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Chapter 7

GOVERNANCE AND MANAGEMENT

7.4 MANAGING DIVERSITY: THE MULTICULTURAL SCHOOL

7.4.1Legislative and Policy Framework

ACTS

  • The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996) [SAC]
  • The Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996 [BoR]
  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
  • The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) [NEPA]
  • Employment of Educators Act 76 Of 1998 [EEA]
  • The Labour Relations Act, 1995 (Act No 66 Of 1995) [LRA]
  • Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997 [BCE]
  • The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, 2000 (Act No 3 of 2000) [PAJ]

 

POLICY

  • Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools [NP ADP]

 

GUIDELINES

  • Educating for our common future: Building Schools for an Integrated Society. A Guidebook for Principals and Teachers 2001 [GUIDEBOOK PT]
  • Personnel Administration Measures [PAM]

7.4.2Guidelines for the Development of School Policy on Managing the Multicultural School

Since 1994 the profile of most of the ex-Model C-schools changed from a mono-cultural institution to a multicultural institution. This brought about some challenges for the School Governing Body (SGB) and the School Management Team (SMT).  In some instances this change occurred gradually and governance and management was able to prepare themselves and plan properly in advance; in other cases the profile of the school changed so rapidly that the SGB and SMT were forced to make decisions which were not properly researched.  In some instances this led to tensions within the school community and tension between the school and educational authorities.

Figure 7.4.2.1 below illustrates the typical flow of events since 1994 in many ex Model C-schools. These events have shown that when a group which is new in a school in terms of language and/or culture grows beyond 35% of the total school population, the school changes rapidly in terms of medium of instruction and learner population. This is called the tipping point at which the balance between the original group and the new group changes irreversibly.

School managements/SGBs follow one of two approaches when this type of change starts taking place in a school. They either try to prevent the change from reaching the tipping point (Management Approach A in Figure 7.4.2.1 ) or they decide to allow the changes to reach this point and to manage the changes as well as possible (Management Approach B). In some cases they even attempt to facilitate and expedite the process of change.

Both approaches should be regarded as a process of transformation from a mono-cultural to a healthy multi-cultural set-up in the school while maintaining or even improving the academic standards and quality of education. Approach A should not be used or regarded as an attempt to prevent transformation. The difference between the two should only be that in the one case (Approach A) an attempt is made to guarantee the survival of the original culture and language of instruction while accommodating other cultures and languages without any unfair or illegitimate discrimination, while in the other case (Approach B) it is decided that the school should transform completely or that such transformation is unavoidable and that it needs to be managed as well as possible without negatively impacting on the standards and quality of education.

7.4.2.1 The path of former Model C Schools of which the learner population is changing

 

7.4.2.2 Comparison of management approaches A and B

The following guidelines are based on the above elucidation:

  1. Whatever the decision, it should be a justifiable one and there should be consensus on the way forward:
    This can be obtained by:

