Researching the politics of development



The potential and limits of performance management: Improving basic education in the Western Cape

Working paper 62

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Robert Cameron and Brian Levy
The focus of this paper is on the management and governance of education at
provincial level – specifically on efforts to introduce performance management into
education by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED), and their impact.
Post-1994 the WCED inherited a bureaucracy that was well placed to manage the
province’s large public education system. Subsequently, irrespective of which
political party has been in power, the WCED consistently has sought to implement
performance management. This paper explores to what extent determined, top-down
efforts, led by the public sector, can improve dismal educational performance.
The paper concludes that the WCED is (and long has been) a relatively well-run
public bureaucracy. However, the sustained, determined efforts to strengthen the
operation of the WCED’s bureaucracy have not translated into systematic
improvements in schools in poorer areas. One possible implication is that efforts to
strengthen hierarchy might usefully be complemented with additional effort to support
more horizontal, peer-to-peer governance at the school level.