Social class and community in post-apartheid South African education policy and practices.
This thesis traces and analyses the dynamics of policy formulation and implementation in South Africa over the past two decades and attempts to identify the possibilities for democratic processes to change an unequal and multi-tiered education system. The study suggests that what has been missing from most analysis of transitional policymaking in South Africa is a careful examination of social class, and particularly how and why social movements and social actors on the ground, who were initially central to policy formulation and critique, became largely marginalised once policies were institutionalised. The trajectory of the latter trend, related to the class nature of the post–apartheid state and the political economy of the transition from apartheid to democracy is explored in detail in several of the chapters that comprise this thesis. The thesis builds an argument around class, political economy and community participation situated in critical education policy analysis as the theoretical approach. Critical policy analysis views the terrain of the state and therefore policy formulation processes as spaces of contestation and negotiation. It also allows insight beyond the symptoms of educational inequality and dysfunctionality and shows connectivity between education policy and social relations of power. The major characteristics of an ‘evaluative’ case study which combines description, explanation and judgement is employed in the study of the Education Rights Project. Such a methodological approach allows for reflection on the generation of extant post-apartheid education policy and its implementation. Various chapters provide an account of how communities can use research to document violations of education rights and claim their rights which in turn also provide insights into the complex nature of democratisation of education and formal policy making arrangements. The thesis also demonstrates how experiences of transformational education and activism actively seek to disrupt the dichotomies between formal and informal educational arrangements, the public and private spheres, and cultural and political spaces. The role of local education activism in South Africa has been relatively under researched and largely ignored by mainstream education policy theorists; this thesis attempts to rectify this gap in South African education scholarship. One of the questions explored is whether the elision of social class analysis and meaningful community participation in education policy deliberations has contributed to the failure in addressing and overcoming the profound inequalities and social cleavages that characterise the South African education system. Relatedly, this thesis examines the critical role of community, civil society and social movements in policy critique and development. The study also focuses on issues impacting on the implementation of the right to basic education through formal policy and legislative frameworks and whether these fall short of the needs of people living in South Africa as well as the constitutional imprimatur around the fulfilment of their potential. The thesis suggests that educational reforms should be accompanied by a wider range of redistributive strategies, democratic participation, political will and clear choices about the social ends policy interventions seek to achieve. These issues are prompted by other framing questions such as does the right to education impact on the development of democracy and social transformation in South Africa, what are the obstacles and impediments to the fulfilment of educational rights and what is the relationship between the state and civil society in educational policymaking and the meaning of this relationship for the establishment of democracy in education?