The principal as curriculum leader during a time of educational change

October, Sybill Gertrude (2009-03)

Thesis (MEd (Curriculum Studies))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


After the election of the new democratic government in April 1994, bold steps were taken to transform the South African education dispensation, seeking for an appropriate approach to address the educational imbalances of the past. The immense disparity in the provision of education for the vast majority of South Africans was the main reason for educational change. Curriculum reform/educational change emerged as the key focus in restructuring the educational system. A qualitative research design, guided by an interpretive research paradigm, was employed to answer the research question which would be integrated with the aim of the study in a logical way. The aim of the study was to explore how principals experienced their new roles and responsibilities as curriculum leaders and managers in a changing educational system. Data was generated by means of semistructured questions to provide rich descriptions and explanations of how principals experienced educational change in their particular contexts. The literature review revealed that during educational change principals are faced with the challenge to create a climate for change through their particular style of leadership and management, acting as key agents for initiating the desired change, or leading the way as agents of change. Principals, as curriculum leaders, have an important role to play in setting the tone to provide direction, executing their roles as both curriculum leaders and managers and building democratic schools. To keep up and cope effectively with the constant and rapid educational change, principals are also urged to demonstrate positive, supporting leadership and professionalism, and to acquire new learning and thinking skills to manage change. Moreover, by developing a better understanding of change, the principal will be able to give effective direction and empower their staff, guiding and supporting them in the process of accepting change. While leadership skills are essential for providing effective leadership, the leader must also possess a sense of purpose and direction. The challenge is to develop leaders’ sensitivity and knowledge so that they will know when to be directive and when to act within a collaborative framework, or to delegate responsibility to others. The research findings indicated that principals do fulfil their new roles and responsibilities as educational leaders during educational change, but the challenge is to identify adequate approaches and to enhance their professional and personal growth and development. The study concludes by pointing out that although principals perform their roles and meet their responsibilities as curriculum leaders, they still require additional support to execute certain aspects of their duties.

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