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Policy Space and Intervention: The Education Roadmap in South Africa
By: Graeme Bloch (Education Specialist, DBSA) email@example.com
Introduction: Theoretical Issues
This paper examines a policy intervention process, in which the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) played a central facilitating role on behalf of government in drawing up an Education Roadmap for the new incoming government of South Africa.
Questions are raised about the conditions that led to the specific request to DBSA as well as about DBSA’s positioning to participate as credible broker in this education policy development process. The wider social conditions and concerns that opened up space for critical policy development are clearly a part of this complex equation.
In addition, the limitations and specificity of the whole process are identified. This leads to some critical questions relating to follow up and implementation, and thus about the efficacy and impact of the particular policy intervention.
Lastly, the actual assumptions and basis for understanding the theory of policy development, becomes another area of analysis and learning.
In this case, it is about the key analytical frameworks that guided choices of both the diagnostic analysis (what is the problem with education?) and solution (what are the core interventions required?) that the Education Roadmap proposed. Were these theoretical assumptions brought to the surface? In point of fact, do they need to be explicit in a policy intervention process? Or do the proposals and their education assumptions simply but meaningfully reflect the common ‘public’ discourse; or the lowest common denominator of viewpoints amongst the stakeholders who engaged in the policy process?
This set of questions about assumptions underlying the policy model raises a series of similar questions about implementation and intervention, about hierarchy of importance and choice in the proposals going forward, and of course questions about follow up.
These questions are raised not so much as practical or pragmatic questions (who will pick up on the proposals?), but rather in terms of the assumptions made about policy implementation. In this case, it is assumed that a process of ‘elite’ agreement and common purpose to amend and develop an Education Roadmap through a given process of stakeholder facilitation, and a semi-formal ‘stakeholder’ agreement (the so-called 10-Point Programme) would have lasting policy and implementation impact. Is this a naïve view or a pragmatic assessment of institutional, political and social realities and opportunities?
Thus, this paper makes a contribution to a series of lessons asked or learned. It asks whether policy development and impact is purely contingent and accidental – being in the right place at the right time – or whether there are universal lessons for policy development. These are clearly not understood to be chance, as this paper will show, though there are aspects of the contingent that interact with the structural and the purposive (or branding/positioning and institutional capacities elements).
The paper thus also develops a further set of questions: what are the internal institutional conditions that allow a particular institution, the DBSA, to play an important role in this policy intervention and development process? Has participation of DBSA in this process been enhanced, contributed to, and led to improvements in, the practices within DBSA in relation to Education and to DBSA’s role in policy development, as well as being formed by preceding experience? The recent formation of a DBSA policy unit, has been enhanced and has been justified by the agreement to participate in developing the Education Roadmap.
The paper below will spend some time describing the policy process of drawing up the Education Roadmap, the participants, the methodology of working, the specific analytics and outcomes of the process and the role of information. In addition, the theoretical and practical lessons learned have been posed above, but can hardly be definitively answered insofar as this process is far from finished. (As this paper is written, South Africa is in the grip of election fever. The next Minister of Education and Cabinet are yet to be appointed, let alone provincial Ministers or top officials, and policy direction will only then become solidified and more clear. By the time of KMA, some of these issues may be resolved.)
It may be that many of the lessons are specific and unrepeatable; it is more likely a series of lessons and comparisons may be drawn for more effective strategic alignment and policy development in a range of differing situations.
Alignment and interconnection
In a previous paper, the twin relationship was posed, of the external constraints and structures – the actual state of education and its role in post-apartheid South Africa – and of the institutional development of a policy for intervention within the DBSA itself.
What this paper can say is that the successful positioning of the DBSA in the education policy space enabled it to be seen as first choice, as well as a critical and honest broker in the stakeholder policy process.
This is not really the place for a detailed examination of either the context nor of the development of education policy in the DBSA. These will be summarized:
The education context, fifteen years after apartheid, can be described as one of crisis. (see Bloch, G: 2007 and 2008).
