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CASE STUDY REPORT: Trust, capacity and accountability to improve learning outcomes in South Africa: a systems approach

A research project designed to understand how elements of trust, capacity and accountability connect and impact on learning outcomes in primary schools.


In South Africa and globally, there is growing interest in accountability in societies and institutions of the public and the private sector. It is one of the most prominent issues in education policy today and is relevant to improving the quality of local schooling outcomes as well as to raising the skills threshold of the national labour force in a globalised labour market.

Recognising this, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom called for proposals for research projects in this area from developing and other designated countries including South Africa. JET Education Services, in partnership with the London Institute of Education (IoE) at University College London (UC) and the UK Open University (OU), submitted a proposal for a four-year research project that focuses on trust, capacity and accountability to improve learning outcomes in South Africa. We are delighted that our project was selected after a highly competitive evaluation process.

This is an innovative project which aims to support key stakeholders in 1) Building the capacity (financial and material resources, knowledge and skills) and trust to implement well-functioning assessment and inspection systems and developing effective ways to share; and 2) Using data and feedback from national and international assessments and school inspections with the purpose of improving learning outcomes of disadvantaged students.

The research will explore how the three elements interact with different levels and stakeholders in the education system, from national to provincial levels and from districts/circuits and schools to parents and communities. The project will focus on the complex structures and dynamics of these systems.


Download the Case Study Report

Author: Ehren, M.C.M., Paterson, A. and Baxter, J.
Published: December 2020

Accountability, capacity and trust to improve learning outcomes in South Africa: Comparative case study report




The first phase of the project included a systematic literature review on 'trust, accountability and capacity-building to improve learning outcomes'. This working document provides an initial summary of the review with an introduction to the conceptual framework of our study and a set of initial hypotheses on how trust, accountability and capacity-building interact to improve learning outcomes. 

The second phase of the project involved conducting case studies of trust capacity and accountability in eight primary schools:  Accountability, capacity and trust to improve learning outcomes in South Africa: Comparative case study report


For more information on the project 

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