. Individual and policy-level determinants of child development and educational outcomes have been exhaustively investigated. A less researched perspective is the role of community and household composition on educational outcomes. The aim of this paper is to explore the socio-economic and demographic composition of communities and households that influence grade repetition among children in South Africa. The nationally representative South African General Household Survey of 2017 is analysed. The sample is children, 7–14 years old who have repeated a grade (N=529,624). Frequency distributions and multilevel modelling techniques are used to estimate the impact of household and community characteristics on child education outcomes. Results show that males (62.29%) and older children, 10–14 years old (61.27%), have higher grade repetition. In addition, children in female-headed households (54.57%) and poor households (61.13%) also have higher repetition rates. Finally, household poverty (OR: 1.617) and community poverty (OR: 1.944) are associated with increased likelihood of grade repetition. To ensure that South African children progress through school, the households and communities they are nested in require attention and intervention.


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How to Cite
de Wet, N., & Osman, R. (2019). Ecological approach to childhood in South Africa: An analysis of the contextual determinants. Perspectives in Education, 36(2), 132-146.