While there were significant improvements and achievements in the first fifteen years of democracy, it remained clear that there were inadequate outcomes in terms of standard scores for literacy, mathematics and science, where South Africa routinely came last even amongst less-developed and resourced African countries. Skills scarcities and dependencies had their roots in an inadequate baseline of achievement within the schooling system from very early grade levels.
The second point is that the poor outcomes impacted far more heavily on poor, rural and township i.e. predominantly black schools. While a small portion of schools achieved success, however measured, 80% of the schools remained dysfunctional. Gangsterism, ill-discipline, hunger and AIDS impacted negatively on the social functioning of schools. Teacher issues, for a variety of reasons, resulted in a largely dispirited, demoralized, under-performing but angry teacher corps, and again this impacted particularly on the poorer schools leading some commentators to talk of ‘two school systems’.
It needs to be indicated that concern about the public school system and its shortcomings was widely and publicly expressed, and even acknowledged by education authorities. (This was also given impetus by DBSA’s own interventions in this policy discourse space).
These concerns found expression, amongst other places, within education resolutions at the ANC conference in Polokwane. This important conference defined a far more grassroots based and mobilisational approach by the ruling party (and of course the well-known election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president). In education, there was a call for attention to the impacts of poverty on schooling, and to address access issues for the poor, including through nutrition schemes and the extension of non-fee paying schools to 60% of schools (from 40%). In addition, crucially, there was a call to ‘restore teaching to the noble profession’ it had once been. In return for this commitment by society, teachers were to reciprocate by being ‘in-class, on-time, teaching.’ Education must go beyond being a concern of the education department, but become the concern of government as a whole. The ANC subcommittee on education was charged to give flesh to such formulations, as well as to develop a plan that could inform its key election platform dynamics in the field of education.
Institutional context: the DBSA and education
Was the DBSA in a position to involve itself in such concerns?
DBSA’s primary role is in infrastructure development, with a strong concern for social infrastructure. Education policy adopted in 2006 understood infrastructure not just in hard physical bricks-and-mortar sense, but to include management systems and institutional capacities. Nonetheless, DBSA’s core role as financier was to continue, particularly in relation to loan funding to universities, FET (vocational) colleges and ‘private’ schools with a developmental component.
Nonetheless, a key feature of the new education policy was to commit DBSA to involvement in the public schooling sector. This was a difficult area to fund directly, given its complex relation to the provincial fiscus, although it is possible new areas may open up in relation to attempts to improve the physical facilities in schools (see DBSA, Infrastructure Barometer, 2008).
In particular, as the earlier paper argued (Bloch, G: 2005, 8) “One of the key decisions was to develop the policy space as a public space…and the building of networks and sustaining of partnerships.”
Further, it was understood that “practical experience and carefully assessed learnings will be able to shape a longer-term frame on where the bank has the most expertise, development impact, leverage and ability to intervene. Policy, defined in terms of shaping a series of practical interventions within a specific institutional landscape, itself changes, as the wider education and schooling environment will also shift.
“The alignment of interventions to seriously address the issues of quality and equity in the South Africa education system, and finding the best interventions based on one’s own institutional location, are hardly short-term or superficial projects.” (Bloch, G: 2005, 11)
It is argued that a consistent involvement by DBSA in public discourse had three effects in the intervening years 2005 to 2008– (1) It helped change the public discourse and understanding of failings in the education system, to the point where the term ‘crisis’ has become a common currency. (2) Secondly, it placed DBSA into the public and educational eye as itself a critical but sympathetic observer and participant, with credibility and analytical reach, as well as commitment, expertise and passion for finding solutions. (3) Thirdly, a strong network of relationships, including with government officials, was built in a variety of ways, ranging from an education Thinktank of leading educationists (and officials) to a wider education conference on Investment Choices.
