Investigating factors which influence parental school choice in post-apartheid South Africa : a case study of Umlazi Township.
Ntombela, Thabisile Nothando.
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While race played a dominant role in determining how South Africans accessed quality education during apartheid this study reveals that in post-apartheid South Africa, particularly in racially homogenous communities, class has come to play a greater role in securing quality education. The following case study provides a compelling vignette of how residents from the formal and informal settlements in Umlazi interact with schools in the local educational market. The study uses qualitative interviews with residents of Umlazi S-section who have chosen to have their children educated in Umlazi schools to extract narratives which expose how they have experienced the process of choosing schools in Umlazi. Choice theories are invoked in order to understand how parents perceive the value of education and how their own choices demonstrate their understanding of the educational market. In examining the factors governing school choice and its effects, the study employs a number of theories which add value to understanding this area of educational sociology including Pierre Bourdieu’s ‘theory of practice’, which provides insight into how class positions influence individuals’ perceptions of their own rightful place in society. Household narratives reveal that parental school choice is dominated by concerns with affordability, safety and preservation of culture. The study also reveals that schools themselves play an influential role in determining who is selected and excluded from schools in the community. The study reveals that societies perceive education as critical to the development of their children and most importantly, that their efforts and educational choices are geared towards providing opportunities that ensure their children have better opportunities in life. However, it is also revealed that school choice is a weak tool for redistributing educational equity in an educational system where access is largely determined by financial positioning. In the community under investigation the manner in which parents exercise choice has resulted in poorer children being pushed out of the local school market. Such movements, in pursuit of educational opportunities, have far-reaching consequences for funding models in the South African education system.