In this essay I will examine, using Bottery’s 2006 article titled ‘Educational leaders in a Globalising world: a new set of priorities?’ as a guide, how South Africa, Argentina and Chile’s public Educational Leadership have been influenced by the various forms of Globalization, as well as how these nations’ Public Educational Systems have been affected by a global shift towards Decentralization. I will analyse Globalization and Decentralization’s contribution via specific policies and systematically discuss and critique the implementation of said policies by highlighting Thomas Sowell’s views on related and connected issues. My analysis will be based on these nations exposure to, and shift towards a Neoliberal and Capitalistic agenda.


A starting point: Globalization, Decentralization and Neoliberalization defined

Thomas Sowell1, whose beliefs and views are directly opposed to this essay’s core tenet (that Globalization, Decentralization and Neoliberalism continue the social injustices of our day) defines Globalization as the process of international trade without the burden of bureaucracy that fosters growth and Economic advancement (Sowell, 2008, p. 372). Bottery (2006, p. 2) indicates that this term ‘Globalization’ refers to a macro-level analysis of how humanity lives and works. It is a globalised view of all things human-related and can also be understood as the process of moving from the local level to a global level. According to Bottery (2006, pp. 3-11), there are various forms of Globalization, namely Economic Globalization which is powered by a Neoliberal Capitalistic agenda2, Political Globalization which sees the handing over of power to bigger corporates/organizations, Demographic Globalization which defines the problem of an ageing population and the future lack of sustainable finances, Cultural Globalization is a paradoxical yin-yang of an increase of cultures in educational settings but at the same time a concept that seems to embrace a standardisation of cultures, Technological Globalization is the increased ability to communicate worldwide, American Globalization refers to power which the USA holds and exerts worldwide3, Linguistic Globalization refers to the rule of the English language as the world’s most spoken and most important language (at least for Economic gain) and finally Environmental Globalization which refers to the increasing importance of Sustainability and Environmentalism. All of these facets/forms of Globalization affect Education in some way, directly or indirectly (Bottery, 2006, p. 6).

Simplistically put, Decentralization in an Educational context refers to the transfer of power and resources away from the central government and into localised forms of school governance, such as school principals, school governing bodies (SGB’s) and at times, Educators (Schneider, 2003, p. 35).

Neoliberalism, according to Harvey (2005, p. 11) is “a theory of Political Economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterized by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade.” Data and facts from the three countries in question have shown, contrary to Thomas Sowell’s interpretations, that Neoliberalism does more harm than good and actually widens the gap of the rich and the poor, while making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Now that the core definitions have been clearly set out, I will begin to analyse and compare, using the above definitions as my guide, the public systems of South Africa, Argentina and Chile.

Analysis and comparison of South Africa, Argentina and Chile’s public education systems in light of Globalization, Decentralization and Neoliberalization.

Firstly, we must note that education in South Africa (post-1994) and Chile (mid 1970 onwards) has moved from a Welfarist approach, which defines Education as a public service that the State oversees, to a more Neoliberal approach to Education, which is expressed as Education being commodified4 with the overall intent of advancing the Economy. Argentina stands alone as one of the few South American countries not to fully commit to Education ‘overhauls’ which in essence meant not moving towards a more Economically inclined Education System (Narodowski & Nores, 2002, p. 5).

Educational Provision

In South Africa, Economic Globalization has meant that the provision of Education has been handled using a two-pronged approach. The national rollout of equal Education for millions of learners who, were previously disadvantaged and excluded due to racial discrimination as well as the inclusion of private Education facilities which cater for a range of racial, ethnic, cultural and economic groups in South Africa. This move away from the welfarist approach to education has meant that choice of school is dependent on parental income, which perpetuates competition amongst schools (Christie, 2008, pp. 41-44). Chile made this leap towards Globalization much earlier than South Africa and thus their education systems have also seen a drastic disparity between what the government provides and what the private institutions offer. Narodowski & Nores (2002, pp. 3; 6-8) state that although Chile and Argentina have had different Educational reforms, we are clearly able to spot the different Education provision models undertaken by each nation, Chile being a Quasi-market approach (as discussed above) and Argentina being a Quasi-monopoly approach, meaning that Argentina’s provision of Education is handled strictly by the State. Private Education institutions are allowed in Argentina, but these have to have a heavy dose of Governmental involvement. An edited version5 taken from Narodowski & Nores (2002, p. 6) of Figure 1 shows these three nations’ approach to the provision of education.

School Management & Accountability

The movement towards an economically and politically globalized education system in South Africa and Chile have meant that schools (both public and private) have to now compete with each other for ‘clients’, which impacts them in a massive manner financially. This commodification of education also means that the manner in which schools are run and managed has changed. Biesta (2004, p. 233) says that accountability has become an integral part of a commodified education system. What he means by this is that schools are now being run like businesses and with any business one must have accountability measures to ensure the overall wellbeing and economic survival of the business/school. Standardized Testing has become the safest way to gauge and measure accountability. However, with such accountability, comes with it a ‘ready-made’ culture of blame. Chitpin & Jones (2015, p. 390) offer two pyramidical explanatory figuresto consolidate this concept of accountability and its negative side effect of blame.

