Education turnaround strategy turns heat on principals

Dikarabo Ramadubu BG reporter
Monday, 22 October 2018
Tshwarelo Hosia, School Turn Around Coordinator Tshwarelo Hosia, School Turn Around Coordinator

In a bid to restore confidence and bring about good results the Ministry of Basic Education is holding workshops around the country in regions to ensure uniformity in applying teaching skills.

Speaking to Botswana Guardian, Coordinator of School Turn Around, Tshwarelo Hosia revealed that they have been running workshops for the regions and  so far they have covered five regions being Gantsi, Kgalagadi, Kgatleng, North West and Chobe.
The strategy wants schools to worry less about external factors because there has been a culture of shifting the blame, diverting attention from the school to outside forces.

“We are saying even in the worst case scenario, if families were to become dysfunctional, schools must become functional. We are saying it is the duty of a principal to establish a unique and distinct culture which is different from the village culture. A student must realise that they are on holy ground which is different from where he comes from,” said Hosia.

According to him the school head should establish a culture of hard work, a culture of reading by the manner in which he manages his own school. That is why no turn around strategy in the world has ever taken place without a strong principal. In fact, research says that there is a direct and intimate link between leadership and results.  “That is why as we move about, the response is overwhelming; our principals- you can ask them all over the region that we have covered- are saying that this workshop is one of a kind.

Unique because for the first time it is taking us to what we know we should be doing and we have not been doing. “For in instance, we are taking the principals back to tried and tested methods which somewhat fell by the wayside. We are saying what is wrong with common planning, with common scheming, collaborative teaching, with peer teaching”?

Teachers in the same department are working in silos and not necessarily as a team to support one another. The strategy says it is the duty of the principal to ensure that first of all there is harmony in the department; the school should become a professional learning community where there is exchange of notes and ideas on the best instructional practices. “We are saying every day is an opportunity for the school to be better than yesterday.

Everything rests with the principal, knowing your teachers well means you know their strengths and weaknesses.  It is the duty of the principal to ensure that gaps are identified and closed”.Further teachers must be assisted on issues of lesson preparation, is this lesson planned, examining the quality of the lesson plan and how well the lesson plan will help the learners to learn better. 

“What is happening now is that people are lesson planning for the purpose of compliance because the school says that they should plan and they prepare lesson plans which are not necessarily scrutinised to check issues of quality. People are assessed occasionally for purposes of filling the performance forms but not necessarily to improve the instructions every day. This is where the problem is because performance improvement is seen as an external imposition,” he said.

The strategy came following the appointment of Dr. Collie Monkge as Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Basic Education. It is a component of the Education Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP) coupled with a research that was done by the Ministry of Education.

The Ministry had engaged Professor Kipper as consultant to look into why academic achievement levels are very low in the ministry of basic education. Some of Professor Kipper’s observations were that the ministry must strengthen governance and accountability in schools since Principals had taken their feet off the pedal regarding supervision of the classroom. The strategy is about ensuring that the principal gets involved in classroom issues.

“The teachers are coming from the same colleges and University of Botswana; they are the same as they have the same qualifications. Therefore what will differ is management, how the principal is managing the resources. Issues of deployment are the responsibility of the principal to ensure that he knows his teachers very well, who can teach a standard seven class, a low class, who can teach pure sciences and for what reason”.

Hosea said they have been advising the teachers that the allocation of classes for results is the prerogative of the school head but that teachers say they want the classes to be allocated on a rotational basis.  The Turn Around on the other hand demands that the principal use data as a basis for allocating classes. It is about getting the principal back into the classroom.

The principal must assume his rightful place as an instructional leader in the school set up. The principal cannot confine himself in office when the school is not really doing well. “We are saying the quality of a school cannot exceed the quality of the principal or teachers”.

The principals are being asked if they know what they are looking for when they go to observe a lesson. This is so, because sometimes people observe the teacher and care little about the learner. “We remind the principals to look at the learners what are they doing and saying –a teacher can dramatise the lesson, teach to impress the one who is observing”.

Hosea says that during the observation one must ensure that all different cognitive skills are covered. This is because at times teachers complain that learners are unable to comply. The teacher determines the attitude of the learners. “There is the issue of professional development, some people think it means the ministry must send you for further studies abroad, others say the in service department has died, well there is an element of truthiness in it, but where does professional development begin?

It begins at school level, when receiving new teachers, how does the principal immerse the new arrivals into the professional culture? Teachers can go as high as the principal wants them to go”.Hosea said at the moment the culture of teaching is not about resources, it has collapsed because students are not given enough practice and feedback on time.  “Much as we appreciate there are challenges in resources, but the biggest resource at the disposal of the principal is the teacher”.

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