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### Restructuring the Education System: Comprehensive Development and Enhancement

Reforming an Education System – CDE – OPINION | Politicsweb


Reforming an Education System – CDE

Michael Barber | 18 March 2024

Renowned governance and reform expert, Michael Barber, emphasizes the necessity of whole system reform in South Africa’s education sector.


CDE recently hosted Sir Michael Barber, a globally recognized figure in governance and service delivery, renowned for his role in transforming the UK’s education system under Prime Minister Tony Blair. With a wealth of experience advising over 60 governments, Barber’s insights are invaluable in addressing the challenges faced by South Africa’s education system.

Challenges in South Africa’s Education System

South Africa’s education system is grappling with significant underperformance, ranking poorly in learning outcomes compared to other developing nations. The root causes identified by CDE include systemic corruption, cadre deployment, accountability deficits, and a weak teaching workforce. These issues were exacerbated by the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Imperative of Whole System Reform

Barber advocates for whole system reform over incremental changes, drawing parallels to the reconstruction of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. He argues that patching up a fundamentally flawed system is futile, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive overhaul to drive meaningful improvement.

Principles for Systemwide Transformation

Barber outlines ten key principles for reforming an education system, underscoring the importance of prioritizing every child, setting global standards, ensuring accountability, recruiting and training quality teachers, empowering school leaders, and fostering community engagement.

Initiating a Reform Movement

To catalyze reform, stakeholders must unite in acknowledging the urgent need for change. Barber stresses the role of NGOs and business leaders in persuading the government to embrace whole system reform. Political courage and sustained leadership are vital in driving transformative change.

Communication and Public Engagement

A robust communication strategy is essential to garner public support for reform. By involving parents and showcasing successful educational models, reformers can mobilize broader societal participation in the transformation process.

Innovations and Decentralization

Barber advocates for embracing innovations and competitive pressures within the education system. Decentralization, if implemented effectively, can enhance accountability and drive improvements at all levels. However, careful planning and attention to detail are crucial for successful decentralization efforts.

Fostering Political Accountability

Ultimately, the power to effect change lies with the electorate. By holding leaders accountable and voting for reform-minded candidates, citizens can influence the trajectory of education reform in South Africa.

In conclusion, the imperative for whole system reform in South Africa’s education sector is clear. By embracing comprehensive transformation, fostering public engagement, and demanding accountability from policymakers, the path to a more effective and equitable education system can be paved.