Argentina on the other hand, also went through a clear process of privatisation in parts of the education system, but the State (or one of 24 provinces7), still maintains much of the accountability and power. This is evidenced by the fact that these states make financial contributions to private schools and pay all teachers’ salaries (Narodowski & Moschetti, 2013).

Decentralizing the education system from the national sphere to provincial or school level, meant that schools in South Africa and Chile had the freedom to act as they wanted to in terms of their financial responsibilities. It also meant that they were able to cut costs as however they deemed fit. This again shows the overall emphasis on how schools were transformed into businesses. This is clear by the way many public schools in South Africa run their operations. They, for example, are able to hire teachers and pay them a pittance from money raised by the school, these are called SGB-posts and are not linked in any way to the State. Thomas Sowell, who is a proponent of less government intervention by means of decentralization affirms this idea, that institutions (schools) which are run like business and have the power to cut costs wherever necessary, actually boost the economy because their economic output contributes favourably to the nations gross domestic product (Sowell, 2008, pp. 210- 213).

Human Capital Theory in Education

A South African and Chilean Demographic Globalization is quite clearly in view and its side-effects are also brazenly evident. When schools become business-like, the best interests of the learner are no longer the central point of the organisation, instead the focus becomes achieving pre-determined results, because in a commodified, Capitalistic and Neoliberal environment results are the proof of success (Biesta, 2015, p. 320). These results come in the form of standardized testing and are the sole form of measurement indicating success in schools that are geared towards a business like management style. PISA and our very own ANA Tests all indicate proficiency, suitability and readiness towards a Global Economic environment. South Africa and Chile’s results in these standardized tests reinforce ideas of economic foci and these results are often misinterpreted and misused for political gain. Interestingly enough, out of the 76 participating countries, South Africa ranked 75th, Chile ranked 48th and Argentina ranked 62nd in the 2015 PISA results for Maths and Science combined. Although shock worthy, I suggest that these results are not helpful as they do not take into consideration the wildly different socio-economic situations in a country like South Africa due to years of social injustices. Sowell (1993, pp. 103-105) agrees with Vally and Motala (2014, p. 29) in their premise of human capital theory (that human capital is the accumulation of knowledge and skills focusing on the ability to perform labour in order to generate economic value.) by stating that educational institutions in the USA have one mission, to pack their halls with students at any cost. I contend that Sowell’s interpretations are true for South Africa and Chile’s educational systems, by virtue of the fact that we have opted for a Neoliberal commodification of our Education policies.

Emotional impact and Normative Validity on Education

This shift towards a commodification of Education in South Africa and Chile has now shown clear examples of how the new managerialism of schools affects teachers and principals emotionally and practically drives them to 'burn-out' much quicker. Blackmore (2004, p. 444), who explores this emotional aspect in schools in Australia notes that the marketisation and commodification of education has meant that the Cultural Globalization of school culture has changed drastically from a culture of inclusion and care to one of exclusion and no regard for the well-being of teachers, principals and students. She also notes that because teaching is an emotional and passionate work, Decentralization (with all its promises of efficiency and increased productivity) have actually had a negative effect on teachers passions for the job (Blackmore, 2004, pp. 446-449). Biesta (2015, p. 4) contends that democratising the Education profession, in other words creating Educators who control their own work and regulate themselves due to an ‘internalized moral compass’, despite being in a commodified education space, will be able to cope, excel and begin to undertake those vitally important tasks that Education was meant to achieve8

Consequential policies and its effects, positive and negative, on South Africa’s and Argentina’s public education systems.

The South African Schools Act (SASA) (1996, s20) has devolved educational authority and power into the localized hands of School Governing Bodies (SGB’s). The SASA Act states that:

The governing body of a public school must (a) promote the best interests of the school and strive to ensure its development through the provision of quality education for all learners at the school. 

What this Decentralization of power does, as stated before, is that it allows parents to now have a choice of where to send their children (depending of course, if they can afford their choice). This Act promulgates school choice, which in turn accentuates the economic need to commodify and market the school as a product. This in turn by its nature, excludes a host of people who cannot afford or who are not in a situation to be exposed to these schools. This Neoliberal policy has a disastrous effect on South Africa’s population as it continues the separatist notion of Apartheid, even though many of the old constructs have been torn down. Thomas Sowell would argue that a policy like this would benefit the economy, as less government intervention and more freedom in the market means that demand and supply become the motivating factors of educational provision. When demand and supply are the mitigating factors, according to Sowell, there is Economic advancement (Sowell, 2008, p. 262). Sowell goes so far as to say that giving learners and their parents the ability to choose schools would rectify other societal injustices and ills that plague a society9. I firmly disagree with his belief. 

