Accountability and Capacity in South African Education

Author(s): Nic Spaull



The aim of the study is to discuss the notion of accountability with respect to education in South Africa. Starting with an overview of the international literature on accountability, the article then turns to the South African context and focuses on one particular capacity constraint as an illustrative example: low mathematics teacher content knowledge. After explaining two important problems identifed in the literature – accountability without capacity and capacity without accountability – the focus becomes what needs to be done in South Africa to improve accountability. In this vein, a useful analytic framework is proposed – that of Hausmann et al.’s (2008) ‘binding constraints approach’, as well as a discussion of the central importance of the Annual National Assessments (ANAs) and the need to balance the rights and concerns of children and teachers. The main thesis of the article is that the wholesale lack of accountability for student learning outcomes in South Africa is arguably one of the major impediments to quality education for the poor.
Keywords: accountability, capacity, learning outcomes, mathematics teacher content knowledge
Spaull, N. 2015. Accountability and Capacity in South African Education. Education as Change. Vol 19 (3) pp 113-142