School principals in the North-West Education Department as curriculum reform leaders : a critical analysis
Makgwana, Peter Thomas
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In the past, South Africa had a structure that dealt separately with matters relating to curriculum development and the problems of management and control determined from the hierarchical authority. Since 1994, the curriculum reform and the various transformational needs and because of experiences of global change demands as well as the various nationalist priorities, principals have adopted instructional leadership and principalship as leading learners, critical reflection and understanding that circumstances determine leadership or better management. In this context, principals initiated what has proved to be the determinants of the principal's role, problematic perspective and orientation. The study was qualitative in nature and interviews were used as the main source of data collection. Ten principals of primary, middle and secondary schools were interviewed using open ended questions. It was important to interact with the interviewees to facilitate a more probing investigation that not only broadened knowledge and fostered understanding, but also provided the interviewees with freedom to talk about anything they felt like, as long as it was within the framework or research questions., secondly, it allowed for critical reflection on the dominant discourse and also gave a voice to the dominated discourse. To arrive at the findings, data was analysed and interpreted using analysis strategies applicable to qualitative designs. These strategies of analysis allowed the researcher to look at the text and interviewees' practices. The following findings emerged from the data analysis: The findings from the principals were that there is integrated circumstance which makes it impossible to achieve success and the process of development was always constrained by severe time pressures. Since the principals‟ involvement in curriculum reform is a good sign of positive change in educators and school community's thinking, conduct, feelings and behaviour in their daily way of living. Principals have changed their leadership or management of democratic and collaborative participation to include parents, educators, learners and external stakeholders in curriculum reform. The interviews from the principals indicated that undemocratic procedures and social disorder no longer exist within the school, but it is visible within the district and the hierarchy. While this is the case, it is also clear that the primary and secondary respondents view this differently. The primary school principal, generates ample possibilities and opportunities for curriculum reform and the desired nation building. On the other hand, the secondary school principal is pressurized, sometimes undemocratically by the hierarchy to achieve beyond expectation in national examinations. But all are in agreement that they provide useful knowledge to ascertain whether curriculum reform can be a tool driving social cohesion and provide self-renewal in the condition of practice. They also facilitate changes in the lives of community members such as educators, learners' parents and all stakeholders by teaching and carrying out actual practice. I have taken care not to generalize from the findings, since this was never the intention of the study. I nevertheless drew the conclusion that problems and challenges faced by the principals determine and define their role. There will never be any absence of external demands. In fact principals in their schools must continue to monitor conceptually complex tasks and accumulate evidence of different levels of complexity of their roles. From the findings the study recommends that principal should control the determinants of their roles, they should standardise and supervise the quality of the learning programme. This is to allow principals to include the needs of the communities which vary from area to area. This way development of learner-centred strategies are encouraged. The control by the hierarchy would extinguish community-initiative in service delivery. Political control seems to be slowly coming back to schools through quality monitoring. Furthermore, suggestions for the Department of Education to understand the different pressure points principal experience imposed by the district and the circuit to principals to follow incompatible activities and forcing schools to pursue incompatible goals.
- Education