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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


Heidi Barends

Elements Shaping the South African Education System of the Future

The South African education system is deeply unjust because a child’s place of birth, skin colour and family’s income largely determine their educational attainment. Understanding future trends and developments can assist stakeholders in planning and decision making. Better decisions could ultimately improve the education system. Therefore, this study aims to answer three questions: What trends are likely to impact the South African education system? What opportunities and threats arise due to these trends? Which actors are best placed to react to these opportunities and threats and could influence the system?

To address these questions, a sequential mixed-method approach was adopted. First, conceptual systems diagrams were developed to depict the current education system and its stakeholders. Then, semi-structured expert interviews were used to identify future trends, threats and opportunities. The results of the two previous phases were synthesised in the last phase.

This study found that the trends impacting the South African Education System broadly align with global trends. Examples include an increase in privatisation, technology in schools and climate change. Compared to global trends, more violence in schools is the main outlier. This study found that the risks related to technology and climate change are being recognised but not planned or accounted for. Similarly, tackling violence in schools is currently not a priority. This study also found that participants agreed on who the major stakeholders are, but disagreed on what actions stakeholders should take.