LISTEN: Could offering parents school vouchers help keep children in school?

In some parts of the world, parents and caregivers are given vouchers to spend on their children’s education to inspire greater choice and competition in the basic education sector. Over the years, there have been calls from certain quarters for a similar system to be brought to South Africa to give parents more power to hold schools accountable for providing quality education. But, how would such an initiative work in a deeply unequal society where the poorest 80% of learners attend no-fee schools in low-resource communities, referred to as quintiles 1-3?

Cape Talk host Mike Wills speaks to Merle Mansfield of the Zero Dropout Campaign about this issue. Mansfield says the basic education sector should embrace innovation, but she cautions against ‘one-size-fits-all’ approaches that may not fit neatly into the South African context. Rather, Mansfield says the basic education sector should be thinking about innovative ways to improve educational outcomes in no-fee schools by strengthening support systems and capacity so that they are able to provide quality education. For instance, innovative models such as public-private partnerships are currently being tested in various no-fee schools in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape. This model aims to give children in the poorest and worst performing schools the same opportunities as any child in the best public schools and promote greater accountability and parental participation.

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