Equal Education and the EE Law Centre – State funding of private schools in South Africa

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On 22 November 2012, South Africa's Constitutional Court is scheduled to hear the case of Kwazulu-Natal Joint Liaison Committee v. The Member of the Executive Council, Department of Education, …

On 22 November 2012, South Africa's Constitutional Court is scheduled to hear the case of Kwazulu-Natal Joint Liaison Committee v. The Member of the Executive Council, Department of Education, Kwazulu-Natal and Others, involving the extent to which Kwazulu-Natal is obliged to subsidise certain qualifying independent schools that apparently serve impoverished learners in the province. While South Africa's legal and policy frameworks provide for provinces to subsidise qualifying independent schools, this case reminds us of fundamental questions that need to be continually raised when state resources are being deployed for private, exclusive use. Is it good public policy to be encouraging the public funding of private schools? What is the trajectory of this approach? Where does this policy lead? Is it our view that the public schooling system cannot and will not be able to provide a quality education, and therefore some reliance upon so-called 'low-cost private schools' is necessary? What is the overall social impact, in the short, medium and long term of a policy to secure or increase state support for private education? To what extent will these public subsidies by necessity reduce available state support for public education? This input will interrogate the competing rights of South Africa's learners attending subsidised independent schools and nearby public schools. On the one hand, one must consider the rights of the learners who attend subsidised independent schools. These learners will inevitably be harmed if the State fails to follow through with its obligations to monitor, support and subsidise these schools. On the other hand, it is imperative to consider the rights and interests of the learners who attend public schools. Public funding of independent schools draws resources from a limited resource pool that would otherwise be fully allocated to public schools. These diverted resources go far beyond funding and include skilled parents who will no longer be available to sit on SGBs, reduction in the academic benefit for public school learners to attend classes with slightly more affluent learners, reduced emphasis on the public school's role as a place of social cohesion, and drain on the ability of public school learners to access qualified teachers who are already in high demand.

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  • 1. State funding for private schools? A perspective from South AfricaShaun Franklin – Equal EducationLaw Centre @eelawcentreDoron Isaacs – Equal Education(@doronisaacs) @equal_education
  • 2. Private schools in South Africa
  • 3. Learners in private schools inSouth Africa
  • 4. SA Constitution – Section 29…(3) Everyone has the right to establish and maintain,at their own expense, independent educationalinstitutions that - a. do not discriminate on the basis of race; b. are registered with the state; and c. maintain standards that are not inferior to standards at comparable public educational institutions.(4) Subsection (3) does not preclude state subsidiesfor independent educational institutions.
  • 5. What is a private school?• Public schools – Some charge fees, some don’t – Some on public land, some on private land – Each governed by School Governing Bodies, some who can spend govt funds, some cannot – Some teachers employed by state, some not• Private schools – Some receive government subs, some don’t – Some for profit, some not – Teachers not employed by the state
  • 6. A public school in Cape Town
  • 7. A public school in the Eastern Cape
  • 8. A private school in KwaZulu-Natal
  • 9. Private schools in Johannesburg
  • 10. % of public schools not charging fees
  • 11. Income from fees (public & private)
  • 12. A private schooling company: Curro
  • 13. Ethos of Curro Schools *Source: Curro pre-listing statement
  • 14. Ethos of Curro Schools *Source: Curro website
  • 15. Curro’s self-justification
  • 16. Growth in Curro Schools• "We currently have 12,500 children in 22 schools. We are adding another five. The new schools will add 3,500 pupils. Before the end of the year or by January 2013 we will have 16,000 learners," said Curro CEO Chris van der Merwe.• "By 2015-16 we are hoping for 40 schools. Our ultimate target is … for 80 schools by 2022. I think 80 schools will give us 80,000-90,000 learners," Dr van der Merwe said.
  • 17. Directors of Curro Schools *Source: Curro pre-listing statement
  • 18. CEO of Curro: Dr vd Merwe• Remuneration in 2010: R908,000• Owns 2,929,510 shares which is 3.63%• Current shareprice of Curro approx R18• Therefore his shares worth R52 731 180
  • 19. Questions• Is it good public policy to be encouraging the public funding of private schools? What is the trajectory of this approach? Where does this policy lead?• Is it our view that the public schooling system cannot and will not be able to provide a quality education, and therefore some reliance upon so-called low-cost private schools is necessary?• What is the overall social impact, in the short, medium and long term of a policy to secure or increase state support for private education? To what extent will these public subsidies by necessity reduce available state support for public education?
  • 20. Answers• Private schools draw families from significantly or slightly more affluent families out of public schools. Even a small fee will do this. This leads to: – Parents who might have professional or other skills are not available for SGBs in public schools. – Students in public schools do not get the academic benefit of being in classes with slightly more affluent learners. – Society is stratified and public schools lose their role as places where social cohesion is built. – Teachers may be drawn out of public schools. (Their training was subsidised, if not paid for, by the state.) – At present we have public schools that charge fees, so when students move from these to private schools the public school system also loses that fee income.