Is schooling good for the development of society?: the case of South Africa

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Colleges, School and Institutes


This paper is concerned with three possible theoretical relationships, between education and social, economic and political development, that (a) education improves society, (b) education reproduces society as it is and (c) education actually makes society worse. The paper then uses South Africa as a case study to critically analyse these different roles of education in relation to development theory. In particular, it examines three theoretical tensions in post-apartheid education policy and practice those between human capital theory and social reproduction, between modernisation and bureaucratic disorganisation, and between democracy and peace and authoritarianism and violence. It concludes by attempting to explain these tensions and contradictions in term of factors specific to South Africa such as teacher professionalism and teacher identity and in relation to wider factors inherent in the historical origins of schooling as a form of organisation based on social control.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-245
Number of pages13
JournalSouth African Journal of Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011


  • authoritarianism, violence, development, schooling, peace, human capital, modernisation, reproduction, democracy, bureaucracy