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Senior researcher at Research on Socio-Economic Policy, Stellenbosch University

Gabrielle Wills is an education economist born in South Africa. She affiliated with Stellenbosch University, and currently a senior researcher with Research on Socio-Economic Policy, (ReSEP, in the Department of Economics. She holds a PhD in economics from Stellenbosch University.

She has been involved in various research projects and capacity development initiatives for local and international organisations, including the South African Presidency, the South African Department of Basic Education, the Ministry of Education in Namibia, and local philanthropy organisations. Her current research focus areas include systems reform in Early Childhood Development, basic education and early grade reading. In 2020 and 2021, she was a team lead for the National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Study (NIDS-CRAM) which aimed to provide reliable socio-economic related statistics to support policy-making in South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently leading a project titled “COVID-Generation” to track the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on South African youth. She is supporting the coordination of the Ilifa Labantwana and ReSEP ECD Working Paper Series ( - this project aims to accelerate knowledge and policy-evidence on early childhood development to support the restructuring of government oversight of this sector. She was co-investigator and project lead for an ESRC/DFID funded study titled “Reading and socio-emotional skills in challenging school contexts: Evidence from South African primary schools”, following her role as project coordinator and senior researcher for the ESRC/DFID project titled “Succeeding Against the Odds: Understanding resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa”. Working with a team of researchers including colleagues in the South African Department of Basic Education, she has been involved in producing the first available early grade reading benchmarks in African languages in South Africa. Her work on early grade reading emanated from the "Binding Constraints in Education" project for the South African Presidency and the European Union. A key recommendation of the report that “all children should be able to read for meaning by the end of grade 10” was adopted in 2019 by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as a top five national priority.


  • –present
    Researcher at Research on Socio-Economic Policy, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch University


  • 2016 
    Stellenbosch University, PhD Economics