Early childhood and schools

Reviews of National Policies for Education - South Africa


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Publication: 18/09/2008


Reviews of National Policies for Education - South Africa

Reforms of education, training and human resource development are integral parts of a market economy. South Africa has made progress in all these areas since reform began in 1994. The challenge for the national and provincial departments of education has been to promote and support changes that meet the needs of both the new economy and society and the interests of all young people and adults, in the face of a shortage of financial and human resources.

Reviews of National Policies for Education: South Africa covers the entire system of education, from pre-school to tertiary education and lifelong learning, and analyses it in terms of its economic, social and political impact.

This review is based on co-operation between the OECD and non-member economies around the world. It is particularly interesting for those involved in educational policy, as well as for professionals directly working in the education system of South Africa.



Education reform has been a priority in South Africa since the establishment of the Government of National Unity in 1994 and has played a key role in redressing the injustices of Apartheid. Impressive progress has been made in education legislation, policy development, curriculum reform and the implementation of new ways of delivering education, but many challenges remain in many areas, such as student outcomes and labour market relevance. The OECD report provides an overview of the impressive forward thinking and application of education reform in the country and offers advice on issues of governance and financing; curriculum, learning materials and assessment; early childhood education, adult and basic education and training; vocational education and human resource development; inclusive education and equity; teachers and teaching; and, higher education.

Against the background report prepared by the South African authorities and information supplied in meetings in the course of site visits, the examiners’ report gives an analysis of the education sector within the economic, social and political context of South Africa. The final chapter brings together, in the form of a synthesis, specific recommendations and sets out how policies could be addressed system-wide, linked to priority issues of access and equity, governance, school leadership, student evaluation and efficient use of resources.

This review of education policy was undertaken within the framework of the programme of work of the OECD Directorate for Education’s Global Relations Strategy. The financing for the review was provided by the Government of South Africa, with an additional grant from the Flemish Community of Belgium. In-kind support was also provided by the European Training Foundation.

The Background Report was prepared by the Wits Education Policy Unit (EPU), with the assistance of the Department of Education. Members of the review team were: John Coolahan (Ireland), Professor Emeritus, National University of Ireland, Rapporteur; Milena Corradini (Italy), Education Specialist at the European Training Foundation; Johanna Crighton (The Netherlands), independent education consultant and assessment specialist, Wolfson College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; Serge Ebersold (France) OECD Education Analyst, Professor, University Marc Bloch, Strasbourg; Frances Kelly (New Zealand), Ministry of Education Counsellor for Europe; Georges Monard (Belgium), former Secretary General of the Ministry of Education; Mouzinho Mario (Mozambique), Assistant Professor and former Dean of Education, Eduardo Mondlane University; and Ian Whitman (OECD Secretariat) Head of Programme for Co-operation with Non Member Economies. The team was assisted by Emily Groves and Ginette Mériot (OECD Secretariat) and Brenda Corke and Rose Ngwenya (Department of Education of South Africa).


Table of contents

Part One: Country Background Report: South African Education

  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Chapter 2. Education in South Africa - An Overview
  • Chapter 3. The Components (Sectors) of the Education System
  • Chapter 4. Restructuring the System
  • Chapter 5. Conclusion

Part Two: Examiners' Report

  • Chapter 1. Introduction
  • Chapter 2. Governance and Financing of the Education System
  • Chapter 3. Curriculum, Learning Materials and Assessment
  • Chapter 4. Early Childhood Education and Adult and Basic Education and Training
  • Chapter 5. The Place of Vocational Education and Training in Human Resource Development
  • Chapter 6. Inclusive Education and Equity in Education
  • Chapter 7. The Teaching Career and Teacher Education
  • Chapter 8. Higher Education in South Africa
  • Chapter 9. Conclusions: Strategic Recommendations for Action



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Reviews of National Policies for Education


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