While this sounds terribly conscious, of course reality develops less overtly. Nonetheless, by June 2008, a combination of external concern with the state of education, and internal positioning of the DBSA, came into interconnection with the specific ‘political’ positioning and actions of the chair of the DBSA Board (a previous Cabinet Minister himself and well-respected social activist). Through networks and connections, he brought together the Education Minister, Naledi Pandor; the head of the ANC education subcommittee, Zweli Mkhize, who would have a strong influence on appointments and direction of the incoming government (in fact, strictly speaking, head of the ANC Social Transformation Committee); and the chair of DBSA himself, to suggest the drawing up of an Education Roadmap . He was also able to implement a similar process in relation to Health.
Was this serendipity or the conscious coming-together of a combination of factors that had been brewing over a number of years, and were now able to bear fruit?
In 2007 at the previous KMA conference, it was argued:
The story of the Education Roadmap as such follows.
The Education Roadmap
Education and specifically schooling in South Africa is in a poor state, in terms of skills production, outcomes such as basic numeracy and literacy, and the inequalities that are reproduced in schools and society. There is wide acknowledgement of these problems and their impact on social and economic development, Anextensive public debate about how to intervene to fix the apparent problems has emerged, and has been given impetus by the publication of the Education Roadmap.
On initiative of the three principal partners (Jay Naidoo of DBSA, Minister Naledi Pandor, and MEC Zweli Mkhize, MEC for Finance and Economic Development and chair of the ANC Education Education sub-committee), the DBSA agreed to convene a stakeholder process to examine problems in schooling and develop possible solutions. The process began with a meeting convened on July 25 2008 to set the agenda, included two major strategy/technical meetings, and a further two stakeholder meetings to amend documentation, before the final adoption of the Education Roadmap and 10-point programme on November 7, 2008.
The primary purpose of the process was to develop a ‘position paper’ and to stimulate debate and stakeholder involvement, by assisting in the development of a Roadmap to reform the education system. This Roadmap may play a significant role in the planning of the incoming government and any new education administration.
The convener and secretariat for the Roadmap process has been the Development Bank of Southern Africa. Apart from the direct involvement of the Chair of the Board and the Group Executive for Research and Information, the process was managed by a team inside the DBSA led by the Education Specialist, and consultancy.
After a series of consultations with experts and role-players the Development Bank of Southern Africa, as part of its broader development mandate, convened a one-day meeting under the chairmanship of Jay Naidoo (DBSA) Minister Naledi Pandor and Dr Zweli Mkhize (MEC, and ANC subcommittee chair). This stakeholders’ meeting on July 25 heard input from Prof Servaas van der Berg of Stellenbosch University. The meeting then discussed challenges in education, and agreed to embark on the Roadmap process.
Two technical meetings were held on 22 August 2008. These looked at a diagnostic of the education sector, attempting to agree on an analysis of challenges and the reasons for blockages in delivery and the poor outcomes. The second technical meeting defined an agenda in terms of the solutions that might be required. This began to set up an understanding of the key levels of intervention required. These followed the Carnoy framework of in-school, support to school, and societal levels of impact (see Bloch et al, 2008).
Out of these meetings were developed the key documents and information. These included an introduction and overview that mapped out the processes, history and tasks ahead for the roadmap process. A second document – also continually updated - was a diagnostic with detailed slides of problem areas in education. As facts came to light or stakeholders pointed to new areas or new research, the diagnostic slides were updated. Thirdly, a matrix was developed – this provided a table that analysed blockages, suggested interventions, and tried to look at their impacts. This matrix too was continually updated, and made available to technical meetings and to stakeholders. It provided the menu or selection from which the pared-down 10 point programme was eventually developed.
These documents were fed into two key stakeholders meetings, on 15 and 19 September.
