South Africa: As Long As Teachers Are Innumerate, Insecure and Ill-Prepared, Our Education System Will Fail


The South African school system grossly underperforms relative to the resources invested into education. Different forms of accountability within the school system may be helpful in raising levels of learning and narrowing the huge learning gap between children from middle-class and poor families.

The relationship between education policymakers and teachers is complex and indirect, entailing long lines of accountability that are stretched very thinly over a nested series of national and provincial departments of education, district offices, schools and finally, classrooms.

Under these circumstances, policymakers attempt to achieve accountability through inspections, monitoring procedures and reporting systems intended to ensure that the rules and regulations are being followed. But bureaucratic accountability does not guarantee results; it concerns itself with procedures and is effective only when procedures are known to produce the desired outcomes, and when compliance is easily measured and secured.

The problem with the bureaucratic solution to the accountability dilemma in education is that effective teaching is not routine, learners are not passive and questions of practice are not simple, predictable or standardised.

Professionals are obligated to do whatever is best for the client; not what is easiest, most expedient, or even what the client might want. They are also...

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