Policy agenda-setting and the use of analytical agenda-setting models for school sport and physical education in South Africa
This study focused on policy agenda-setting models for school sport and physical education in South Africa. The primary objective was to assess and propose options for improved agenda-setting by focussing on the use of agenda-setting models and by applying it to physical education and school sport and the policy agenda of the national government. The study has shown that pertinent school sport and physical education policy issues, as supported by key role-players and principal actors, were initially not placed on the formal policy agenda of government during the research investigation period (2005-2009). However, during 2010 and 2011 the issue of school sport and physical education received prominent attention by authorities and these developments were subsequently included in the study. The study aimed at contributing to existing policy agenda-setting models and by recommending changes to the Generic Process Model.The study also made a contribution by informing various role-players and stakeholders in education and school sport on the opportunities in policy agenda-setting. The study showed that policy agenda-setting is a vital step in the Generic Policy Process Model. Policy agendasetting in South Africa is critical, as it is important to place new and emerging policy issues on the policy agenda and as a participative public policy process is relatively new in this young democracy. The reader should not confuse the study as one dealing with school sport and physical education primarily, but rather as a research investigation dealing with policy agenda-setting models as applied to school sport and physical education.The secondary objectives of the study included the development of a historical perspective on trends and tendencies in education and sport in South Africa. A second objective was to provide theoretical perspectives on public policy and specifically on policy agenda-setting.From these theoretical perspectives, the Generic Policy Process Model was selected to use as a model that provided guidance on the overall policy process normally followed in South Africa. The Issue Attention Cycle and Principal Actor Models on Agenda-Setting were selected to apply to the case study to specifically ascertain important factors related to policy agenda-setting such as the identification of key role players as well as key policy issues. The Generic Policy Process Model provided for both a comprehensive set of phases as well as specific requirements and key issues to be addressed during each phase of the policy process.In terms of findings the study found that a number of specific agenda-setting elements or phases needed to be added to the Generic Policy Process Model, which includes a problem stage, triggers, initiator, issue creation and actors or policy stakeholders.The Principal Actor Model to agenda-setting was selected for application to the case as different actors have different levels of success at each policy stage. In the South African experience it is important to look at who sets the policy agenda and why, who can initiate agenda-setting and the role played by these principal actors in the agenda-setting process.Issue emergence often places policy issues on the policy agenda. The public is initially involved in issues, but in the long term public interest declines. The government realizes the significant costs involved in placing policy issues back on the agenda. This leads to a decline in issue attention by policy-makers and the public. The Issue Attention Cycle Model of agenda setting was used to analyse this phenomenon in South African Education policy.The study provides a case assessment of the South African experience. From the research findings, a set of conclusions and recommendations were developed for improved policy agenda-setting models and implications for school sport and physical education, as well as tools to place it on the national policy agenda were identified. The research findings suggest that pertinent school sport and physical education policy issues, as supported by key roleplayers,stakeholders and principal actors were not placed on the formal policy agenda of the government as a vital step in the policy process between 2005 and 2009. Ever since, principal policy actors, civil society NGOs, and government officials placed sufficient pressure on the Minister of Basic Education to place Physical Education on the agenda. Subsequently,Minister Angie Motshega has placed physical education in the school Curriculum under the subject Life Orientation and Lifeskills. It has become evident from the research that agendasetting is both necessary to, and a complex phase in, the policy-making process.This study has shown that major policy issues such as physical education and school sport were neglected during the period 2005 and 2009 despite reformed and advanced policy cycles in government. It has also shown that the role of policy agenda-setting in the overall policymaking process was revisited by government in the subsequent period 2010/2011 and placed on the policy agenda. Specific lessons of experience emanated from this process.The study recommends that the triggers of the agenda-setting phases be added to the Generic Policy Process Model, which should include the problem stage, triggers, initiators, issue creation, actors and policy stakeholders. Principal actors in the agenda-setting model in South Africa want the issue of physical education and school sport to be part of the school curriculum, and therefore be placed back on the policy agenda by the Government on its institutional agenda. Furthermore, the study showed that actors wanted it to be compulsory in all phases of the school (Foundation, Intermediate, Senior, GET, FET) and that it should have the same legal status as other subjects.The important findings include that:Comprehensive policy process models such as that of Dunn, Wissink and the Generic Process model may need to be reviewed to incorporate more fully the policy-agenda setting stages of the overall process; Current policy agenda setting models in use are relevant and valuable in identifying key role players as well as key issues and considerations regarding the policy process; Institutional arrangements to strengthen the role of NGOs and lower level institutions,such as schools to participate in policy agenda setting are important; and the study has shown that a number of key factors have been identified that had a key influence on policy agenda-setting in the case of physical education and school sport in South Africa. These included the influence of changing political leadership, the competency of policy capacities in government, the profile of issues in the media etc.The key findings of the study have shown that further potential exists to improve monitoring and evaluation and policy analysis.The study made a set of recommendations to principal actors such as the Minister of Education, Minister of Sport and Recreation, non-governmental organisations, interest groups, department officials and pressure groups. A set of research topics was also identified for future research.
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