The integrated quality management system : exploring the tension between accountability and professional development.
This study critically examines the Integrated Quality Management System (IQMS), a quality and performance management system that was introduced into South African schools in 2005. The policy initiatives in South African education are aimed at producing an educated and appropriately skilled workforce. Central to the idea of an ‘educated workforce’ that can compete in the global markets lies the quality of teaching and learning in a nation’s schools. This has implications for teacher performance. Teachers and schools are asked to be accountable to the community they serve, the taxpayer and to the government for the considerable sum invested in education. Therefore, there is a concern with maintaining ‘standards’ in education as well as enhancing the quality of teaching and learning. At the same time cognizance has to be taken of the fact that in South Africa, teacher professional development is a vital concern. The main notion to be examined in this study is the notion of professional development as a counterbalance to the idea of accountability as a key driver of the IQMS. Thus this study revolves around and explores the tension between the notion of accountability and evidence-based evaluation on the one hand; and the need to enhance professional development and maintain professional autonomy on the other hand. What becomes more important; the evaluation of performance to enhance teacher development and professionalism or the measurement of performance with a view to rewarding ‘good’ performance? New Public Management (NPM) was chosen as the theoretical framework for this thesis as it is obviously both an ideology and a model for many public sector organizations like schools. NPM is an ideology based on market-related principles like setting performance targets and using performance measurement and incentive structures. The IQMS is a practical manifestation of the principles and assumptions underpinning iv NPM. Critical Management Studies (CMS) which is defined as a broad approach to management studies embracing a number of epistemologies which are compatible with a social justice and people-development perspective was used to evaluate the principles and purposes of the IQMS and its NPM underpinnings. A combination of both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms was employed in order to gather data in this study. Survey questionnaires were administered to principals and educators in KwaZulu-Natal in order to elicit their views on the IQMS. Semistructured and unstructured interviews were also conducted with departmental officials and teacher union officials respectively. The data gathered was analyzed using the metatheoritical framework of ‘critical theory’ mainly because the main objective of the study was to uncover the assumptions underpinning the IQMS. The conclusions arrived at indicate that the mechanical aspects of the IQMS relating to ‘performitivity’ undermine the potential of the IQMS as a genuine professional development tool. If the IQMS is used for the latter purpose it would inevitability lead to an enhancement of the quality of teaching and learning. Neo-liberal ‘managerialist’ and post-welfarist reforms adopted by the state are not suitable presently for a developing country like South Africa. South Africa needs a teacher evaluation policy that is genuinely developmental, taking into account both the professional development needs of its educators and the socio-economic context in which schools operate.