Pursuing Equity Through Policy in the Schooling Sector 2007–2017

  • Martin GustafssonEmail author
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


This chapter evaluates policies governing the schooling sector over 10 years against both official intentions, and the international consensus on optimal education policies as expressed by UNESCO. Poor results in international assessments helped shift South Africa’s policy emphasis, in around 2007, from equity of school resourcing to the equity of learning outcomes. Learning outcomes subsequently improved, and became less unequal, according to TIMSS and PIRLS. Three policy changes stand out as likely contributors to this trend: greater clarity in the curriculum documents; the beginnings of a national assessment system; and a greater availability of high-quality texts amongst students. South Africa’s experiences with national assessments are instructive. The absence of a statement of purpose resulted in misuse of the programme, and unnecessary conflicts with teacher unions. This made it easier for unions to halt the programme. Moving forward, South Africa will need to focus on re-instituting a national assessment programme, and on working towards a better policy framework governing teacher incentives. Better guidance to teachers on how to teach reading is also needed.


South Africa Educational inequality Teacher policy Assessments 



Work on this chapter is funded by the National Research Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Basic Education and ReSEPUniversity of StellenboschStellenboschSouth Africa

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