11 SES 04, Educational Reforms and Leadership
In this article we explore and discuss how schools are caught between the educational accountability reforms, compliancy and political demands in a province in South Africa. We draw from several empirical research datasets and secondary data available in the country. Guiding our discussion are the following questions: (1) what are the views regarding the accountability demands that confronts schools? (2) What are the political pressures amid the accountability demands? (3) How do schools maintain the accountability reforms amid the political demands clouding their sector? (4) What support is required to ensure that accountability reforms succeed despite political pressure?Our analysis suggests that the current education accountabilities in South Africa, as a constitutional prescript are not out of place with the rest of the world. However, the approach to these accountability reforms is questionable, riddled with political interference and has mostly led to compliancy at the schools’ own peril. We argue that schools are not able to perform their duties and account due to lack of support and political interference. Thus, we call for districts and provincials offices to ensure that schools are protected from interference, so they can focus on their mandate, to provide learners with the basic quality education they constitutionally deserve.
This paper draws from both the primary and secondary data sources. The primary data sources include qualitative research conducted in the Eastern Cape Province while the secondary data source include the available literature and research reports generated from the province. The primary data draws from 4 different research studies that were conducted in the province. These studies focused on the transformation of education in the province over the last 20 years of democracy, how teachers learn, interact and respond to the new curriculum reforms, research on school district support and teacher development, and research on district leadership. The key informants in these studies were Provincial Department of Education officials, district official (district directors, circuit managers & subject advisors), principals and teachers. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews, focus group interviews and questionnaires. With the permission of the participants, most of the interviews were audio-recorded for quality and nuances that may enrich understanding of the issues under discussion. The secondary data sources included the analysis of literature focusing in the EC Province, the research reports and some provincial and national education documents and policies. These data sources were selected and identified based on their relevance to the questions guiding the investigation. During the review process, issues of interest were highlighted, and short summaries made. Those notes were later used to depict what is out there and policy articulations in relation to the qualitative research findings. For the qualitative data the analysis followed the iterative approach in which the transcripts were read several times and trends, patterns and common issues were identified and then discussion themes generated. However, the quantitative data was analysed through the use of SPSS for frequencies and correlations.
Common from our analysis of data was that the education accountability reforms are not necessarily out of place, as they are globally popular and have become a drive in many education systems. The education officials viewed the accountability measures as possessing a potential to be good depending on how they are implemented, as they are also a legal prescript. Despite the principal's understanding of accountability, the bone of contention was with the current implementation approach of/to these accountability reforms, which was viewed as potentially nullifying them. The accountability process was perceived as having become unrealistic, forcing the schools and districts just to comply and not really account or holding individuals or public servants accountable. Also, there was an allegation that the accountability provided to some districts was not genuine or neither a truthful picture of what is taking place at the schools. We believe that this was not the original intention of these accountability reforms.The school principals were of the view that there were many rife political interferences that schools faced. Several examples were alluded to including how district officials or executives of some political parties would exert pressure on schools to ignore the admission policy and admit children (their) while it is way passed the admission period (dates). We argue that though the accountability reforms may have value to add in the education system, in this particular province the accountability reforms were found wanting, with less value. They have been reduced to a buzz word and compliancy had taken over. We conclude that in order for accountability reforms to succeed, there is a need for both accountability and capacity to help those that are tasked with their implementation.
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