2016 Conference: Balancing Freedom, Autonomy and Accountability in Education

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Date(s) - 27/07/2016 - 29/07/2016
All Day

Paul Roos Gymnasium








27 -29 July 2016

Venue: Paul Roos Gymnasium a prestigious high school in Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa

Most sovereign states have enshrined the core content of the right to education in their constitutions and basic regulations, and there are numerous examples of courts applying domestic and international law to protect the right to education. Vagueness has also not prevented international development agencies from producing volumes of research on educational conditions. This right is by no means self-evident even in democratic regimes, where ‘progressive’ elites may think it their duty to use the education system to make children better than their parents. The effort to respect the role of parents as the primary advocates for the education of their children and thus to find the right balance between liberty and accountability in education – to ensure that society’s goals are met and vulnerable individuals and groups are protected without falling into what Kant called the “greatest conceivable despotism,” a paternalistic government – is the theme of this conference.

Education which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State, leave the door open for governments to impose requirements upon schools which would make it impossible for them to maintain the distinctive character sought by parents. There is clearly an obligation upon contemporary governments to take steps necessary to protect children as well as to ensure that the public interest is served by all elements of the education system. The education of the next generation is a matter of public concern and must be guided, in a democratic system, by shared assumptions about the common good.

The underlying idea is that parents themselves, or social structures and organizations in which they place their confidence, bear part of the responsibility for the education system as they establish and manage public schools. Without financial support by the state, it often proves to be impossible for parents to sustain schools of the quality required–appropriately–by the state. Under these conditions, state subsidies are a logical requirement for the realization of educational rights and freedoms.

Public schools have never been absent from the educational debates, and not infrequently they have been the occasion of bitter political struggles. One of those ironies which education leaders encounter frequently is that education departments insist that public schools serve to unify the nation, even if their prescriptions create profound divisions between race, language and religious groups.

The belief that a society or a nation can be unified, its barriers of religion, class, and race broken down, by bringing its children together in common schools or tertiary institutions that express a common-denominator vision of national life is and has been a persistent theme throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Critics counter that pluralism is a positive social good, and allows individuals freedom to shape their own lives in terms of real choices. A pluralistic society is not a place where every institution mirrors the ethnic, racial, and gender composition of society. A pluralistic society has different kinds of groups with different kinds of memberships. This kind of society will offer its members more choices than one that is diverse “all the way down.” . . . the irony of a diversity that is taken too far: eventually it makes society more homogeneous rather than heterogeneous. A society that has different institutions with different audiences, customers, clienteles, or students will be more pluralistic than a society where all the institutions are composed of the same people.

For the sake of freedom of conscience and of expression – itself founded on the principle of tolerance as well as ideological and philosophical principles of non-discrimination – no educational monopoly from the state or exclusive influence by the government of the day can be justified within the democratic order. After all, “if the government were to regulate the development of ideas and opinions . . . freedom of expression would become a meaningless right. The development as well as the expression of those beliefs, opinions, world views and aspects of conscience that constitute individual consciousness should be free from government manipulation.” That is, freedom of conscience and expression are meaningless when children are subjected to mandatory indoctrination in a particular viewpoint selected by the government of a country.

It is possible to detect hopeful signs that policymakers worldwide have a growing awareness of the need to protect a diversity of viewpoints, and a growing confidence that this will not threaten social and national unity.

CELP in cooperation with faculty from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A extends an invitation to international and national delegates to participate in this International Conference that also incorporates the 2016 International Symposium on Educational Reform (ISER). We invite you to join us for the conference to be held at Paul Roos Gymnasium, a in the historic town of Stellenbosch, known for its beautiful mountains, wine estates and the University of Stellenbosch. Academia from all over the globe, educational leaders, school managers, administrators and governors, educators and teacher union members, legal practitioners, officials from education departments, members from the NGO sector, students, and all other interested parties are invited to attend.

Although the South African Constitutional Court has decided a number of cases involving educational contexts in its short history, there are numerous provisions in the Bill of Rights that have never been interpreted in educational contexts.  This conference aims to discuss how these constitutional provisions should be interpreted and implemented in areas where the Constitution has not yet been applied to education.  To that end, this conference seeks to bring together experts in Law and Education from all over the world to discuss and share their expertise and experiences with South Africans. In short, it seeks nothing less than a fundamental rethinking of Education Reform worldwide with the purpose of how governmental actors, courts, and private actors should interpret and approach the development and judicial review of statutes, regulations, and policies that will protect and balance freedom, autonomy and accountability in education internationally.

