The CEPD has been the pre-eminent non-governmental education policy organisation in South Africa since 1993. From its inception it brought to the policy analysis and development process a new vision, dynamism and approach, strongly based on the participatory processes of the Mass Democratic Movement. In the past few years it has developed and analysed education and training policy in general and schools policy in particular.

The CEPD has been primarily responsible for developing a number of major policy documents which have had a fundamental influence on the direction of education policy in South Africa. In particular, on the basis of a series of workshops on the key issues facing education in a democratic dispensation, it prepared, on behalf of the African National Congress, A Policy Framework for Education and Training, from which the first White Paper on Education and Training (1995) was developed.

Another major and influential accomplishment of the Centre was the production, also on behalf of the African National Congress, of the Implementation Plan for Education and Training (IPET) in the period immediately prior to the elections of 27 April 1994. The IPET process at its peak involved the co-ordination of the efforts of some three hundred educationists, economists, lawyers and labour specialists from across the country and political groupings. The purpose of IPET was to turn the vision of the Policy Framework into planning tools on behalf of the new national and provincial governments.

Since the 1994 election, the Centre has been involved in a number of important policy and research processes. It has built partnerships with others working in the area of education and training policy and has conducted policy research and analysis which has resulted in a number of important research reports and other publications.

The Centre conducts both self-initiated research projects and commissioned, contract research. Examples of self-initiated research include ‘Education 2000 Plus’, a longitudinal monitoring project whose main purpose was to monitor the transformation of the South African schooling system, a project to produce a history of education during the apartheid years. For more details on these projects, see the Annual Reports. In 2001, the CEPD and its closest partners, the five university-based Education Policy Units, established the Education Policy Consortium (EPC). The most significant activities of this consortium have been associated with a joint Sida/RNE programme of research on Human Rights, Democracy and Social Justice in Education and a large research project on Rural Education in South Africa which was conducted with the HSRC for the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The consortium, together with other partners, is currently undertaking large-scale research in literacy and numeracy (see Annual Reports for more details). Aside from joint research activities, the consortium collaborates in internal capacity building and in joint approaches to government and funding agencies. In 2002, the CEPD re-established a programme of research and related activity in the area of Higher Education policy with seed finance from the Ford Foundation. The initial focus areas for this programme are teacher education and improving access to higher education.

Consulting activities undertaken by the Centre are varied. Since 1998, the Centre has increasingly been involved in contract research. The Centre’s numerous contracts have included, inter alia, evaluations of Curriculum 2005 and its implementation for the national Department of Education and the Gauteng Institute for Curriculum Development; an investigation into the organisation and placement of school sport; management of the Systemic Assessment of Grade Three learners project for the national Department of Education; evaluations of learning support material for the Gauteng Department of Education; and research on school governance.

The CEPD has interacted with government over policy issues over the years. The former director of the CEPD was a member of the Committee to Review the Organisation, Governance and Funding of Schools (the ‘Hunter Committee’) in 1995. In August 1996 the CEPD organised a major national conference on the SA Schools Bill at which the key issues in the Bill were examined and debated by most of the major national stakeholders. A CEPD policy analyst was seconded as assistant to the chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee during the period and during the passage of the South African Schools Bill and also participated in the negotiations around the education provisions in the 1996 Constitution. In 2000, the CEPD’s then Senior Projects Manager, Godwin Khosa, managed a project to provided assistance and support to the national and provincial departments of education in organising and supporting the triennial elections of school governing bodies (funded by USAID and the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency (Sida). Mr Jonathan Godden, then a member of the CEPD policy staff, chaired the national Task Team on Education Management Development during the course of 1996. The CEPD provided both technical support and office space for the Task Team and its successor, the Interim Unit on Education Management Development. The former director of the CEPD, John Pampallis, was also a member of the Gauteng Education and Training Council, appointed by the MEC for education; the CEPD is also an institutional member of the Council. From 2004 to 2006, john Pampallis also served as chair of the Umalusi Council, and currently still serves as an executive member of the Council.

The Centre plays an important role as a grants manager for grants to the national Department of Education and others. It has over the years acted as a grants manager for assistance provided by the various agencies, both government and private. These include, inter alia, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Canadian International Development Agency; the Royal Netherlands Embassy (RNE); the Norwegian Embassy; the British Department for International Development; and the Carnegie Foundation.

The CEPD has developed a reputation as an important organiser and manager of educational conferences, seminars and workshops. Aside from organising conference logistics (travel, venues, accommodation, etc.), the Centre also draws on its research staff to provide services such as conference planning and programme/agenda development, identifying and sourcing speakers, facilitation, and the writing and production of conference reports.