Newsletter 131 - South African School Research


Researchers have a lot to say about the state of our schooling system – here is a brief summary – 2015-2017. The next series of newsletters will focus on each of these seven pieces of research…

  1. “What the Annual National Assessments can tell us about learning deficits over the education system and the school career year” posted by SERVAAS VAN DER BERG 2015.
  2. “Performing above expectations” by Janeli Kotzé - 20 September 2016 RESEP.
  3. RESEP report on flows from matric to, and through, university enriching debate around student fees” posted on November 6, 2016.
  4. New data of challenges in tertiary education presented at LMIP conference” posted on October 6, 2016 by Heleen Hofmeyr.
  5. RESEP launches its synthesis report entitled “A Society Divided: How Unequal Education Quality Limits Social Mobility in South Africa” posted on March 28, 2017.
  6. 6.“Investigating the Comprehension Iceberg: Developing empirical benchmarks for early grade reading in agglutinating African language” by Nic Spaull (RESEP), Elizabeth Pretorius (UNISA), Nompumelelo Mohohlwane(DBE) RESEP, Stellenbosch University  UKFIET 2017 4 Sept 20.
  7. EGRS – 2017 Report by DBE.

Given this context I simply cannot ignore the need to THINK OUT LOUD!

Are our schools really as bad as “everyone” wants us to believe? Are our teachers really as bad as “they” say? Is our government really doing a bad job as “some” wants us to believe? Are all the systemic “shortcomings” really that bad?

Let’s allow ourselves the space to reflect and think out loud! We have heard the mainstream; let us now pay attention to the crowded out voices of the alternative…I can only wish “they” will rise to this challenge....find a way to speak up!

I do not want to be misunderstood! I am not suggesting that we cannot do better – sure we can?

We should challenge some of the conventions which entered our discourse and has assumed the status of universal truths given the context of the South African schooling pre- and post 1994. A wise individual once said that “in a world of change, the only constant is change itself”.

So, on a large scale we have made lots of policy with lots of perpetual changes in areas of;

  1. The National Curriculum
  2. Teacher training
  3. Literacy & numeracy in primary school
  4. Conditions of service of teachers
  5. School improvement
  6. District support
  7. Novice teacher
  8. Mentor teachers
  9. School management and leadership
  10. School governance
  11. Teacher professionalism
  12. Teacher professionalization
  13. Inclusive education
  14. Access
  15. Quality
  16. Standards
  17. South African apartheid history
  18. South African colonial history
  19. South African future
  20. Social science research
  21. Mainstream ideology – ideology on the right
  22. Ideology on the left
  23. Policy making, implementation, review
  24. Short, medium, long term – 5-10-15yrs

I think we should challenge these assumption, norms and conventions, revisit in whose interest it is the maintain them and recommit ourselves to radical educational transformation.


The tension between these two contenders is considerable. A developmental state simply cannot afford the resources to address both (not even twenty years down the line)…a choice has to made! It is my view that South Africa needs another ten years (or more) to focus on access, arrive at a South African standard and then arrive at a benchmark of good practices.

Arriving at a South African Standard with a South African benchmark of best practices serving the South African majority with pride and dignity!

Stop the ever changing playing field of policy practices – stay the course and ignore the pressure of distraction due to continual change. Bring about stability in our schooling system so that teachers can teach and learners can learn. 

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