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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


STEYN, HJ; WOLHUTER, CC; DE BEER, ZL  and  VOS, D. Productivity in the education system: Can it be improved on a continuous basis?. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2018, vol.58, n.4-2, pp.992-1008. ISSN 2224-7912.

In the public and scientific discourse about education in South Africa, it has become commonplace to refer to the poor quality of the South African education system. Another frequently mentioned topic is the discrepancy between the investment from the national budget in South African education and the return on this investment. Therefore, this article will refer to economic principles in an attempt to arrive at a better understanding of productivity in the education system in general, with specific reference to productivity in the South African education system. While the focus on productivity in the education system may possibly be criticised as presenting a narrow neoliberal view of education, it should be emphasised that the neoliberal economic revolution has had a substantial influence globally and contributes, by means of the introduction of particular measures, to greater efficiency in many institutions, such as the use of productivity indices to understand the functioning of a particular institution. It is pointed out in the article that the primary aim of the national education system is to provide for the educational needs of the target group, namely the citizens of that country. An education system is effective if the education supply provides, in an attainable and sustainable manner, for the actual educational needs of the target group. It follows that the education system is materially and financially efficient if educational needs are provided for in the most affordable manner. Different role players in the national community have an interest in the output of a particular education system, including, for example, parents, the state, commerce and industry, together with other organisations in the community. To ensure that the education system provides effectively for their educational needs, these role players provide financial and infrastructural resources to the functionaries of the education system. The trust of these role players in the education system is strengthened if they are convinced that the resources will be used in the most attainable, sustainable and affordable manner and that the application of these resources will be towards the primary function of providing education and training on pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Thus, it is clear that an education system is successful if - • its elements are integrated in such a manner that it effectively provides for the actual educational needs of the target group; • the education interest groups are convinced that the resources they make available are applied in the most attainable and sustainable manner; and • the particular education system functions according to the reciprocal relationship between the internal and external trends to ensure that the maximum outputs are realised. Productivity is a concept that is rarely used by education practitioners and education researchers in relation to education and the education system. Many educationists may suspect that the use of concepts from the financial and managerial world, such as productivity, input and output, will result in the commercialisation and corporatisation of education systems. However, it is argued in this article that modern commercial and management concepts should be made applicable to the education system in order to ensure a learner-centred education system, which will assist learners in equipping themselves with the required competencies to fulfil their unique roles in life. By focusing on principles such as effectivity and efficiency, the functionaries of the education system will be able to ensure that its beneficiaries have trust in the outcomes of the education system. In essence, productivity means that one should do as much as possible with the resources available. Therefore, productivity represents the relation between available resources and the outcome of the use to which the resources have been put. The productivity index can be calculated as follows and should be used to improve the operation of a particular education system: P = O/I [P represents the productivity index, O the output and I the input] Productivity can be improved by either reducing the input and maintaining the same output, or increasing the output and maintaining the same input, or increasing the output and, at the same time, decreasing the input. Productivity can be improved by working more cleverly, rather than simply working harder. The endeavour to improve the productivity of the education system should not be a random exercise, but rather a deliberate, planned, continuous and managed project. The first step in this exercise should be a thorough and objective analysis of all elements of the education system and the required actions to change whatever is deemed to be in need of improvement. A second guideline is that productivity improvement should be executed in a balanced manner. The possible positive and negative consequences should be considered in the context of the relevant internal and external trends. The third guideline is that the productivity improvement exercise should be done on a continuous basis and by using uncomplicated indicators involving input and output. It is important that the information acquired from the productivity exercises should be used in the planning of and budgeting for the education system. The external and internal contextual trends should be concretely acknowledged, especially the internal contextual trend of a reciprocal nature. Another important aspect concerns a thorough analysis of the organisational management structures - the flatter, the better. Particular attention should also be given to the elements of the structure for teaching as a component of the education system in order to find places where productivity should be improved. Regarding the education support services, due consideration should be given to whether it is better to provide the services within the education system or to use qualified external services. We conclude that a focus on productivity can and should result in improving the operation of education and the education system.

Keywords : Education system; productivity; education productivity; saving in education; outputs of education system; inputs in the education system.

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