Argentina mandated free tertiary education for all its citizens from 2015 (Monroy, 2018). This proved to be a major Economic cost on the countries resources, but despite all the political turmoil and Economic controversies of corruption and fraud by political leaders, the country was still able to turn out the most international students in Latin America for the past 2 years. Monroy (2018, np) cites the National Education Act of Argentina10 and states that despite the fact that Argentina is one of the most Decentralized Nations in term of Education, the country still holds to a welfarist approach to Education, meaning that, either national Government or one of the 24 provinces, will take responsibility for providing tertiary education11 (Ley de Educacional Nacional 26.206, 2006). Despite the apparent glowing review for free Education, Sowell calculates the high cost of free education. He says, “It cannot be truly free, someone must pay”. According to him, these costs to the government are immensely greater than the potential benefit to a nation and are a foolish endeavour (Sowell, 2016).


In this essay I have examined the Educational systems of South Africa, Chile and Argentina using Bottery’s 2006 article titled ‘Educational leaders in a globalising world: a new set of priorities?’ as a guide. I have sought to investigate how these nations have been influenced by the various forms of Globalization and how their Public Educational systems have been affected by a Global shift towards Decentralization. I have analysed specific policies and systematically discussed and critiqued the implementation of said policies by highlighting Thomas Sowell’s views on related and connected issues.



1. Thomas Sowell is a black African-American academic who tirelessly works against Socialism (in its many forms) and the idea that to improve social injustices, one needs a more efficient welfare state. In fact, he would argue for less government intervention. He also fails to see racial disparities and social inequalities due to years of biased and unequal social structures. Sowell is an economist and social theorist who is currently a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. (Source:

2. Both Bottery (2006, p. 3) and Harvey (2005, pp. 11-13) refer to the neoliberal economic link which in various ways are ‘powered’ by the want to accumulate goods and finances, namely capitalism.

3. Harvey (2005) details many examples of how the USA exerts its power globally. Some would say in systematic forms of oppression and global colonialization, others would say out of national survival.

4. Harvey (2005, p. 3) and Brender (2010, p. 112) explain the economics behind these moves.

5. I have edited this diagram to include South Africa.

6. Chitpin & Jones (2015, p. 390) have these pyramids as separate figures, but I have combined them for ease of reference.

7. The 24 provinces in Argentina have been handed authority by means of devolution of power, much like in South Africa.

8. Henry Giroux a founding theorist of critical pedagogy, who worked closely with Paulo Freire. For Giroux, education’s purpose or Telos (Biesta, 2015, p. 12) is to nurture and keep alive democratic culture, educating individuals for democracy, and to promote citizenship and moral education. (Giroux, 1986).

9. Sowell’s controversial take on school choice:

10. Argentina’s National Education Act can be found using this link:

11. Argentina’s Ley de Educacional Nacional 26.206:


Works Cited

Biesta, G., 2004. Education, Accountability, and the Ethical Demand: Can the Democratic potential of Accountability be regained?. Education Theory, 54(3), pp. 233- 250.

Biesta, G., 2015. Education, Measurement and the Professions: Reclaiming a space for democratic professionality in education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 49(4), pp. 315-330.

Blackmore, J., 2004. Leading as emotional management work in high risk times: the counterintuitive impulses of performativity and passion. School Leardership & Management, 24(4), pp. 439-458.

Bottery, M., 2006. Educational leaders in a globalising world: a new set of priorities?. School Leadership and Management, 26(1), pp. 5-22.

Brender, V., 2010. Economic Transformations in Chile: The formation of the Chicago boys. The American Economist, 55(1), pp. 111-122.

Chitpin, S. & Jones, K., 2015. Leadership in a Performative Context: A framework for decision-making. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 47(4), pp. 387-401.

Christie, P., 2008. Opening the Doors of Learning Changing Schools in South Africa. 1st ed. Johannesburg: Heinemann Publishers.

Giroux, H., 1986. Teacher Education and the Politics of Engagement: The Case for Democratic Schooling. Harvard Educational Review, 56(3), pp. 213-238.

Harvey, D., 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. New York: Oxford University Press. Ley de Educacional Nacional 26.206, 2006. Buenos Aires: Ministerio de Justicia y Derechos Humanos.

Monroy, C., 2018. World Education News and Reviews. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 29 March 2019].

Narodowski, M. & Moschetti, M., 2013. The growth of private education in Argentina: evidence and explanations. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 45(1), pp. 47-69.

Narodowski, M. & Nores, M., 2002. Searching for "Neoliberal" Education Policies. A comparative analysis of Argentina and Chile., Buenos Aires: Center for Education Policies, Argentina.

Schneider, A., 2003. Decentralization: Conceptualization and Measurement. Studies in Comparative International Development, 38(3), pp. 32-56.

South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996, 1996. Cape Town: Government Gazette.

Sowell, T., 2008. Economic Facts and Fallacies. 2nd Edition ed. New York: Perseus Books Group.

Sowell, T., 2016. East Bay Times. [Online] Available at: going-to-college-can-or-should-be-free/
[Accessed 29 March 2019].

Sowell, T., 1993. Inside American Education: The Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas. New York: The Free Press.

Vally, S. & Motala, E., 2014. Chapter 2: Demystifying the Skills Discourse. In: Education and Economy. Pretoria: UNISA Press, pp. 26-47.


Comments powered by CComment