Efforts are underway in South Africa to turn around a decade of governance reversal. But progress in addressing an underlying cause of the reversals remains very limited – extreme, racially-tinged inequality, with missing ladders of opportunity into the middle class. In this seminar, Brian Levy will explore some interactions between shortfalls in inclusion and institutional pressures, including an in-depth focus on one key challenge – improving the learning outcomes of South Africa’s poorly performing system of basic education. The findings from his recent co-authored book, The Politics and Governance of Basic Education: A Tale of Two South African Provinces suggest that a narrow focus on ‘fixing the bureaucracy’ can only go so far. Re-balancing focus away from narrowly top-down approaches towards the evocation of agency offers a variety of added possibilities for creative and constructive action.
Brian Levy is Professor of the Practice of International Development, School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University; and Academic Director, Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, University of Cape Town. He worked at the World Bank from 1989 to 2012, including as head of the secretariat responsible for the design and implementation of the World Bank Group's governance and anti-corruption strategy. He has published widely on the interactions among institutions, political economy and development policy, including Working with the Grain: Integrating Governance and Growth in Development Strategies (Oxford U Press, 2014; info at www.workingwiththegrain.com) and, as lead editor and author, The Governance and Politics of Basic Education: A Tale of Two South African Provinces (Oxford U Press, 2018). He completed his Ph.D in economics at Harvard University in 1983.