Academic achievement in schools: perspectives of township school managers
Majola, Ndoyisile Moses
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Apparently, most schools which are situated in townships in South Africa still show the legacy of apartheid and a struggle for freedom and equality and thus poor academic performance. However, it is profoundly imperative to indicate that some township secondary schools in the Bloemfontein area consistently performed remarkably well over the last five year period (2007-2011) despite these political challenges. School academic results are in the forefront of many South Africans and education officials' minds since every parent wants his or her child to attend a well performing school. Furthermore, the education officials have to ensure that all schools perform well and concomitantly with the money allocated to education by the government. This is why the whole issue of academic performance is such a critical issue. The effectiveness or performance of schools is defined in terms of academic performance of the learners in the Grade 12 examinations. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to explore the perspectives of township secondary school managers with regard to academic performance in their schools. This was done by considering the Grade 12 results in the Bloemfontein area in the five year period from 2007 to 2011. Moreover, this research investigated how management and leadership practices contribute towards excellent academic performance. In pursuance of this investigation, the researcher consequently formulated the objectives of this study. A literature study of education leadership and management, the management tasks and the role school managers have to play in ensuring that academic achievement is attained was conducted. The purpose of this study was to establish' how these factors contribute to academic success. School managers are entrusted with an important responsibility of ensuring that schools operate effectively and thus enhance academic achievement. Therefore, school managers should become leaders who inspire creativity and higher levels of achievement. School managers should regularly motivate and develop educators by creating opportunities in order for them to grow and to learn from each other. The research study was approached from an interpretivist perspective to establish how the participants perceive academic achievement in their schools. In the process of data gathering, the qualitative investigation was undertaken using focus group interviews. The sample comprised of township secondary school managers in the Bloemfontein area. Emergent themes and categories were discussed in the data report on the findings of the qualitative investigation. Participants indicated various factors which are important for school managers to display and perform in their effort to lead their schools to effectiveness. It was also evident from the participants that school managers efficiently utilised both management and leadership skills in their daily school management tasks. Nevertheless, participants highlighted that school managers were not adequately empowered in terms of management and leadership skills and the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS). On the basis of the qualitative results and the literature review, the main findings were interpreted and compared. Based on these findings, guidelines were proposed. In the light of the suggested guidelines, school managers need to be aware of the crucial role they play in ensuring that effective management and leadership are implemented in order to improve academic performance. Possible areas for further research were identified. It is hoped that the Free State Department of Education, as well as other provincial education departments in South Africa will be able to use the proposed guidelines in developing a training programme for school managers in the education fraternity.