Assessment policy in post-apartheid South Africa: challenges for improving education quality and learning

30 Aug 2016

The South African education system has witnessed significant changes since 1994 when the democratically elected government began the process of dismantling the inherited apartheid order. The primary focus of the transformation process was to address the twin imperative of equity and quality in education, particularly for the historically marginalised black population. A key aspect of this transformation process remains the development of alternative assessment policies. This paper reviews the changes focusing on the stated rationale as well as their underlying assumptions and implications for practice. It argues that the changes have in many respects addressed the most obvious effects of the previous apartheid systems. However, it notes that, notwithstanding the policy intentions, assessment policy since 1994 has favoured a measurement focused-approach in the classroom, which has hindered a shift towards an assessment for learning approach. This, it argues, is partly fuelled by the abiding belief in and commitment to classroom testing and examinations as well as external national assessments as the key criterion for reforming learning and teaching practices in the classroom.