The study explores and analyses the level of understanding and shared meaning of co-operative governance between the different spheres of government and how this influences intergovernmental relations. It also critiques and analyses how the concept of co-operative governance finds expression at and between the various levels of the education system and how this impacts on the way in which activities are planned, organised and coordinated. In addition, the study also focuses on the co-operative governance relationships between the national and provincial departments of education and, in particular how these relationships impact on the level of education delivery across departments. It also explores how the complex pattern of interactions, cooperation and inter-dependence between the spheres of government and the combinations and permutations of their relationships influence the success of their education delivery (Lawson, 2011: 200). The study also investigates the various dynamics at play in the co-operative governance relationship such as decentralisation and the concurrent functions to determine how they impact on the realisation of the national goals.
This is a qualitative study which focuses specifically on exploring and analysing the understanding of, and attribution of meaning to, the concept co-operative governance by officials from three provincial education departments and also the Department of Basic Education. Semi-structured individual and focus group interviews were conducted with purposively selected senior officials from the sampled departments in order to collect the requisite data.
This research study was informed by the stewardship theory as proposed by Cornforth (2002) and Muth and Donaldson (1998) in order to shed light on the intention and practice of co-operative governance. According to this theory the basis for the relationship between the various governing institutions is neither compliance nor conformance but rather collaboration in improving organisational performance. Throughout the study I found that co-operative governance exercised a significant influence on education delivered by the education system in South Africa. The practical expression of co-operative governance through the configuration and permutations of the relationships between the spheres of government had a discernible influence on the level of successful education delivery. The fact that education is managed and controlled by two different levels of government often creates subtle confusion and tension between these two levels of the department of education. In addition, the fact that the mandates of the spheres of government in education are managed, directed and resourced at different levels impacts on their collective fulfilment of their responsibilities.
I believe that this research study has led to a better and deeper understanding of the intricate co-operative governance relationship between the national and provincial education departments. However, although the findings of this study may inform and influence the current efforts towards improving the quality of education delivery both in both South Africa and in the world, additional research may be required to deepen the understanding of this concept even further.