    • Thorough research on the circumstances as well as the recent changes of the school and school environment;
    • Proper facilitating of the process of decision making by the SGB and SMT;
    • Making sure that everybody concerned is on board.
  2. Some points to ponder before and after the decision
    • What will be the vision – and mission statement of the school, whether A or B?
    • For the sake of strategic planning, what will the race composition of the school look like, what will be the language of learning and teaching (LOLT), what will be the dominant culture, what will the learner composition look like and what will be the common values of the school?
    • How will the SGB and SMT create “Unity in Diversity?”
    • Will governance and management be able to allow different viewpoints but still strive for the same values?
    • How will management go about staff development and orientation?
    • Remember: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail!
  3. Essentials for managing a multicultural school:
    • Professional leadership;
    • Symbiotic relationships between government, management, staff and parent community;
    • Commitment towards maintaining high standards and quality education;
    • Tolerance and flexibility;
    • A shared vision. Staff must be part of the decision on the vision.
  4. The importance of mother tongue education for a learner’s academic development:
    • The first years of formal education of a learner are crucial for the conceptualisation and development of mental reasoning structures. This should happen in the mother tongue of the learner.
    • Ideally, the first six years of education should be in the mother tongue, both as language of learning and teaching and subject teaching.
    • Starting to early with the formal teaching of an additional language can create ceilings that develop at a later stage:
      • The learner “acquires” words and sentences but it is mere memorising;
      • In the higher grades the learner can’t use the words for reasoning in sentences; not in his/her mother tongue and also not in the LOLT in the lower grades;
    • The ideal situation: A policy of supplementary multilinguism – initial teaching in the mother tongue and gradual mastering of the language that is later going to become the LOLT.
    • The following can be considered in mother tongue teaching in A or B (table 1 above):
      • Multigrade or multilevel teaching, especially in the primary schools;
      • Grades R – 5 should be considered as very important for this purpose, especially grades R – 3;
      • Consider mother tongue speaking educators;
      • The school’s approach to the teaching of an additional language.
  5. Management Approach A: Managing the multicultural school not to reach the tipping point
    • Communication with and training of Partners
      • Education Authorities (District Office)
        • Good and open relationships with the District officials. Reach an agreement that this approach is to the benefit of the community and the school (e.g. because it will prevent parents from taking their children to another school and that this will make it possible to maintain high standards);
        • Negotiate a phasing in strategy and a 35:65 ratio as target. Agree to start with a single class in gr. 1 or 8. Be firm that the Department will supply the staff, text books and furniture;
        • A multicultural school can perform even better if the school focuses on the strong points of each culture and utilize their energy and potential.
      • Staff members
        • Staff need to be trained
          • Enter this new phase with an open mind;
          • Create a caring, “Ubuntu” environment;
          • Actions should be consistent towards all culture groups;
          • Seek for common ground in all aspects, don’t focus on differences;
          • Recognise the potential of the new culture and the advantages for the school;
          • Never refer to colour but rather English, Afrikaans etc. speaking pupils;
          • Noisiness may be tolerated during breaks but not in the classroom;
          • Newsletters should be translated.
        • Curriculum
          • Language of assemblies more or less equal to the ratio of the culture groups;
          • Parallel medium up to Gr. 12 is possible in some schools if the SGB sticks to the resolution of 1 educator per 35 learners. When discussing optional subjects for gr. 10, the minority might have to fall in with the majority.  This applies to all language groups.
          • Many documents must be translated.
          • Be aware of possible shortcomings with respect to study methods and reading abilities.
          • Consider a reading centre.
          • Be prepared to initiate extra classes to address shortcomings.
      • School Governing Body and School Management Team
        • Treat district officials professionally and with respect. Gaining the trust of officials will allow the SGB and SMT to run the school without much interruption. Be accommodating but also firm.
        • Facilitate the collective aspiration for excellence and a common set of values.
        • Ensure that everybody is onboard.
        • Use team sports to build good race relationships
      • Parent community
        • Allow parents input in the compilation of the Code of Conduct and during strategic planning sessions of the SGB.
        • Keep the school community informed by means of newspapers, newsletters and the electronic media.
      • Learners
        • Don’t force integration as far as activities or association are concerned. Allow each individual or culture group voluntary association and provide equal opportunities to express themselves during cultural events at the school.
        • In disciplinary actions or praise, don’t refer to specific culture groups but rather to the school as a whole.
        • Be aware of domestic circumstances and problems with transport.
  6. Management Approach B: Managing the multicultural school (dual- and single medium) after the tipping point
    Most of what is suggested above in Approach A, also applies in Approach B.  The situation in these schools however has developed beyond the “tipping point” or point of no return.  This approach is focused on managing the unavoidable change: From a parallel medium school with a majority Afrikaans culture and a minority second culture group into a dual medium situation.  In some cases the transformation can even develop into a single English medium school.  The minority has become the majority and in some cases the minority has completely phased out, transforming the school into an English single medium school.  In some original English medium schools the LOLT has not changed but the learner compilation in terms of culture has.
    In the light of the above, the following changes must be considered and managed:

    • The Vision and Mission of the school
      Every aspect of the school is influenced by the vision and mission of the school:

      • Policies like the following need to be revised:
        • Admission policy (e.g. learner compilation, staff compilation, etc.),
        • Attendance policy,
        • Religious policy (e.g. assemblies, prayers at staff meetings, prayers in the classes),
        • Language policy (e.g. LOLT),
        • Code of conduct for learners, staff and SGB (e.g. a common value system, dress code, school uniform, discipline, socialising, rights of all role-players, late coming of staff and learners),
        • Sport – and cultural policies (e.g. interaction with other schools),
        • Subject policies.
    • The school symbols
      • Is the current name of the school still desirable?
      • Should the logo of the school change? In some dual medium schools the logo is still only in Afrikaans.
      • The school badge: Can all religious-/ culture groups relate to the school badge?
      • School anthem: Should/Can the school anthem be translated?
    • Staff management
      • The staff predominantly represents one population/language group and learners predominantly from another population/language group
      • Staff training:
        • Refrain from using language or utterances that may divide instead of unite.
        • Maintaining discipline.
        • Demonstrate appreciation on an equal basis.
        • Staff, SMT and SGB should agree on the value system for the school.
      • Staff meetings:
        • Which language to use in the case of the dual medium school?
        • Minutes available in both languages?
      • Staff attendance:
        • Attendance poor because of family and other personal matters.
        • Staff members make use of poor public transport.
        • Staff members leave school early because of union matters, funerals.
    • Learners
      • Awareness of where the learners come from.
      • Individualisation? Remedial work? Extra classes? Are these in place?
      • Poor attendance because of initiation schools and teenage pregnancies
      • Learners come from different backgrounds, many with learning – and social problems.
      • Some learners are very noisy in the classrooms. How to address this in the Code of Conduct for learners?
      • Make sure that certain groups of learners are not sidelined and estranged. Organize functions on an equal basis according to their culture or organize activities that will be supported by all learners or a combination thereof.
    • Extramurals
      • Maintaining the old or shifting out the old?
      • Scaling down on interschool competitions?
      • Adding new codes?
      • Equal funding of sport codes?