A study of systemic processes influencing educational change in a sample of isiZulu medium schools.
The Department of Education and Culture (DoEC) has since 1994, after the democratic elections in South Africa, introduced radical changes to the system of education. This systemic change has required a fundamental shift in attitudes of educators and other school constituents in African schools in particular, which were in the past education dispensation marginalized and poorly resourced due to the Bantu education system. One of the main problems in IsiZulu medium schools has always been the seeming reluctance to change from apartheid era practices. The officials of the DoEC have often given what have appeared to be simplistic and platitudinous reasons for the apparent resistance to change and perennial poor academic performance in most IsiZulu medium schools. These reasons were used on a paucity of in-depth study into the underlying causes of the apparent reluctance to change. There was therefore a need to investigate some of the systemic processes which influence change in IsiZulu medium schools. This study therefore sought to identify and describe the processes which are associated with difficulties and inertia in order to try to improve the quality of education in a sample of IsiZulu medium schools. Systems theories, theories of change forces and strategies of educational change formed the conceptual framework of this study. A multi-layered systemic approach provided the basis for understanding the interactive processes within the school, and the interaction between the school and its environment (including the DoEC). The data was collected from a sample of three IsiZulu medium case study schools, utilising focus group methodology. In each school, focus groups of Educators, School Management Team (SMTs), School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and Representative Council of Learners (RCLs) were conducted to collect data through interviews and discussions. The data collection was at the same time intended to be an intervention process. This was done through utilising action research cycles that involved a self-reflective spiral of planning, observing, reflecting and replanning. The action research cycle process helped the researcher to observe how school constituents engaged with change processes. A three-stage process of data analysis was used. The outcome was the generation of categories which eventually emerged into patterns. These patterns were used to theorise about some of the underlying causes of apparent inertia to change in these schools. The study has found that many of the apartheid legacies such as quality of educational training, passivity and dependency syndrome caused by the DoEC's instructional top down approach in education management, still exist. Educators are frustrated by the disempowering management approach of the Department. Consequently they operate in a non-productive vicious circle, with little energy for problem solving and lack of authority and influence over parents and learners. The study has also found that there is a mismatch between job requirements and personal qualities of educators. Educators, parents and learners seemed to lack knowledge, strategies and skills to apply in specific problem areas of their schools. Clashes of ideological and cultural beliefs, lack of support from parents and communication between the school and parents, make it very hard for educators to cope with the new order of educational change.