"Worse than Apartheid?" Measuring educational progress since democracy

Monday, 12 September, 2016 - 15:00

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This paper will investigate claims made by a number South African politicians contending that the state of South Africa’s public education system is worse now than it was during apartheid. It has been widely reported that South Africa’s public education system is in a state of crisis, with South African learners performing poorly compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries that invest significantly fewer resources into their public education systems. Educational outcomes in many ways mirror South Africa’s extremely high levels of income inequality. These outcomes expose the extent to which South Africa has yet to break away from its apartheid past when schools were racially segregated, unequally funded and resourced with inadequately trained and underqualified teachers, and a large proportion of children of school-going age were not attending school at all. Those who did were recipients of an education explicitly designed to serve interests other than theirs, with a narrow curriculum reflective of the Apartheid worldview, often taught in an inappropriate and often counterproductive language of instruction in schools with grossly inadequate physical facilities. Many poor and working class South Africans continue to attend public schools that suffer from similar shortcomings as apartheid-era schools, including low throughput and graduation rates, poor classroom instruction and curriculum coverage, inadequate school facilities, overcrowded classrooms and unequal access to learning and teaching materials. Despite these shortcomings, it is clear that progress, although limited for too many learners and schools, has been made in all areas. The paper will explore the extent to which South Africa’s public schooling system has improved in terms of funding, access, quality and outcomes since apartheid-era education policies were overturned in favour of a system that purports to advance principles of democracy, human dignity, equality and freedom. The paper will be presented with Doron Isaacs.

General seminar arrangements

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