Democracy in education or education for democracy?: The limits of participation in South Africa school governance.

Dieltiens, Veerle
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After years of apartheid's authoritarian hold on schools, the call for greater participation in education has had widespread support and has been articulated by several academics. This call is based on the assumption that if more people were included in school governing bodies, then democracy would be boosted and equality among schools would be ensured. This research report is a response to this argument. It argues that an inclusive democracy as articulated by deliberative democrats ignores the costs of participation especially where communities have different capacities and unequal resources at their disposal. Instead, a democratic theory of education should recognise the overlap between deliberative and representative forms of democracy. A representative democracy holds education officials accountable to their constituents and to the principles of good education.Educational decisions should reflect public deliberation and should be explained with reasons the public can understand, but they should also be in line with the aims of a liberal education that promises to educate students fluent in democratic principles and conversant in national, and even international discourse. Correspondingly, an education for democracy need not be geared either at producing active citizens ready for the rigours of participation or at simply graduating students with the know-how on voting procedures. Rather a democratic education should prepare students to engage in democratic processes,to be able to recognise their own interests and those of the broader community. In short, an education that builds the autonomy of students.