2000 ZIM: An Evaluation of the Managerial Skills Training Programme for Primary School Heads in Zimbabwe
Author: Mandebvu, O. S.; Chitekuteku, S. R.
Recent developments in education in Zimbabwe included the decentralization of some management functions to school heads. This included functions such as financial management, staff development, performance management, and marketing the school. Additionally, Statutory Instruments No. 87 of 1992 and No. 379 of 1998 establishing School Development Committees and School Development Associations respectively, were promulgated outlining the involvement of communities in the management of schools and provision of resources to improve the education service. This involvement has led to parents now demanding more accountability from the school heads.
In response to the changes and developments in education, the Ministry of Education, in conjunction with Higher Education institutions and other organisations, embarked on initiatives to train school heads. From 1995, the then Ministry of Education and UNICEF carried out a Managerial Skills Training Programme (MSTP) for Primary School Heads. This was aimed at improving school management and, ultimately, contribute towards the improvement of quality and relevance of education. The MSTP was designed to impart skills and knowledge in specific school management areas identified through a Baseline Survey carried out by officials from the Ministry of Education and UNICEF.
To assess the impact of the Managerial Skills Training Programme (MSTP) for primary School Heads (jointly run by MOESC and UNICEF) between 1996-2000, to identify gaps in the programme and to solicit perceptions on future options regarding the development of School Heads, as well as examining ways of ensuring and supporting utilization of skills acquired.
The specific objectives were:
- To assess whether the trained head teachers consider themselves to be better managers (e. g. in terms of increasing demand for education, increasing community participation, bringing in participatory approaches to school development, attracting more resources and utilising them more effectively, etc.), and to solicit their views on what support or changes might be needed to ensure that the acquired skills are effectively utilised;
- To determine whether the teachers, the supervisors of head teachers and the community leadership consider that their schools are better managed after the school heads have attended the courses;
- To assess the managerial skills training programme itself in terms of gaps, relevance, and adequacy in the light of the recommendations of the baseline study and the recent decentralisation and restructuring reforms, and the increasing demands on the school head;
- To assess the effectiveness of the programme implementation process in terms of, among other variables, the approaches adopted, teaching/learning methods, the materials, caliber of facilitators and general logistics; and to suggest alternative arrangements that could be considered for adoption in the future;
- To find out about other head teacher skills-strengthening programmes currently in place or planned, and to assess the level and the potential of developing linkages and collaborative efforts.
The study was conducted through a survey of school heads and their teachers in three provinces. Interviews were held with regional programme managers and trainers, representatives of school development committees, MOESC officials at the Head Office and in provinces, and UNICEF staff. There were focus group discussions with teachers. The day-to-day performance of the managers' work was assessed, covering all the management tasks that had been identified in the baseline study. Data was collected from a sample of approximately 15% of the schools in the district, involving 72 school heads and 398 teachers.
Findings and Conclusions:
MOESC viewed the MSTP as one of its most successful education improvement programmes and attributed most of the success to the close collaboration between the ministry and its development partner, UNICEF. UNICEF's approach to this project was viewed as client-based and not donor-driven, and so based on the client's real needs. The carrying out of a baseline study to establish the specific training needs of the primary school heads was viewed most favourably by the ministry.
The absence of a professional programme monitoring system capable of conducting a formative evaluation of the programme, as well as lack of resources and autonomy by School Heads to implement their newly acquired knowledge and skills in education management.
The programme was very unevenly executed. At the time of the evaluation, the programme had been completed in only one of the three provinces and not the same number of modules were covered in the provinces. At the time of the evaluation (May-July, 2000), only about ninety percent of the heads had undergone some training yet the original programme schedule was that all heads would have been trained by December 1999. Some districts in the provinces had completed as little as one module.
There was also concern over the failure by UNICEF to initially recognize the size of the regions in its determination of funding levels. This was said to have affected the extent to which large provinces could reach all primary school heads as well as the extent to which training could be provided in all modules in the managerial skills training programme.
Lack of recognition for the extra work done by the programme managers, trainers and participants was also cause for concern. Recognition in the form of certificates would have enhanced enthusiasm and commitment.
Programme managers and trainers felt that the modules were relevant. The budgeting and budget control module was singled out as the one that, although very useful and dealt with issues relevant to proper financial accounting, was rather difficult to understand and apply to both the rural and urban school situations. The module on Performance Appraisal was considered rather shallow and sending conflicting messages to those sent by Public Service training of school heads on Performance Management.
There is need to examine ways of ensuring the sustainability of the programme beyond UNICEF funding. These could include examining the possibility of working with the Ministry of Higher Education and Technology to revise the regular teacher-training curriculum so that it incorporates education management, and revision of the regular teacher-training curriculum to incorporate aspects of education management.
The MSTP should be completed in all regions, as well as offering the same training to secondary school heads and their deputies.
Consideration should be given to using the structures and systems of the Better Schools Programme for reviewing and improving the adoption of managerial skills training by the school heads, especially for cascading managerial skills training to deputy school heads and senior teachers.
The adoption of the needs-based approach in all future development assistance programmes undertaken in the MOESC is recommended, since such achieve better commitment by the beneficiaries, and have better chances of sustainability beyond the financial support of a development partner.
There is need to revise the modules to increase the depth of the subject matter, and use more education-related illustrations, in particular in the budget and budget control module.
The MSTP did not provide training in communication. It is important that efforts be made to provide training in this area.
The creation of a development co-ordination desk in the MOESC, which shall be responsible for the co-ordination of the various development programmes and facilitate synergy, is recommended.
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