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The role of education research in policy decision-making processes: evidence from South Africa

Tue, April 16, 3:15 to 4:45pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Pacific Concourse (Level -1), Pacific D


The world of policymaking can be a ‘black box’ for researchers, for whom inadequate knowledge about the priorities and processes of Government can pose a barrier to conducting research for policy impact. This presentation draws from multiple cases of reform initiatives in recent years of where research did inform decision-making process in Government focusing on medium to long-term policy changes in basic education.

A key example is from the Raising Learning Outcomes research project (funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council and Department for International Development) ‘Succeeding against the odds: Understanding resilience and exceptionalism in high-functioning township and rural primary schools in South Africa’ which has challenged the prevailing ‘orthodoxies’ in research into reading in the country.

The study uses these case studies to draw wider lessons about the realities of sector planning, enablers and barriers to researcher-policy actor collaboration, and the role of formal and informal relationships in research leading to policy impact. Implications are drawn for researchers seeking to maximise policy impact. The study makes the argument that the research and policy interaction is not a single event and the relationship is not often linear. Understanding the specific country context in planning, prioritising and reporting; the mandate and parameters for policy change and the other competing priorities in policy all serve as important tools for engagement even in developing countries.


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