Working Paper BETA #2017-35

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Title : Smarter Teachers, Smarter Pupils? Some New Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa

Author(s) : Nadir Altinok, Manos Antoninis, Phu Nguyen-Van

Abstract : We study the effect of teacher subject knowledge on student achievement in mathematics and reading by using a dataset from six Sub-Saharan African countries. By using a difference-indifference between pupils’ and teachers’ scores in two skills, we are able to avoid potential endogeneity bias. In most estimations, we do not find a significant teacher knowledge effect in most countries. The main reason is teacher absenteeism and the need to focus on core knowledge. Indeed, more knowledgeable teachers improve student learning only if certain conditions are met. For instance, a high level of teacher absenteeism and low teacher performance in a subset of items that are also administered to students can dampen the teacher subject knowledge effect on student learning. When these conditions are met, teacher subject knowledge has a significant and positive effect on student achievement in most countries.

Key-words : Teacher knowledge; Africa; Learning; SACMEQ; cognitive skills

JEL Classification : I2; O12