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The politics of testing in South Africa

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Abstract:

This article considers the politics of adoption of a testing regime in South Africa. While the broad features of this regime are similar to those in developed countries, there are features specific to the South African context. These emerge from a combination of external and internal pressures. External pressures derive from international testing results and target-setting regimes of international agencies. Internal pressures arise from the arrival of the ‘evaluative state’ and ‘quasi-market’ in schooling in South Africa, the abandonment of outcomes-based education which created the space for reintroduction of traditional forms of testing, public political pressure as well as teacher, teacher union and education NGO support for testing. To date the result has been the emergence of a hybrid system in which the purposes of standardized tests at primary levels are primarily informative and diagnostic, providing a rationale for teacher development and textual resource interventions. Information is considered as enhancing the public right to know rather than competition between schools. Multiple forms of assessment are retained and have not been displaced by standardized tests. The jury is out on whether the interventions introduced will have the desired results or not.

Keywords: accountability; curriculum; evaluative state; testing

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00220272.2012.755710

Publication date: 2013-02-01

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