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It takes active citizenry to get good schools

Posted by Ayanda Khuzwayo on 17 October 2018 2:00 PM CAT
Ayanda Khuzwayo photo

Achieving universal primary education by 2015 was one of the Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000 by all 191 United Nations states. Remarkably, the goal of “education for all” largely has been met – but levels of literacy and numeracy remain low. Now the frontier challenge is to improve the learning outcomes of children in school – in South Africa and in many, many other countries around the world. 

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In looking for a “silver bullet” to improve the quality of South African schools, a focus on principals and their selection would be a good candidate. As researchers the world over have shown, the quality and commitment of a school’s principal can have a decisive impact on performance.

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What’s a good education bureaucracy worth? One common explanation for the poor performance of South Africa’s schools is that ‘it’s the bureaucracy’s fault’. Indeed, South Africa’s public bureaucracies get lots of things wrong. But as UCT research explored in depth, a narrow preoccupation with bureaucratic effectiveness may be directing attention away from some especially promising responses to the country’s current challenges – in education, and more broadly.

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