Towards the democratization of instructional leadership in South African schools: current trends and future possibilities.
Williams, Clarence Gordon
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The Department of Education of the South Mrican Government of National Unity has accepted democratic governance as one of the principles of its education and training programme. At school level, especially at historically black schools, there is also an increasing demand for meaningful involvement in the decision-making that affects school policy. Unfortunately educational leaders have generally not been empowered to make a meaningful contribution to the transformation of the schools into democratic teaching and learning organizations. This motivated the decision to undertake this thesis. The focus on the democratization of instructional leadership is meant to serve as an example and catalyst for the democratization of all other aspects of the school. In order to contextualize the investigation the main approaches to schooling in South Africa were interrogated against the background of the conservative, liberal and radical theories of democracy in western capitalist societies. The main finding is that, in spite of obvious differences, South African schooling is essentially another form of mass education used as the legitimating apparatus of state ideology. Within this framework Christian-National Education and liberalism form the dominant educational discourse in South Africa while the aspirations of the majority of blacks find manifestation in People's Education which embodies radical/nco-Marxist theories. In spite of the claims of it being basically neutral and value free, educational leadership in South Africa has generally been used to legitimate and reproduce the existing hegemony. An investigation of the positivistic, interpretive and critical research paradigms indicated that, given the South African context, critical action research with its emphasis on, amongst others, collaborative participation, empowerment and emancipation is the most appropriate means to effect the democratization of instructional leadership. Relevant theories and research findings from the literature on action research were then explicated and made applicable to instructional leadership. Special emphasis was furthermore placed on practicalities like the preparation of instructional leaders for action research, the role of facilitators, and the transformation of the instructional mission, and the structures and interaction patterns of the school. The relatively radical nature of the practical suggestions necessitated the identification of the various personal, professional, societal and political constraints which might impede the envisaged consensual and facilitative leadership. Without depreciating the substantiality and magnitude of the constraints, possible solutions are proffered to overcome these constraints. In the true spirit of action research, an effort is made to avoid prescriptiveness due to the uniqueness of each situation. The successful implementation of action research will eventually depend on the commitment and willingness of all the main role players and stakeholders to collaborate fully in the pursuit of democratic instructional leadership. It thus becomes imperative that what is legitimated as privileged school experience should not be an endorsement of a particular culture or ideology. Instead instructional leadership should aim at developing emancipatory forms of consciousness so that teachers and pupils can not only be consumers but also producers of knowledge, who can reject and/or mediate knowledge which serves to reproduce the existing social order.