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University of Redlands

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

South Africa: Reconciliation and Development


In response to the centrally controlled Bantu Education system, the resistance movement advocated a decentralized system of educational governance that included local voices in the running of schools. In 1996, the government satisfied the movement’s demands by including local school governing bodies (SGBs) as apart of the South African Schools Act (SASA). Attached to the powers of SGBs however was a right not advocated by the movement: the ability to set school fees. SGBs’ authority over school fee policy has transformed their role in school governance from democratic platforms for local voices into efficient cost and budgeting centers. As a result of school fee implementation, South Africa witnessed the creation of an education market in which student access is determined by an economic “ability to pay” standard. This essay challenges the introduction of market based reforms by expanding upon Elizabeth Anderson’s “The Ethical Limitations of the Market.” Through a case study of a former Model C school in South Durban, I argue that the norms guiding market decisions within SGBs undermine the way parents and learners value education. If the goal of education is to teach students democratic values and the ideals of responsible citizenship, the market, an inherently egoistic and impersonal mechanism for distributing educational goods, is ill-suited for the task. Suggestions for further research are noted.


Education | Social Policy


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