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The case for statecraft in education: The NDP, a recent book on governance, and the New Public Management inheritance

Martin Gustafsson ()
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Martin Gustafsson: ReSEP, Stellenbosch University, and Department of Basic Education

No 16/2019, Working Papers from Stellenbosch University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Statecraft in the sense of building the systems of a capable state is an endeavour that should be taken seriously, yet often it is not. The paper takes issue with a position where hope in a more capable state is to some extent abandoned, or postponed, on the basis of a frustration with history. Such positions are sometimes justified through reference to alternative routes towards progress involving less reliance on a central state, and more reliance on local action and accountability. This paper argues that it is dangerous to dismiss the role of the state, especially without a careful and informed assessment of what is wrong with it. It argues that state dysfunctionality, which is clearly a reality, is so central a development problem that it warrants far more rigorous analysis than what is often found in the literature. Local accountability is also vital, but ideally as a complement to a functioning national system. The problem is not just that proponents of local action can be too quick to dismiss the role of the state. The proponents of capable states, such as the World Bank, are too often overly idealistic and impractical when they offer advice on statecraft. On some important matters, there is a mismatch between the advice and the realities planners face. The paper argues these points in the context of schooling systems, and specifically that of South Africa. It is in part a response to a recent book on governance in the South African schooling sector. It moreover makes reference to South Africa’s National Development Plan.

Keywords: Learning outcomes; governance; monitoring systems; South Africa (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: C81 I21 O21 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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