This paper is divided into two main parts. The first part focuses on the quality of education across the school system. Attention is drawn to the low level of cognitive achievement demonstrated by many South African children, and to how widely this varies on the basis of socio-economic status and between the historically different sections of the school system. Given how early these educational inequalities are manifested, this research paper suggests that policy interventions should be implemented early in primary school, in
pre-school, and even during the Early Childhood Development (ECD) phase. Several large-scale sample surveys of educational achievement in South African schools are analysed, and a number of suggestions about specific school and teaching practices that appear to be linked to better learner achievement, even after the negative impact of poverty, have been made.
The second part of this research paper examines the impact of low quality teaching and learning on performance in the labour market. This research paper suggests that income inequality in South Africa is being driven by differences in the level, and more importantly the quality of education people attain. Policies that address income inequality by intervening directly in the labour market will have limited success as long as these inequalities in education persist.