Newsletter 224 - Professionalizing Principalship Part 3


Conclusion 1

  • A common denominator, evident from the above-named documents in the international arena, is that the formal training and professional development (pre-service and in-service training and development) of school principals can only be made real, effective practice if it forms part of a national qualification policy.
  • If the focus is shifted to South Africa, it becomes obvious that several pleas have been made for the formal training of school principals since the 1970s.The following serves as a brief overview:


  • From both a Nexus and a Sabinet computer search, it is evident that there were more than 10 master’s and doctoral degrees since 1970 in which courses were developed for the academic training and in-service training of school principals.
  • In-service training courses for school principals (specifically for newly appointed school principals), by Departments of Education, date back as far as 1967 (Boshoff, 1980).

Training institutions

  • By 1980, approximately six tertiary institutions were presenting formal study programmes in Educational Management and by 2005 practically all tertiary training institutions had followed suit.

Articles and books

  • In books and articles calls have also been made for the compulsory training of school principals, for instance:
  • “Many people during the past 15 years have proposed that the successful completion of an educational management course should be a recommendation for appointment in the position of school principals” (Van der Westhuizen, 1988:378).
  • “No uniform and national management development policy exists in the Education Department in the RSA as yet”. (Van der Westhuizen, 1991:114)
  • “Whereas athletes normally have time and opportunity to prepare themselves for success in national and international games, school principals in South Africa have to face the realities of transforming and implementing the new educational policies, enshrined in the White Paper on Education and Training …, with little preparation and no specific guidelines for managing this transformation” (Van der Westhuizen & Legotlo, 1996:69).
  • “Thus, it becomes clear that South Africa lags far behind in the formal management training/certification of school principals in comparison with countries like the USA and UK, and many others” (Van der Westhuizen & Mosoge, 1998:42).

The aforementioned overview must be seen in relation to the growing awareness in South Africa that the task of the school principal has changed irrevocably. The question is no longer whether the principal has a management or leadership task, but rather how the principal should be trained or prepared for the task of principalship (Van der Westhuizen, 1988:378; Gallie et al.,1997:460-465; Hallinger, 2006:1). The preceding references point to a growing concern that the appointment of school principals, on the grounds of academic and professional qualifications with a specific classroom teaching and learning focus, is not sufficient. Teaching excellence is not necessarily a valid indicator of the management and leadership task of a principal. This explains the steadily increasing demand since the 1970s for a formal, academic and professional qualification, specifically for principalship.

However, the Department of Education (2005) states unequivocally that no national standard or structure exists for the training and accreditation of school principals. The issues mentioned relate, in particular, to the main characteristics of a profession, i.e. specialised training, standards, and accreditation (Palomares & Castillo, 2004:151-152; Oosthuizen, 2005:107-109).

Steyn (2000) emphasises the changing task of the school principal and underlines that they need to be trained for their “new” role. Kunene and Prew (2005:4) recently highlighted some of the advantages such as a uniform professional and academic qualification and a career path which can form part of a national training programme for school principals.

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