Weak Planning Impairs Education: The Politics of Improving Learning Outcomes in South Africa
online resourceposted on 2023-07-18, 16:14 authored by RISE AdminRISE Admin, Communications Development Incorporated
Political economy and ideology are important determinants of educational development. South Africa’s apartheid legacy, and the predominance of the upper secondary schoolleaving certificate, have shaped the policy discourse in ways that often marginalized foundational skills. After 1994, the political urgency of providing quality schooling to the emerging black middle class likely diverted attention from improving the quality of education for the poorest segments of society, despite official policy commitments to serve the poor. Despite these limitations, South Africa has seen gains in learning outcomes in the last 20 years, driven mainly by improvements among the least advantaged. Yet outcomes remain well below those of other middle-income countries, and several political and nonpolitical factors could impede further gains. Education planning capacity remains weak. The quality of teacher training at universities is poor. The electoral system rewards politicians who respond to popular demands, but such demands tend to focus on very visible phenomena such as school infrastructure and obtaining the grade 12 certificate. Making learning visible across all primary schools through better system development— and linking information to school accountability in ways that avoid pitfalls in South Africa’s recent past—are politically and ideologically charged. The reason? Corruption has adversely affected the schooling system, most noticeably for who is promoted, and the wider erosion of institutions caused by corruption undermines schooling in more insidious ways.