Document Type

Thesis

Publication Year

Spring 2010

Abstract

Based on the essential role of education in sustaining democracy, policymakers have searched for the most equitable and efficient way to provision this important public good. In an effort to remedy the injustices of apartheid and Bantu Education, south Africa passed the South African School Act of 1996 (SASA), which decentralized education policy and placed control in the hands of local communities. But educational decentralization is ripe with contradictions, often resulting in a system where genuine decision making remains highly centralized, while only fiscal responsibilities are delegated to local governments. Like municipal governments in other developing nations, local governments in South Africa have relied on the use of market mechanisms (vix., user fees) to fund public schools. The goal of this essay is to establish a link between South Africa's decentralized market provisioning of education and its effect on the social norms that undergird democracy. Through field research at a public school in South Durban, I apply Elizabeth Anderson's (2005) "The Ethical Limitations of the Market," in order to identify the normative concerns arising from a local market distribution of education. I conclude that the decentralized education market undermines important social values and that democratic processes in the provisioning of education may be required to ensure long term sustainability of democratic principles.

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