Newsletter 222 - Professionalizing Principalship Part 1

Professionalising principalship in South Africa Philip van der Westhuizen and Herman van Vuuren



He (Duncan Hindle) emphasised that evidence indicated over and over again that good school leadership leads to good school results

In 2007

Philip and Herman argued for the professionalization of principalship in South Africa. Lots have happened since. We now have a policy on principalship and a new qualification called Advance Diploma in Education…a further extension of the ACE.


  • At the present juncture, South Africa is one of the few countries that do not require a compulsory and specific qualification for principalship.
  • This particular need has been part of a discussion among educational leaders for the past thirty to forty years.
  • Despite all the laudable efforts to redesign the landscape of Educational Leadership and Management (ELM) in South Africa, a major historical shortcoming has still been neglected, namely, lack of training of school principals to a national professional standard.
  • After the first democratic elections in 1994, a report by the committee, which had reviewed the organization, governance, and funding of schools, referred for the first time in 1995 to the development of an Education Management Training Institute (EMTI).
  • The Department of Education assigned a task team to develop a capacity-building programme for Education Leadership and Management (ELM) to implement the directives from policy documents.
  • A series of drafts of a Policy Framework for ELM was published during 2003/4 as a framework and guide for the development of ELM to ensu re excellence throughout the education system.
  • A particular aspect which was emphasised in this Policy Framework was the professionalization of ELM.
  • The Department of Education responded by introducing a National Qualification f or School Leadership in the form of an Advanced Certificate in Education.
  • This was the first concrete step towards implementing a compulsory professional qualification for principalship without which no educator would be eligible for appointment to the post of first-time principal.
  • Although the development of the envisaged programme presents vital challenges for the long and short term, principalship in South Africa is on its way to becoming a fully fledged profession with a unique career path.

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