Groups met to focus on the following areas:
Out of this, then, the DBSA group executive and education specialist drew up a final set of ‘Roadmap’ slides for presentation. This was approximately 56 slides in all, proposing a full diagnostic, an analysis of key problem areas, and a set of suggested priorities for intervention. The role of information in developing a consensus and analytical grid can be seen as central.
To summarise the key meetings:
These represented a range of ANC-aligned and non-ANC aligned institutions, unions, government officials, academics, NGO’s and other commentators. While not a ‘representative’ forum as such, these would either represent key education stakeholders or carry the respect of stakeholders in the field.
‘Political’ Jay Naidoo (DBSA), Zweli Mkhize (MEC/ANC), Minister Naledi Pandor (Minister of Education); Education MEC’s (Yusouf Gabru, W Cape, and Aaron Motsoaledi, Limpopo); Ministerial advisors; Department of Education national officials (DG Hindle; DDG’s Tyobeka, Vinjevoldt, Patel); Provincial education officials (W Cape, Free State, E Cape); Treasury (Budget DDG Kuben Naidoo);
Key Issues highlighted
The Roadmap highlighted key areas that hold back education;
The 10 Point Programme
The actual 10 point programme was the key output from the process and is reproduced below.
Ensure that teacher unions have a formal and funded role in teacher development
Support to school
Use of infrastructure budgets as an incentive for schools that deliver improved teaching and learning.
The Roadmap process provides conceptual and programmatic guidance for education systems’ reform. Stakeholders convened on 7 November 2008 where the Education Roadmap was presented for a final review and adoption.
It is envisaged that the government will give due consideration to its findings and recommendations. Beyond this, the process provides the basis for a debate on education and education priority interventions. It opens up discussion of the need for a social compact of key stakeholders that could, through common purpose and collective action, achieve a more effective education system and better education outcomes.
The Roadmap process, although limited in what it can achieve, has produced a diagnosis of the strategic challenges facing the South African education system as well as a range of potential policy responses. The strategic policy options are high level and provide a starting point rather than a final definitive position on the way forward.
Although a definitive conclusion is not possible at this point it appears consistent with the evidence that an important contributor to South Africa’s poor education outcomes arises from institutional weaknesses within the public education system, problems in ‘delivery’ by education departments and officials, and the range of problems faced by teachers in ensuring effective teacher development. There is a need for an approach that would seek to improve the efficiency and accountability of the system at the same time as seeking to improve support to and accountability of the teaching corps.
It should not be underestimated the extent to which the Roadmap process may contribute to national debate and help focus discussion around core elements that may lead to solutions (see media list, below). The impact in this policy space is clearly difficult to measure, though the level of media interest may indicate public awareness and focus.
The Roadmap process has enhanced DBSA image as a facilitator with integrity, able to bring together key stakeholders in government, civil society, unions, and NGO’s as well as academics. DBSA has been acknowledged too as a centre of excellent knowledge applied to policy solutions. This positive response can also be translated into investment opportunities as stakeholders return to DBSA to implement resolutions at a later date from the Roadmap. DBSA should continue to position itself as a thought and policy leader in this regard. Areas such as agency work; resource inputs and management; management training and marshalling; policy debate; and a range of investment opportunities; are all ongoing areas for DBSA that may be enhanced by DBSA’s initiatives around the Education Roadmap.
The DBSA-convened Roadmap process has been completed.
Government, constituencies and the public are currently debating the Roadmap and have taken ownership of education system improvements. This is also a key limitation of the Roadmap, as both publication and implementation going forward are not in the hands of the DBSA.
It remains to be seen whether the concurrence of situation and circumstance; the specific positioning of the DBSA and its role going forward; and the underlying assumptions of the model of policy development, intervention and change, make enough sense to see positive transformation in the policy implementation space going forward.
The specific lessons presented and the series of analytical and theoretical questions posed in the introduction, highlight the importance of such projects and their documentation and public presentation.
Media reports directly related to the Education Roadmap include:
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