Conceptualising whole school development: examining the approaches of non-government organisations to school development in South Africa
This study attempts to provide conceptual clarification around the concept of whole school development in South Africa. It does so through examining the approaches to school development of five non-government organisations in South Africa as well as the literature and research in the areas of school effectiveness, school improvement and educational change.
The concept of whole school development emerged in South Africa in the 1990s. It was seen as the way to develop quality schooling where individual teacher inservice programmes traditionally offered by NGOs had failed. The literature review presents two different ways of approaching school change: namely school effectiveness and school improvement. It locates the South African concept of whole school development within the international paradigm of school improvement because it has a clear commitment to understanding the process of school change.
International research suggests that there is a need for school change processes to deal with school culture and not only with changing school structures and procedure. A focus on changing culture seems to suggest an understanding of change which is normative-re-educative.
School development planning is the most common strategy for school development and this study suggests that it needs to be implemented in an holistic way. These themes are conceptualised as continua. After presenting the data from the interviews, the study then maps the work of the five organisations onto these continua.
Common themes which emerge are that all the organisations make use of school development planning to some extent: all organisations rely on well-skilled facilitators and all acknowledge the imperative to build the capacity of teachers within the school to lead their own development process through a school development committee.
The study ends by suggesting three principles of procedure which can be used in school development. These are that school development needs to focus both on structure and culture; that an organising framework is needed to help schools prioritise the issues and that a systemic way of approaching problems is useful. Some of the challenges facing whole school development, particularly around issues of replicability. sustainability and the role of the community are explored.