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Women school principals in South Africa: leading the way

Lumby, Jacky, Azaola, Marta, de Wet, Anna-Magriet, Skervin, Hyacinth, Walsh, Arlene and Williamson, Ailson (2010) Women school principals in South Africa: leading the way , Southampton, GB University of Southampton 56pp.

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)


The United Nations has established a number of Millennium Development Goals intended to shape world efforts towards a more sustainable and socially just future for all. Worldwide, governments and organisations including the Commonwealth Foundation have committed funds to cooperative work to achieve the Goals. The project reported here was conceived as a contribution to this work, and was sponsored by the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration (CCEAM) and the Matthew Goniwe School of Leadership and Governance (MGSLG). It was funded by CCEAM, supported by the Commonwealth Foundation, MGSLG and the University of Southampton.

CCEAM is a non-governmental Commonwealth organisation linking professionals who manage educational institutions, or teach or research in educational administration. Its mission is to improve educational administration in Commonwealth countries. MGSLG is an organisation founded by the Gauteng Department of Education in South Africa that aims to expand and enhance the vision and quality of leadership guiding education and learning in the schools of Gauteng and beyond. The University of Southampton is a leading research institution in the UK.

This report describes a project that addresses the third Millennium Goal: to promote gender equality and empower women, and in particular, one objective; to eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015 . It focuses on one aspect: women leading schools. Women are underrepresented in the leadership of schools in the majority of countries. Where education is segregated by gender, women may have more opportunities than would otherwise be the case, in leading schools for girls. In systems that are primarily co-educational, women remain under-represented in leadership roles, even in those parts of the system where most of the workforce is female. When appointed, there is much evidence that their experience as leaders differs from that of men, and that they may face greater difficulties and bring different qualities to the role than do men .

There is a paucity of data about the representation of women principals, particularly in developing economies, and about their experience of leading schools. Even amongst developed economies such as Canada, national figures are not readily available. The Organisation for Economic Development (OECD) has collected data on gender representation amongst educators, but has not generally collected data on the level of seniority of employment. In 2009 it reported the results of the first Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) providing an international comparative perspective on school principals in lower secondary schools in 23 participating countries, the majority of which are developed economies . This is a partial picture both in terms of the range of types of school and the countries included.

To address this situation, as the outcome of extensive discussions held during 2008, CCEAM adopted the ambitious goal to map women’s representation in affiliate members’ countries, to record their experiences and to use the data to make recommendations to national and provincial administrations, both to practitioners and to those who prepare principals for their role, on how women may be further supported and empowered to lead schools.

The report details the results of the first project in South Africa. The aim of the project was dual; to provide findings and recommendations of immediate value to South Africa and to act as a pilot to identify the issues and challenges in rolling out the project to other Commonwealth countries. The project was supported by an international advisory board. The report outlines the results of the research, makes recommendations that emerge from the findings and also establishes the challenges of conducting further work in different national settings. The intended audience is therefore both policy makers and practitioners in South Africa and members of the wider community in the Commonwealth and beyond who wish to empower women to lead in education.

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Published date: September 2010
Organisations: Leadership School Improve &Effectiveness, Centre for Research in Inclusion


Local EPrints ID: 189635
PURE UUID: bd3c8243-8744-493d-85eb-e86700c1f00c

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Date deposited: 03 Jun 2011 10:24
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 11:39

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Author: Jacky Lumby
Author: Marta Azaola
Author: Anna-Magriet de Wet
Author: Hyacinth Skervin
Author: Arlene Walsh
Author: Ailson Williamson

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