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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BECKMANN, Johan. Education in South Africa from 1961 to 2011: between two paradigms and elusive ideals. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.4, pp.507-532. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article forms part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe. It presents an overview of events and debates in education provision in South Africa during the period under review. The article argues that education between 1961 and 2011 needs to be understood against the backdrop of what happened in the country even before 1961. It therefore lists and brie fl y discusses a number of pre-1961 historical events pertinent to education. Before 1994, and from 1961 onward in particular, education in South Africa was dominated by the separate but equal paradigm, also espousing the principle of differentiated education to accommodate the learning needs of learners and the needs of the country. The South Africa Act of 1909 set the tone for the exclusion of the so-called non-Whites from political and other processes. It allocated higher education to the Union Government and all other education to the four provincial governments. This period was characterised among others by the creation of advisory councils for non-White education and various levels of education institutions for non-Whites. Various investigations to explore possibilities regarding the provision of education for non-Whites like the Eiselen Commission were commissioned. In 1948 the National Party assumed power and adopted the apartheid policy (separate development). The Bantu Education Act was promulgated soon after and it came to epitomise all that was objectionable about the separate but equal policy: unequal spending on children of different races and a curriculum designed to educate Black children for second class citizen status. It unleashed opposition to apartheid education that was not to stop before 1994. Separate educational laws for the education of Indians and Coloureds were introduced in the 1960s and the Education and Training Act was promulgated in the 1970s to regulate the education of all Black people inside "South Africa" and outside it in the self-governing territories that had been formed by that time. In 1994 the ANC took over political power and immediately gave expression to the Freedom Charter notion that the doors of learning shall be opened to all. The ANC espoused what can be called a human rights (transformative or freedom) education paradigm built on the pillars of equality, access, redress, non-racialism, non-sexism and quality. It transformed the education system and created only one national education department with nine provincial departments and only two types of schools - public and independent schools. The ANC introduced sweeping legislative and policy changes and changed the organisation, funding and governance of schools. Compulsory school attendance for all children was introduced and only one national school-end examination was put in place. The article argues that neither the separate but equal nor the human rights paradigm achieved their ideals. This conclusion is reached by analysing the performance of the system, the training of teachers, the curriculum, the cultural and religious aspects of schooling, the role that unions play in education and the funding of education. It further concludes that too many schools remain dysfunctional and that many children do not yet have access to quality education despite the fact that participation in education has improved dramatically. The unique role of unions in South African governance and schooling is examined and their alleged disruptive rule regarding the management and governance of education is explored. The main claim of the article is that participation in education has increased but that the performance of the system has not improved signi fi cantly. Previous gaps and inequalities seem to have remained and may even have widened. The ideals pursued by the two paradigms in question remain elusive. There are, however, a number of keys that can be used to unlock the potential of the education system so that it may

Keywords : Separate but equal paradigm; human rights paradigm; differentiated education; investigations into education; separate governance laws; governance and funding; access and participation; compulsory school attendance; teacher education; teacher professionalism; curriculum reform; performance gaps; dysfunctional schools; remaining inequalities; keys to improvement; constitutional dispensations.

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