Chris Heese says there is no
simple relationship between
expenditure and outcomes
The tables in the article "What do we spend on
schooling?" simply provide extensive proof that there is
no simple relationship between expenditure and
outcomes in education.
As far as I remember the budgeting process was
completely kosher. It is a pity that Volckers Van Vuuren is
no longer alive. He was chief director finance in the
HOA. He was a rigid bureaucrat who played by the rules.
I know of no out of the budget expenditures on white
education. It may, of course, be possible, but I suspect
we would have known.
In fact, some of us offered services to all other
departments without contra-payments. My section
provided teacher qualification criteria for all
departments. We also evaluated all qualifications for
teachers wishing to teach in South- Africa, but holding
foreign qualifications. An Indian teacher qualified in
Karalla who wished to teach in mPumalanga had to
submit his or her qualifications to us.
Similarly, the National Film Library provided films, videos
and software for all schools. Not all schools made use of
these services, but they were available. These services
were funded from the HOA education budget. The
evaluation of qualifications was handled by a small
office, consisting of 5 professionals and 2 admin staff, so
the amount spent was insignificant. The Film Library was
a different kettle of fish.
At the time, white voters were still courted. There seems
little sense in minimising expenditure on white education
at that time.
Expenditure on education does not ensure outcomes.
Three of the greatest teachers of all time, Christ, Plato
and Buddha, all taught without the benefit of overhead
projectors or the internet. America spends vast amounts
on its inner city schools – often with low levels of
success. The converse is also true. Many systems deliver
relatively good results on low expenditures.
The reason why the tables do not show a clear
relationship between expenditure and outcomes lies in
the nature of education. Good education is a strange
amalgam of passion, knowledge, skill, communication on
the part of the teacher and an environment in which the
teacher is empowered to operate effectively. Virtually all
these factors have been negated by the ANC actions since
I once challenged Trevor Coombe, the head policy wonk
in Education Minister Sibusiso Bengu’s office on a
number of issues. He told me I simply did not get it.
They were Communists and they would deconstruct the
old system until there was nothing left. Then they would
build a new system. They did their best on the old
system. Destructive policies were put in place. I shall give
a few examples:
The old Bantu education departments had a vast number
of trained infant school teachers who were well trained
in teaching reading, writing and basic number skills. At
the transition, many of them were sacked for being Uncle
Toms. They were replaced by the generation of 76 who
had been the shock troops for the ‘revolution’, but also
had been toyi-toying and not being trained at the
colleges of education.
New and untrained people without the required
knowledge or experience were brought in to manage the
system. Because everybody goes to school, there is a
tacit assumption that anyone can administer an
education system. Recent history has shown this to be a
In a society with a large traditional component tied to
paternalistic practices, corporal punishment was banned
– this in a situation where school discipline was already
in tatters due to the strategy used to fight the struggle.
The results of this brilliant move grace our papers on an
almost daily basis.
Colleges of education were scrapped. The training of
teachers was left largely in the hands of the old
technikons, which had never been involved seriously and
had only a small store of expertise and experience to
These institutions were merged with universities and
therefore were left struggling with other aspects of
transformation as well.
Curricula were changed. Repeatedly.
The idiocy of OBE requires extensive analysis to be fully
understood. The fundamental theory was seriously
flawed, had failed elsewhere and nobody got clear
instructions on the implementation.
Ignoring mother tongue education is not wise. The
problem is that the language skills of both teachers and
pupils are inadequate. If the effect of these sequential
flaws were additive, it would be one thing. Any skilled
signals theorist will make it clear that the real effect is
multiplicative. A teacher whose language is 50% effective,
teaching a pupil who also understands 50% of what he or
she hears, leads to a transmission efficiency of 25%. Why
implement this? Go figure.
The unionisation of education has left many schools to
be managed by the unions, vast numbers of teachers to
continue in their jobs without the requisite knowledge,
many teachers not in the classroom and others, in the
classrooms, but not teaching.
The whole educative (and general) atmosphere is today
polluted by two overarching ANC myths: The evil
Afrikaner imposed backwardness on black South Africa,
and Bantu education was designed to enslave blacks.
Both are maintained by a spin factory not particularly
interested in factual analysis of the past.
The reasons for establishing the first are obvious. It
provides a rationale for the plundering of the state – to
atone for the iniquities of the past. The second is
relevant to this debate. It is built on a partial quotation
from a parliamentary speech and uses that statement to
damn a system. It creates the belief that the electron
configurations Prof Meiring taught his honours chemistry
students at Fort Hare in the 70’s was somehow different
from those taught at Ikeys or Cambridge or MIT. They
The effect of the second myth is that it makes it
impossible to revert to the sound schooling practices of
the past. Without debunking these myths, South Africa
faces a bleak future.
The above statements are generalisations. They do not
apply in all instances. There are good schools in
townships. These are schools which have somehow
managed to establish an environment in which gifted
teachers are welcome and one in which they are allowed
There are a myriad of other problems, but the discussion
above will suffice to give some limited understanding of
the flaws in the current dispensation.
Chris Heese was head of teacher education policy in the
Department of Education and Culture (House of
Chris Heese says there is no