The role of management and leadership practices in promoting academic resilience in Nepal, South Africa, and India

Project: Research council

Project Details


This research synthesis grant aims to carry out a complementary analysis of two RLO grants: "Organizational Perspectives on Accountability and Learning (OPAL): school management models and the social impact of schooling in Mumbai and Kathmandu" (OPAL) and "Succeeding against the odds: understanding resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa" (SAO). Specifically, this proposal draws on these two projects and supplementary data analysis to investigate the role of student-level factors (such as socio-emotional skills or experiences of social inclusion) and school-based factors (particularly school leadership and management (SLM) or accountability processes) in fostering academic resilience across three developing countries: South Africa, Nepal and India. By academic resilience we refer to performance above expectations.

Focusing on India and Nepal, OPAL investigated how the accountability of schools differs according to the school management model and whether accountability is linked to differences in learning outcomes. The objective of SAO was to understand resilience in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa. The research identified factors associated with exceptional academic performance, and found the psychological construct of 'grit' to be highly predictive of academic resilience. Following from this, SAO sought to investigate potential interaction effects between school factors, student socio-emotional skills, and achievement. Because OPAL collected data on the socioeconomic background of students, their learning outcomes and psychosocial wellbeing, it is possible to identify those students (and schools) that perform above expectations (i.e. academically resilient). Moreover, both studies evaluated school-level factors pertaining to functionality - either SLM or accountability - and other school functionality and socio-economic factors that may interact with school processes to dampen or augment opportunities for learning and exceptional performance. This makes it possible to investigate the dynamics between school-based factors, contexts and student factors (such as socio-emotional skills or experiences of social inclusion) in producing learning across the three countries.

By synthesising project findings across India, Nepal and South Africa, with complementary data analysis, and by engaging with potential beneficiaries working in other latitudes, we hope to produce results that are more generalisable across developing country contexts than is possible when studying this relationship separately in each setting.

The project brings together economics and education researchers from Stellenbosch University, the University of Bath, and the University of Bristol. This research will also systematically engage with the public and civil society through a targeted programme of research communications throughout the research cycle.
Effective start/end date14/04/2313/04/25


  • Economic and Social Research Council

RCUK Research Areas

  • Education


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