The politics and governance of basic education: A tale of two South African Provinces

This paper synthesises research findings on the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape

Abstract

This paper synthesises the findings of research on the politics and governance in South Africa, undertaken at multiple levels, and using multiple methods. The research explored 2 core questions:

  1. how politics and background institutions influence educational bureaucracies;

  2. the relative merits of hierarchical and horizontal governance.

South Africa’s institutional arrangements provide a ‘natural experiment’ for analysing these questions. While policymaking, the regulatory framework and resourcing are uniform nationally, responsibility for implementation is delegated to the country’s 9 provinces, which differ substantially from one another, both politically and institutionally.

The Western Cape emerges as a strong performer relative to other South African provinces. However, econometric analysis confirms that, notwithstanding strong bureaucracy and abundant resources, its outcomes were below those achieved in Kenya.

The institutional arrangements also assign substantial responsibilities ‘horizontally’ to school governing bodies, where parents are in the majority. School-level case studies detail how in the Western Cape a combination of strong bureaucracy and weak horizontal governance can result in unstable patterns of internal governance, and sometimes a low-level equilibrium of mediocrity. In the Eastern Cape, pro-active engagement on the part of communities and parents sometimes serves as a partial institutional substitute – supporting school-level performance even where the broader governance environment is dysfunctional.

This output is part of the Effective States and Inclusive Development programme

Citation

Levy, B., Cameron, C., Hoadley, U. and Naidoo, V. (2016) The politics and governance of basic education: A tale of two South African provinces. ESID working paper no. 67. Manchester, UK: Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, The University of Manchester.

The politics and governance of basic education: A tale of two South African Provinces

Published 3 November 2016