The NDP’s vision on Education

This brief examines the National Development Plan’s (NDP) vision and policy proposals on the reform of the education sector in South Africa.


The National Development Plan (NDP) is a strategic framework produced by the National Planning Commission with the mandate to identify issues affecting the long-term development of the country and advise the Presidency accordingly. The ultimate vision of the NDP is to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality through growth by 2030. In achieving the objectives of the broader developmental framework, education has been identified as being a central component due to the role that education plays in building an inclusive society, that provides equal opportunities for all and aiding all South Africans to realise their full potential particularly those previously disadvantaged by apartheid. The NDP emphasizes that the quality of education in the country is in dire need of improvements and offers a long-term perspective on how to address the internal obstacles that constrain its delivery. Chapter 9 builds on the vision for education, training and innovation. [1]

The NDP’s vision on education

By 2030, the NDP envisages an education system that has the follow attributes:

  • high quality early childhood education, with access rates that exceed 90%;
  • quality school education with literacy and numeracy at globally competitive standards;
  • Higher Education and Further Education Training (FET), that provides people with real opportunities to reach their full potential;
  • an expanding higher education sector that is able to contribute towards rising incomes, higher productivity and the move towards a more knowledge-intensive economy; and
  • a wider system of innovation that links key public institutions with areas of the economy consistent with our economic priorities. [2]

A robust education system covering early childhood development, primary, secondary, tertiary and further education is crucial for addressing poverty and inequality. [3] With regards to achieving these goals, the NDP makes recommendations for policy makers on several fronts:

Early and Basic Education Proposals

  • The first set of proposals involves household and communities with regard to early child development.

The NDP suggests that every child should have at least two years of pre-school education. It notes that introducing the child readiness programme for 3-5 years olds will dramatically increase school enrolment rate, overall academic performance, language proficiency, high school completion rates and facilitate the development of social skills. Furthermore, it makes recommendations on child nutrition, stating that addressing micronutrient deficiencies provides the best mental and physical development for young children. Additionally, the home and community environment are critical to a child’s deductive ability, as a more stimulated and engaged child is likely to be more logical in their reasoning. [4]

  • The second set of proposals entails the management of the education system.

In eliminating “layers of bureaucracy” schools can better utilise their resource allocations to cater to their specific needs. Thus, corrective and supportive interventions should be inversely proportional to the performance of schools. Infrastructure support is also identified as essential to schools. [5]

  • The third set of proposals entails the administration of schools through the competence and capacity of school principals.

A well functioning school is characterised by good leadership. Principals therefore play a leading role in school management and should be appointed based on merit, provided appropriate support and held accountable for poor school performance. [6]

  • The fourth set of proposals pertains to teacher performance.

Creating incentives for the attraction and retention of good teachers, as well as the provision of on-going training will aid the optimum delivery of the planned curricula. Teacher and learning aids are essential to this effort. Performance measurement and accountability will be reflected in performance of learners. [7]

FET and Higher Education proposals

  • Continuous quality improvement of the system as it expands at a moderate pace.
  • Increased participation and graduation rates.
  • Increased alternative options, through FETs for scholars who cannot access or choose not to attend university.
  • Obtaining a high quality and differentiated system. [8]

Research and Development (R&D) proposals

  • Public resources should be targeted toward building the research infrastructure necessary for the country’s development strategy.  Improve the linkage between innovation and the productive needs of business.
  • The country’s universities must strive toward becoming world-class centres of excellence in technology.
  • Foreign students who graduate from South African universities should qualify for a seven year work permit to encourage them to remain in the country as part of the skilled labour force. [9]


The NDP on education aims to reform the delivery of education to cater to the developmental needs of the youth, starting from their formative years right through to their coming of age. The manner in which the system aims to address the needs of the youth should be such that everyone is afforded every opportunity to succeed regardless of their background.

It is concerning that the only section of the NDP which is learner oriented is the early child development. Subsequent educational development stages are indirectly addressed by reforms to the administration and management of the education system.

The NDP makes an assumption that with better teachers, better curriculum, infrastructure and school management the retention of learners within the educational system automatically increases. Whilst it makes commitments to investigate teacher retention and development, it does little by way of identifying the leading factors in the drop-out rates of young learners from the school system and even less in addressing them.

Addressing institutional challenges within the education system is a crucial step towards a positive reform but the schooling system can do more in dealing with the weight of social influences on “at-risk” youth, access to education by child-headed households and homeless children who are to be found throughout the country. Incorporating the provision of social services into the education system, just as with sports, arts and culture would make greater strides in this regard. Additionally, the plan makes no proposals on the provision of education catering to persons with special needs and disabilities although stating that “disability should be incorporated into all facets of planning.” [10]

Concluding Comments

The government has acknowledged the need of a more inclusive and transparent stakeholder engagement on the education agenda. Having acknowledged the short-comings of the education sector and made a public commitment towards its reform, what now remains to be seen is whether government can successfully implement the progressive policies recommended within the NDP.

[2] National Development Plan South Africa -,%20training%20and%20innovation.pdf
[4] National Development Plan South Africa -,%20training%20and%20innovation.pdf
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] ibid
[8] ibid
[9] ibid
[10] ibid

06 September 2013

Zamambo Twalo -
Wits (IHRE) Intern
Helen Suzman Foundation