 Conference sub-themes:

 Contributions addressing any of the following sub-themes are invited:

  • Freedom of and right to education as basic norms in democratic societies
  • Understanding and implementing education reform worldwide
  • The role of the State in promoting human rights in education
  • Right to education linked with freedom of education
  • Educational freedom in the context of religion
  • Educational freedom in the context of culture and language
  • Decentralization and accountability
  • Funding of education
  • Admission to education institutions


The Centre for Education Law and Policy (CELP) was formed in February 1997 in the wake of the political transformation in South Africa in 1994. It was formed with the aim of contributing to the transformation of society in South African through the scientific and academic study of education law and educational issues and through the dissemination of such information to all relevant role-payers. The Universities of Pretoria (UP) and South Africa (UNISA) were the founding members of CELP. Since then the following universities have joined CELP as members: University of Johannesburg, University of North-West, and the University of the Free State, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Fort Hare.
Conference Co-Chairs

Prof Rika Joubert, Ph.D. is the Director of the Interuniversity Centre for Education Law and Education Policy (CELP) and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Her scholarship focuses on human rights in education, school governance, school safety and school discipline and she has presented papers at international conferences in the USA. Australia, New Zealand, England, Europe, Canada, China, Cyprus and Hong Kong. Her publications include books on law in education in South Africa, school governance and discipline in schools, peer reviewed articles in national and international academic journals and peer reviewed conference proceedings. Rika is rated as an established researcher by the National Research Foundation in South Africa.

William E. Thro, M.A., J.D.,

William E. Thro, M.A., J.D., is General Counsel at the University of Kentucky.  His scholarship focuses on constitutional law in educational contexts in both the United States and South Africa.  He has more than sixty publications in Law Reviews or Peer Reviewed Journals as well as numerous monographs, book chapters, and encyclopaedia entries.  In recognition of his scholarly work, he received Stetson University’s Kaplin Award for Excellence in Higher Education Law & Policy Scholarship (2014) and was named a Fellow of both the National Association of College and University Attorneys’ (2007), and the National Education Finance Conference (2012).

John B. Nash, Ph.D.

John B. Nash is the Coordinating Director of ISER 2016 and an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky. He teaches a range of courses on school technology leadership, design thinking and research methods. His current research agenda investigates how technology, innovation and policy interact and influence schools and educators in different contexts. John is also a director of the UCEA Center for Advanced Study of Leadership for Technology in Education (CASTLE) and the Laboratory on Design Thinking in Education (dLab). John is the former Associate Director for Evaluation at the Stanford Center for Innovations in Learning (SCIL), where he conducted applied research on improving program evaluation in grant-funded initiatives, and the former Associate Director of Assessment and Research at the Stanford Learning Laboratory, where he examined the effects of innovative technologies on learning.

Abstract Submission


The conference theme may be explored through conference papers (30 minutes), poster presentations (10 minutes) or panel discussions. Kindly make use of the abstract submission form attached to submit abstracts electronically to Rika Joubert at rika.joubert@up.ac.za on or before 29 February 2016.

Abstracts should be not less than 500 words and should:

  • Include the title of the proposed paper
  • Indicate how the presentation will fit in with the conference theme
  • Specify the presentation mode (conference paper, poster presentation)
  • Provide your full name, your affiliation, e-mail address and 6-8 key words
  • Include a short biography of the presenting author(s) – (150-250 words) including position held and institution
  • Give permission for your abstract to be made available to delegates online and in the Conference Publication (see underneath).


To submit an abstract, please complete the abstract submission form attached.

Publication/Dissemination of Presentations

Abstracts of all accepted papers (including a 150 word bio plus a recent photo of the author(s)) will be published in the conference programme. Authors are free to submit papers for publication elsewhere.


Conference registration is now open and will close on 1 July 2016.

Conference fees are as follows:

Full Conference                                                     R3,800

Attend One Day Only of the Conference          R1,500

Click here to register for the conference

Please note:

  • The registration fee covers the conference costs, refreshments and lunch on 27, 28, and 29 July, as well as the welcoming dinner on the evening of 27 July 2016. It excludes accommodation and travel costs.
  • CELP and UKY regret that we are unable to pay for travel costs, conference fees or any other costs of presenters/delegates.
  • All registered persons will receive an invoice from CELP and once payment has been received a receipt will be issued.
  • Payments can be made via the CELP website or EFT payments (for South African delegates)
  • Bank details: CELP, Absa, Branch code 632005, Account number 4075105649 [Swift code for international payments: ABSAZAJJ632005]
  • Accommodation
  • Delegates are responsible to make their own accommodation arrangements.


Places to stay in Stellenbosch:

Paul Roos Gymnasium is situated on the Corner of Suidwal Street and Piet Retief Street in Stellenbosch.

Please note that the town Stellenbosch is 35 km from the Cape Town airport


Caledon Villa
7 Neethling Street
+27 21 883 8912

Die Laan Gastehuis
22 Die Laan
Tel.:+27 21 886 8753

Evergreen Lodge
Corner of . Bosman & Murray Streets.
Tel.: +27 21-886 6832
Cell no: +27 83 453 3438

Fynbos Gastehuis
14 Neethling Street
Tel.: +27 21-883 8670

50 Jonkershoek Road
Tel.: +27 21 886 6000

Just Joey
13 Noordwal-Wes Street
Tel.: +27 21-887 1799

12 Neethling Street
Tel.: _27 21-887 8002

Michael House
29 Van Riebeeck Street
Tel.: +27 21-886 6343

Alternatively you are welcome to search for accommodation near the venue using www.bookings.com; wheretostay.co.za; safarinow.co.za