The article applies Foucault's idea of governmentality to an understanding of education policy in South Africa. An account is given of governmentality theory, as it has developed in relation to western industrialized countries and, in a more specialized literature, as it has been applied to illiberal states such as the apartheid state. The article then applies this theory to an understanding of governmentality as it is evolving in the post-apartheid era. Using selected examples, education policy is then analysed against this backdrop. It is argued that studying policy through the lens of governmentality theory allows for a consideration of the autonomous effects of rationalities of government on shaping the possibilities of policy and invoking different forms of power. Important for this understanding is a view of the changing role of the human sciences in underpinning different rationalities of government. It is also argued that educational change can be understood as an aspect of changing governmentality and to the emergence of a new global, neo-liberal rationality of government. Although the form of the state emerging in South Africa is a variant of the advanced liberal state, it also differs in its underlying logic on account of deep rooted inequality and the persistence of a bio-political racism that remains entrenched from the apartheid era.