Making schools count

Job security matters at the workplace. Even school principals and teachers desire job security. No single employee desires to be cast in the wilderness of uncertainty.

However, a school is a unique organisation that can make or break the future of children under its care. Job security in schools, while desirable, cannot be realised and protected at all costs. Learners are fragile and therefore must never be sacrificed. Systems that keep school principals or teachers in their payrolls in the name of job security do not do justice to the learners. In the corporate world where profit maximisation is the driving motive, there is no job security. CEOs come in and go.

Those in the world of business seem to have made peace with the reality that they could be shown the door anytime. Robust and cutthroat competitions from rivals keep CEOs on their toes and they have to deliver. Mission failure is not an option. The buck stops with the CEO. CEOs are expected to take full responsibility for what is happening and not happening in their organisations. Similarly, education systems in other jurisdictions have adopted a business like atmosphere. Where accountability is strong, school principals come and go. It is simply not possible elsewhere for a principal to get a new contract when learning outcomes continue to plummet.

Elsewhere, school principals like company CEOs, should not have job security at the expense of learners. For instance, frequent change of guard in the USA schools is not uncommon. One living example is the experience of Strawberry Mansion High School in the District of Philadelphia where Linda Cliatt Wayman joined the school as its fourth principal in four years.

Her experience is alien to our culture. Ours is a little more tolerant, patient and accommodating. Whether results are coming or not, people continue to stay put in their jobs. Learning outcomes or the interests of students don’t necessarily determine the fate of the leadership. Where accountability is almost nonexistent, schools enjoy the luxury of shifting the blame to external factors. Schools that find refuge in factors outside their jurisdiction miss an opportunity to fix what is broken within the school. Internal powerful factors responsible for the destruction of good teaching and learning practices can go unscathed for a long time. Such schools run the risk of offering more of the same. Ailing schools, just like people, sometimes require some kind of surgical operation, that is a change of guard.

New leaders can inject a sense of urgency where there was laxity and complacency. Schools don’t perform simply because they have bad teachers and students. Schools do not reach their potential because of lack of inspiration and a host of adaptive challenges. Most schools are presently blessed with highly energetic and educated young teachers. Youthful exuberance and talents can easily go to waste if not harnessed. “Great principals attract great talent. They nurture that great talent and they develop that great talent. Bad principals are the reverse: bad principals don’t attract good talent, they run off good talent. They don’t find ways to improve those that are trying to get better.

They don’t engage the community.” - US Education Secretary Arne L. Duncan, addressing The Wallace Foundation’s National Conference on Education Leadership, October 2009. Learners too have a great potential and given the right inspiration and support can achieve good grades. Research shows that if a child has a quality teacher for three years, that child’s performance can increase dramatically (Rachel E. Curtis and Elizabeth A. city). As Professor Jaap Kuiper put it, “students don’t fail, but schools fail them. It is clear that schools require principals who can lead turnaround programmes from the front. Principals must always remember that there is no substitute for good teaching. Each school requires its own local based instructional experts. Test scores would show which departments have effective instruction tools. Instructional experts from excelling departments should be offered an opportunity to share and disseminate best teaching practices.

Sharing best practices ensures that all learners from classroom A to Z are subjected to the same standard. Usually high-performing subjects with strong student achievement are distinguished by a strong culture of collaboration and peer (team) teaching while weak and struggling departments often lack synergy and cooperation. A collective approach can raise achievement levels across subjects. All in all, the system should do away with job security while summoning courage to offload free passengers.

Editor's Comment
More resources needed to fight crime

The Fight Crime Gaborone Facebook page is always filled with sad complaints of hard working Batswana who were robbed at knife point at some traffic lights or at their home gates when trying to get inside.These thugs have no mercy; they do not just threaten victims, they are always ready to use knives, and sadly, they damage car windows. While this happens at different traffic lights, there are those where such incidents happen more frequently...

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