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Keynote Address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, MP, at the 18th EMASA International Conference held at the Coastlands Hotel, Umhlanga, Durban, 02 September 2017

Programme Director

EMASA President: Adv. Alison Bengtson

Gauteng MEC for education: Mr Panyaza Lesufi

KZN Education HoD:  Dr. Enoch Nzama

Gauteng Education DDG: Dr Albert Chanee

SAPA President: Ms. Thembi Ndlovu

Leadership Collective of EMASA

Members of EMASA

Officials of the department from the DBE and all Provincial Education Departments

Distinguished Guests

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the, “18th Annual International Conference for 2017, with the theme: “21st Century Education? Is the education system geared to achieving it?” I take this opportunity to thank the organizers namely the Education Management Association in South Africa (EMASA) for inviting me to address this important conference.  I wish to express my gratitude to the organizing committee for bringing to the forefront such an important issue namely the education school management in the 21st century.

Programme Director; the most important and unique aspect of EMASA is that it’s one of the few associations in the basic education sector that focuses in the field of education management, leadership and administration by blending the school based leadership practises with empirical driven solutions. You have excellently done this through hosting this conference amongst many activities. In all your endeavours you include practitioners and academics in the country to expose school managers at all levels of the sector to the emerging international and national school management/leadership trends.  You work in this regard is commendable. Equally important is that you promote and strengthen your members through continuous learning, advocacy and networking initiatives.

Thus, this annual conference serves as a conduit between practitioners and education researchers in the field thus keeping those in the profession abreast with the latest changes in the education policies, changing leadership dynamics and school management trends. Equally impressive is that you also showcase the innovative management and leadership initiatives of principals in South African schools who are creating resilient schools despite difficult circumstances. You’re certainly not throwing out the baby with the bath water.  

There is currently a general agreement within the basic education sector that it’s no longer business as usual. We have entered the 21st century environment characterised by the rapid technological and other digital based changes. We have made a determination that one of the most important skills for this 21st century education system is in the arena of the ensuing digital revolution. Hence high on the list of skills is the adoption and use of the Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for learning, teaching and management/administration. We need to heighten the levels of digital technology literacy throughout the sector including amongst teachers, heads of departments, circuit managers, district managers, educationists, and learners.  There is an urgent need to deploy digital technology in-order to manage, integrate, evaluate and create information so that we remain relevant within the knowledge economy.

The second one for me is Critical Thinking and Problem Solving which allows one to exercise sound reasoning in understanding the very same ICTs environment when making complex choices and decisions within the interconnected systems.

Equally important is Creativity and Innovation to come up with new ideas and be responsive to new set of challenges and opportunities.

We must be the first to admit that the 21st century skills’ demand for learning, teaching and administration are so advanced in their scale and scope such that there is an urgent need to reinvent ourselves.  The greatest challenge facing us today is not so much as keeping pace with the rapid speed of technological advancements but the need to unlearn the run-of-mill methods of the 20th century. This period of massive shift in knowledge production and unprecedented pace of rapid technological advancement requires of us to be flexible, teachable, and adaptable to the rapid changes taking place around us.

Yet, lest we forget, in the mist of the knowledge economy and technological advancements, let’s not forget to instil the need for social cohesive school environments and upscaling our learner’s social skills because without such, that would be the end of humanity and innovation.

Programme Director, working together with all stakeholders in the sector, I am convinced that we can prepare ourselves better for the challenges of the 21st century learning, teaching and school leadership.

Fore-example, we are about to complete putting together course material for an Advanced Diploma in Leadership and Management to prepare future school managers better. This will be implemented at the beginning of 2019. In line with the National Development Plan (NDP), the diploma will eventually become mandatory for all aspiring principals. We are working on a system to allow us to select qualified and competent teachers to become principals. This will include the use of 21st century methods of selection including the use of competency assessments to select the best. We owe it to our children to give them the best education managers who can strive above any given challenge they can face.

Education scholars have long concluded that there is causal link between school leadership and improved learners’ achievement. It is considered that a capable school principal with zest for knowledge and heightened leadership ability has a direct effect on the improved performance of learners.

Thus, good leadership can certainly contribute to school improvement by abetting the motivation, participation, and coordination of the teachers. Recent studies have widened the range of action of school leadership research to the various organizational levels: school managers, department heads, coordinators, teachers (Goldhaber, 2002; Harris, 2004). In this regard the principal remains the central source of leadership influence. He/she is at the coalface of the school’s fortune.

