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Curriculum leadership

MMAOTHO SEGOTSO
In order for Botswana to become a knowledge-based economy, schools must equip young people with competencies the future will require, skills that will make the human capital Botswana needs going forward.

This makes curriculum key in the vision.

The term curriculum refers to the lessons and academic content taught in a school or in a specific course or programme: the knowledge and skills students are expected to learn, which include the learning standards or objectives they are expected to meet; the units and lessons teachers teach; assignments and projects; books, materials, presentations, and readings used in a course; tests, assessments, and other methods used to evaluate student learning.

Curriculum leadership is defined as connecting curriculum, instruction, assessment, and evaluation in an effort to improve learning and understanding. A Curriculum Leader provides leadership and management of their academic area by overseeing and coordinating the curriculum, staff, budget and resources in their department.

A school is as good as its leader/s. Only excellent leaders can lead schools to excellence and consequently produce excellent results. Curriculum leaders are thus pillars of schools. In Botswana, Curriculum Leaders are the Senior Management Team (SMT): School Heads (HS), Deputy School Head (DSH), Heads of Houses (HoH) and Senior Teachers.

According to Ogawa & Bossert, curriculum leadership involves a careful balance of instructional and administrative leadership responsibilities. The role is multi-faceted and complex, embedded not only in the formal trappings of authority but also in functions that cut across a number of roles affecting student achievement, including professional development, professional accountability, and curriculum development. This means that the responsibility of academic performance lies squarely on the shoulders of the SMTs. They can either make or break a school.

In 2007, Teaching Service Management (TSM) took a decision to remove all SHs and DSHs (Primary Schools); SHs, DSHs, HoHs and Senior Teacher Grade I Guidance and Counseling (Secondary Schools) from the classroom. According to the communiqué sent, the officers were supposed to focus their energies on:

l Ensuring effective management and supervision of their schools

l Devising strategies to curb indiscipline amongst and through optimal supervision of both students and subordinates

l Provide effective leadership to inspire improved performance

l Provide pastoral leadership and expenditure remedial/corrective decisions to problems

l Provide guidance and counselling services to both students and teachers

It is however strange that despite the above decision year in, year out, schools continue experiencing a sharp decline in examination results.  There are possible explanations to this, the main one being that removing the above officers/teachers from class, meant that there were fewer experienced teachers left to teach. Experienced teachers are able to motivate students and hold their attention, know how to manage their classroom effectively. 

They are able to think on their feet and upon reflection can change pedagogy in the middle of a lesson if they feel not every learner is on board.  They are also dynamic in their delivery and can easily harness learners’ gifts. Also, they manage their classes more effectively. Experienced teachers are able to motivate learners and ignite their love for education and can ensure that there are fewer cases of truancy in their classes. In as much as maybe TSM thought it was working towards improving results, the decision has proved to have been a colossal mistake. Teacher unions long proposed that deserving teachers advance in terms of salaries but remain in class: a teacher be at D1 but still teach. This unions argued, will ensure government retains star performers and hence improve exam results… Maybe it is time the decision is revisited seeing as year in year out the pit gets deeper and darker.

D. E. DeMatthews believes that each SH should

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do a research in an effort to improve curriculum leadership. He asks, “What is working well in this school? What are the school’s strengths? What is not working well? What are the school’s weaknesses? Is the curriculum aligned not only to standards, but also to the school’s vision and mission? What are important areas of emphasis for parents, students, teachers, and other community stakeholders?”

These questions will help the leader identify what needs to be done, where and by whom. Then the leader can get relevant teams to work on the strategy. The other thing that has worked for leaders is benchmarking. It is also good to learn from schools that are doing well.

Low teacher morale plagues many schools. Teacher morale is the job satisfaction and outlook and feelings of wellbeing a teacher has within the workplace setting, as well their overall viewpoint about the work environment. It also includes teachers’ emotions and attitudes.

Teacher morale has been eroded by factors ranging from poor remuneration; stagnation; lack of recognition; lack of accommodation; poor and rundown school infrastructure; lack of resources like textbooks, apparatus and machines for labs; large class size; lack of parental involvement, toxic work environment to unruly students’ behaviour a phenomenon that has rendered schools unsafe.

Lee Laloca posits, “Management is nothing more than motivating people.” It is thus incumbent upon school leaders to motivate teachers to soldier on in the midst of all the challenges. The TSM directive of 2007 stated that the curriculum managers have to, “provide effective leadership to inspire and improve performance.” When a teacher is excited about teaching, the learners will be much more excited about learning.

This is buttressed by Elaine MacDonald who believes, “If you improve teachers’ self-esteem, confidence, communication skills and lower their stress levels, you improve teachers’ overall effectiveness across the curriculum.”

The 2007 communiqué states that leader could employ is: “Provide pastoral leadership and expedite remedial/corrective decisions to problems.” There is a serious problem of timeous response to issues in school. If for instance there is a teacher disciplinary problem, management takes long to respond to the issue and this causes strife and affects productivity negatively. The same goes for when there is gross misconduct by learners. What management needs to do is set timelines for the solving all issues.

across as builders. They should lean towards correction as against punishment. It is believed that, “the challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humour without folly.”

There is also a suggestion that leaders “provide guidance and counselling services to both students & teachers.” We live in a day and age when the world is vexatious. People battle frustration, brokenness and all sorts of strife. It becomes even more vicarious in schools given that teaching and learning are emotional. It is thus vital that counselling be provided for both the learners and students. All in all, leaders must move away from a vertical, despotic, hierarchical relationship of lording, to a horizontal, consultative democratic one that takes all aboard so that initiatives are owned by all, for, “Knowing where we are going is what makes leaders attractive to followers.” Bennet, Latter & Levavic.

Icing on the cake is team work and unity. As Steven Anderson put it, “Alone I am smart. Together we are brilliant.”



Educationally Speaking

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