Analyzing accountability in street-level bureaucracy : managing the implementation of national curriculum statements in the mGungundlovu District of South Africa.
ii ABSTRACT It has become generally accepted among public policy stakeholders, practitioners and scholars that street – level bureaucrats play a vital role in policy implementation. Because of that, street – level bureaucrats are attracting considerable interest due to their ability to influence policy outcomes through the exercise of their professional discretion and autonomy. On the other hand, there is an immense body of literature covering different techniques public managers can use to hold street – level bureaucrats accountable. Although many studies have been done to investigate the role of management in holding street – level bureaucrats accountable, there are very few such studies in done in South Africa. Our knowledge of the role of management in holding street – level bureaucrats accountable to organisational goals in the education sector of South Africa is largely based on very limited data. The aim of the research was therefore to analyse accountability mechanisms used in managing the implementation of National Curriculum Statements in the education street - level bureaucracy of South Africa. The specific geographical unit of the study was uMgungundlovu District in KwaZulu-Natal Province. The study had five key objectives, each of which is suggestive of a type of accountability: political accountability, performance accountability, hierarchical accountability, legal accountability and professional accountability. In order to understand the different types of accountability used in the implementation of National Curriculum Statements, a comprehensive review of documents was done. This was followed by interviews with six high school principals and surveys with 100 high school educators. The data were analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The results from documentary review show that the government was exercising political accountability in education through various policies as well as financing education. However, not many respondents were satisfied with its level of political accountability. The results further show that in line with performance accountability, the government was using performance measures to in order to hold educators accountable among other reasons. With various levels of effectiveness, the government is using different forms of hierarchical, legal and professional accountability mechanisms to hold educators accountable. The findings of this study have shown that there are various forms of accountability used in the implementation of National Curriculum Statements. Each type of accountability has its strengths and weaknesses; therefore, they are not mutually exclusive. The present findings have important implications for our understanding of the role played by management in managing policy implementation in street – level bureaucracies.