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South African Journal of Education

Print version ISSN 0256-0100

Abstract

SMIT, Marius H  and  OOSTHUIZEN, Izak J. Improving school governance through participative democracy and the law. S. Afr. j. educ. [online]. 2011, vol.31, n.1, pp. 55-73. ISSN 0256-0100.

There is an inextricable link between democracy, education and the law. After 15 yearsofconstitutional democracy, the alarming percentage of dysfunctional schools raises questions about the efficacy of the system of local school governance. We report on the findings of quantitative and qualitative research on the democratisation of schools and the education system in North-West Province. Several undemocratic features are attributable to systemic weaknesses of traditional models of democracy as well as the misapplication of democratic and legal principles. The findings of the qualitative study confirmed that parents often misconceive participatory democracy for political democracy and misunderstand the role of the school governing body to be a political forum. Despite the shortcomings, the majority of the respondents agreed that parental participation improves school effectiveness and that the decentralised model of local school governance should continue. Recommendations to effect the inculcation of substantive democratic knowledge, values and attitudes into school governance are based on theory of deliberative democracy and principles of responsiveness, accountability and justification of decisions through rational discourse.

Keywords : accountability; deliberative democracy; participation; school governance.

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