Indeed school management and leadership is faced with new demands in the ever changing education environment, and more so in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact. The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. When compared with previous industrial revolutions, the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace.

Moreover, it is disrupting almost every industry in every country. And the breadth and depth of these changes herald the transformation of entire systems of production, management, and governance.

Hence, the demands on school management must evolve fast and swift. We need principals with a long term vision to inculcate within the school communities issues of innovation and integration of the information communication technologies (ICTs) for learning, teaching, and administration.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution brings with it the technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society. Thus, this conference fit seamlessly in the context of the need for greater cooperation and driving synergy amongst basic education stakeholders.

This new shift brings with it dramatic changes in what public education needs from principals. They can no longer function simply as building managers, tasked with adhering to district rules, carrying out regulations and avoiding mistakes. They have to be (or become) leaders of learning who can develop a team delivering effective instruction. According to the Wallace Foundation research, the New York based philanthropy foundation that works nationally to improve learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children, concluded that successful education managers must focus on five key responsibilities:

  • Shaping a vision of academic success for all learners, one based on high standards.
  • Creating a climate hospitable to education in order that safety, a cooperative spirit and other foundations of fruitful interaction prevail.
  • Cultivating leadership in others so that teachers and other adults assume their parts in realizing the school vision.
  • Improving instruction to enable teachers to teach at their best and learners to learn to their utmost.
  • Managing people, data and processes to foster school improvement.

For me the fifth responsibility of managing people, data and process is at the heart of the new principals that we need. As you might be aware basic education systems around the world are migrating to evidence based decision making processes. This means dealing with multiple sources of empirical data, and the principal’s job is to distil from the data the best possible course of action. In a sense, we are in dire need of new principals who honesty believes in rational thought and rational action, whose thinking is not linear but exponential. This new principal must be technologically savvy, and a lifelong student with multiple skills set. The current cohort of principals will do well to reinvent themselves if this sector is to survive the demands of the 21st century. It is ladies and gentlemen no longer business as usual.

As the Department, we are ready for the revolution in school management and leadership brought forth by the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

As we know it is not easy to be a principal in the South African context where external factors weigh heavily of the shoulders of principals. Schools in South Africa more than any other part of the world are truly the microcosm of society. We have the urban-rural divide. We are culturally, socially and politically diverse. These challenges demands of the principal to be dynamic and responsive to a culturally and economically defined contexts.

Compounding the above challenges is that our schools cater for a variety of leaners: teen parents, children with special educational needs, learners from child-headed households, orphans and children from well-heeled homes. As a result learners have varying education levels, health needs, wellness status (mental, physical abilities), and socio-economic status, religious and cultural beliefs.  

School communities reflect this diversity, both within and between schools.

We therefore need principals with the ability to interpret the demands of their jobs and determine how they will perform their function within the context of national development thus fostering social cohesion without compromising academic standards.  The principals need to tap into the full potential of themselves and the rest of the school community, while seeing their job within the context of improving teaching, learning and administration in the school through the adoption of ICTs and other innovations.

To produce such a principal requires the collaboration of all stakeholders, association such as yourselves being key in the whole equation. It heartens me that as EMASA you support and endorse the newly promulgated: ‘Policy on the South African Standard for Principalship’. We need to develop leaders with appropriate administrative skills and professional education management competencies if we are to remain relevant.  We, together, need: to build the ability of our principals to work in a holistic way, bringing in staff, community and other partners in a supportive manner while integrating ICTs learning in a safe, diverse and integrated manner. 

What we all have to do now is to upskill the current corps of principals and make them relevant to the current changes in our global village society. Tailor made, relevant, and on time capacity building programmes are a must in this new era.

The next step will be how we prepare aspirant principals to take over the challenge when the time comes. This should be calculated move of introducing preparatory programmes long before principal vacancies become available. Obviously this must be preceded by a well-defined talent identification programme for those who have the capacity to become good school managers after proper mentoring and coaching by relevant experts in the sector. We need proper succession planning where we lay down the new attributes and competencies for deputies and middle level managers.

Given these realities, principal selection, demands devoting more time and resources to uncover the right talent for the position.  Selecting the right people to lead schools is a process worthy of investing time and money. 

The appointment of principals must be followed by a comprehensive induction programme which should prepare them thoroughly for the envisaged challenges.

To this end, principals must become the pivot of the change we want to see. Again, thank you for inviting me, I wish you well in your deliberations. Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend…!

I thank you.  

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 11/30/2017
Number of Views: 482

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