Education district office support for teaching and learning in schools: the case of two districts in the Eastern Cape

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Date

2013

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Journal ISSN

Volume Title

Publisher

University of Fort Hare

Abstract

The idea of district support for schools is based on the view that local education offices are best placed to play a critical role in the promotion of quality teaching and learning. In performing this mandate whose characterisation has, over time, moved away from ‘inspection’ and ‘supervision’ both of which are seen as old fashioned and undemocratic, to support, which is seen as developmental. The aim of this study was to understand how three categories of district based officers, Subject Advisors, Integrated Quality Management System Coordinators and Education Development Officers support teaching and learning in schools. This was a case study of two districts in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. A total of six district officials and four school based officials participated in this study. In-depth interviews and document analysis were carried out. There were four main findings. First, support for schools by three district based officials was understood and practiced as administrative tasks, mainly consisting of monitoring policy implementation and monitoring resource provision to schools. School Management Teams saw district officers’ visits as focussing on compliance rather than support. Second, some pedagogical support was given by Subject Advisors through training teachers in subject content and methods of teaching that subject. This was done through workshops and demonstration lessons. However Subject Advisors did not at any time observe actual classroom teaching to see if teachers were implementing what they had learnt at workshops. Third, none of the officers mentioned direct support for teaching and learning at classroom level. Visits by officials were not directly linked to influencing teaching and learning classroom level. Fourth, schools saw district officials as working in separate pockets and sometimes sending different signals to them, despite claims by district officials that inter-disciplinary meetings were held among district officials, however, the nature of the coordination and the use to which it is put remains unclear. There were three main conclusions, first that although the district officials’ visits to schools were described as support, they exhibited the trappings of technicism of inspection; supervision and control; and appeared to neglect the developmental aspects implied in the notion of support. Second, the conception and practice of support visits by district officials were characterised by tension between support and control. Third, at district level support to schools lacked coordination among the three categories of officers who visit schools. This has implications for quality management in schools. Given the findings and conclusions of this study; it is recommended that the issue of support for schools be the focus of a survey research for which a probability sample must be drawn in order to generate findings that are generalisable across the participating target population. Other research could focus on investigating mechanisms by which the tension between support and control can be resolved. To improve practice of a framework for the development of a coordinated district support focusing on the core business of teaching and learning is suggested.

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Keywords

Inspection; Supervision; Support; Monitoring; Quality; Teaching and Learning; School Effectiveness; School Improvement; Decentralisation., Schools -- Development -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, School management and organization -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Educational change -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, School management teams -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, School administrators -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, School supervision -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, School improvement programs -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Educational leadership -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape, Educational evaluation -- South Africa -- Eastern Cape

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