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close this bookRoles and Responsibilities, Institutional Landscapes and Curriculum Mindscapes: A Partial View of Teacher Education Policy in South Africa, 1990 - 2000 (CIE, 2002, 40 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentMulti-Site Teacher Education Research Project (MUSTER)
View the documentList of Acronyms
View the document1. Introduction
View the document2. A broad contextual framework
View the document3. Origins of the landscape
View the document4. An overview of curriculum changes
View the document5. Curriculum mindscapes
View the document6. The Norms and Standards for Educators
View the document7. Colleges of Education
View the document8. Towards a new teacher education system
View the document9. Some tentative conclusions
View the document10. Questions for the future
View the documentReferences
View the documentAppendix

2. A broad contextual framework

Looking back over the 1990s, it is possible to see three distinct phases and the emergence of a fourth in the "transformation" of the South African education system. These distinct phases, discernible at a macro or holistic level, framed events in teacher education. The first phase, from 1990 to 1994, was a period of structural stasis and cultural malaise. Apartheid legislation and structures persisted with their myriad separate departments, curricula and institutions, albeit with a creeping deterioration. The legitimacy, authority, efficiency and effectiveness of the apartheid system were in tatters from the struggles of the 1980s but as yet no new bearers of the necessary roles and responsibilities required by an education system had emerged. While the old state marked time, education policy development flourished as attempts were made to construct an inspirational and viable vision of post-apartheid South Africa's education and training system.

The second phase, from 1994 to 1996, saw the manifestation of policy in the emergence of new structures, role players and authoritative bodies able to establish commissions and task teams with a legislative authority grounded in the interim constitution. In 1994, the newly elected government began the task of implementing the interim constitution by creating one national and nine provincial education departments and a number of statutory and non-statutory councils: Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), South African Council for Educators (SACE).

The first major new education legislation, in 1995, established SAQA and the NQF. This was followed, through 1996 and 1997, by a number of policy documents (White papers 1 and 2, NCHE Report, Report on the Governance and Funding of Schools), new laws (National Education Policy Act, South African Schools Act) and by a variety of "transformation" programmes guided by the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

The National Education Policy Act, with its principles and frameworks, and the South African Schools Act, with its reorganisation of the schooling system, set clear strategic objectives and determined roles and responsibilities for the national and provincial departments, school governing bodies and other stakeholders. There was a steady reconstruction of state structures as new bodies such as the Heads of Education Committee (HEDCOM), the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), and the nine provincial departments emerged. In spite of all this activity on the policy and structural fronts during this second phase, there was, at the level of schools and classrooms, little improvement in the quality of education available to the majority of the population.

The third phase, approximately from 1997 to 1999, was part of a more general reappraisal of policy within the context of the Growth Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy and its far tighter fiscal framework. GEAR attempts to address a crucial tension that was undermining implementation of the RDP. On the one hand there was a need to exercise tight control over state expenditure to create the fiscal climate necessary for economic growth. On the other hand, there was a need to redress the inequalities of apartheid and ensure that basic public services (water, sanitation, housing, education, health, security) were delivered to the poor. In this phase, the state sought a stronger impact on the lives of the majority by the delivery of better basic services and, in education, greater access to educational opportunities of better quality and more carefully attuned to personal needs, employment opportunities and social transformation.

GEAR and the subsequent Medium Term Economic Frameworks attempt to overcome the constraints of an austere fiscal policy through an increase in the efficiency and effectiveness of state apparatuses. The Ministry of Finance, the Reserve Bank and Department of State Expenditure (Treasury) have been able to implement an austere fiscal regime and control overall state expenditure fairly quickly because these are national competences and decision-making is concentrated within the tight locus of the leadership of these three bodies.

Making state apparatuses more efficient and effective is a far harder and slower task involving a multiplicity of role players including various state departments, provinces, unions, and other stakeholder groups. For example, the national bodies can determine how much money will be allocated to KwaZulu-Natal but it cannot guarantee that the money will be well spent. Ensuring accountability at the provincial level requires concerted action by a number of bodies: Auditor-General, provincial parliamentary committees, media, unions, Public Protector, national departments, et al. Increasing the efficiency of the public service requires negotiations with powerful trade unions and a massive upgrading and re-skilling of public servants. By the end of 1999, limited progress had been made in these areas.

The success of the one side of GEAR (fiscal austerity) and the failure of the other side (efficient and effective delivery of public services) exacerbated the plight of the poor. The shift from an RDP emphasis on equity, redress and basic needs to the stronger economic market orientation of GEAR impacted strongly on transformation in the education system. The viability of policies developed and legislated in phase two under the aegis of the RDP was undermined by the new austerity of GEAR. There was a need for significant policy adjustment. GEAR's success depends partially on a large-scale human resources' development programme. The primary responsibility for this programme at a policy level lies with the Departments of Public Service and Administration, Education and Labour. But responsibility for delivery rests with other bodies such as the National Skills Authority (NSA), the Sectoral Education and Training Authorities (SETAs), and the South African Qualification Authority. In the case of teacher education, where the DoE has a responsibility as the major employer of teachers, other bodies such as the ELRC, SAQA, the Education, Training and Development Practioners SETA, the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), and the South African Council for Educators (SACE) also share responsibility and authority.

It was only in the course of 2000, that a number of these bodies became operational leading to the emergence of a fourth phase in which the focus has shifted strongly to implementation - to having an impact on people's daily lives. This phase is a culmination of previous phases but it is too early to say what will be the substantive shape of this phase. One major challenge will lie in co-ordinating the activities of the multiplicity of role players and bodies with responsibility for and authority over the various aspects of teacher education. The development of a high quality teacher education system in South Africa depends on the ability of these various bodies to act in concert.