Prepare for a School Leadership Role With a Master of Education

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Teacher with a Masters in Education teaching students

School leadership is a much-needed resource in the South African education system. While schools employ teachers to educate learners, efficient leadership and management of schools and related issues are highly prized skills within this specialised ecosystem. If you’re a teacher and you’re passionate about making a positive impact or becoming a change agent in this particular field, we recommend looking at obtaining a postgraduate qualification, like a Master of Education, which specialises in school leadership and management skills. MANCOSAs education academics explore this growing role further.

Understanding the Evolving Role of the Teacher

Teachers are regarded as the essential drivers of a good quality education system, yet South Africa struggles to successfully recruit, retain, and train enough suitably qualified teachers. The Centre for Development and Enterprise predicted that South Africa will need to have 456,000 teachers by 2025 to offer quality education. According to the Department of Basic Education, South Africa’s public education system has 410,000 teachers. These teachers are employed in approximately 25,000 schools across the country and are responsible for teaching 12.9 million pupils. In addition, South Africa is particularly lagging in producing teachers for appropriate qualifications and/or skills such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

A recent report by the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) is beaming the spotlight on the state of education in the rainbow nation. The IRR notes that despite recent successes recorded in the 2019 matric pass rate, the failures and deficiencies in the schooling system if left unaddressed could stunt the life chances of many young people.

Some basic education facts in South Africa:

  • In South Africa, there are 12.7 Million learners in 30,000 schools. 26,000 of these are public schools, while 15,000 of these state schools are primary schools. There are only 450 special schools for learners with special needs.
  • The average ratio of learners to teachers is 29:1 in public schools and 18:1 in private schools. 
  • The average results for Annual National Assessments (public schools, the latest data from 2013) in Grade 4 were: Home Language 49%, Mathematics 37%. In Grade 6 more than 11% did not reach sufficient achievement in their Home Language, levels meaning achieving less than 40% in their first language and over 36% failed in Mathematics. In Grade 9 tests, 37% of the learners achieved better than 50%, in Mathematics only 3.4% of all learners achieved marks higher than 50%
  • The retention rate for the first nine years of schooling, which are compulsory, is at around 95%, however, the high dropout rate after the nine years of compulsory schooling is worrying. From high school students, who started schooling in 2003 and could have written their final Grade 12 exams in 2015, only about 45% finished high school. The retention rate is stated to be as low as 55% of the total intake in 2003. 
  • In 2018, the Matric pass, which is the highest school leaver exam in the South African school system at Grade 12, was achieved by 78.2% according to the South African minister of education. Her claim is disputed as others speak about much lower percentages of 40%. A matric pass in South Africa is achieved when these minimum requirements are met: Six of seven subjects have been passed, 40% mark in 3 subjects including one language, and 30% mark in 4 other subjects. Only half of all students achieve marks higher than 50%
  • Only 6% of all adults aged between 25 and 34 years have a tertiary education in South Africa. The tertiary attainment is the lowest across all OECD and partner countries! The OECD average stands at 38%. The graduation rate of students at public universities is very low. Among undergraduate students, the graduation rate stands at a low 15%, at 20% for Master students and 12% for doctoral students in 2013. 
  • The gender gap is small in South Africa. In fact, in the 2019 OECD report, more women achieve an upper secondary or post-secondary education than men.
  • Half of all South African pupils who attended school for five years can’t do basic calculations. This is according to a 2015 TIMMS report on mathematics achievements among Grade 5 learners in South Africa.
  • At the same time, it’s calculated that 10% of the country’s teachers are absent from school each day, while research found that 79% of South African Grade 6 mathematics teachers were classified as having content knowledge levels below the level at which they were teaching.

What can I do with a Master of Education?

Further study in education will help you become a future leader in schools. Progression within the school necessitates that you are equipped both academically and practically to help you make an impact as a leader, and studying a Master’s degree can help you take your own professional development to the next level. Educators can experience a variety of benefits from obtaining a Master’s qualification in education, including higher salaries that come with promotion from Educator to Head of Department to Deputy Principal and finally to take on the important role as Principal of your own school. The Master of Education degree will greatly assist you to achieve your dreams.

The realities of school education in South Africa today necessitates that educators progress within the school environment to become suitable leaders. These leaders will embody all aspects of leadership to ensure quality education in all provinces and locations. The Master of Education degree is a key stepping stone to help develop the competencies to take on such a task.

Top Qualities of Successful School Leaders

Another reason for completing a Master of Education degree is to prepare yourself for the role of educational leadership. While just completion of a Masters Degree in Education does not automatically qualify you for immediate promotion, if you do have sufficient teaching experience prior to obtaining the M Ed, you place yourself into a smaller category of educators who become ‘preferred’ candidates for vacant promotion posts. In order for you to add value to the institution you are employed at, the following competencies need to be evident in your educational leadership practice – your motto is “do as I do!”:

  1. You empower other teachers – by completing the Master of Education coursework and research dissertation, you are exposed to areas of education that the ‘average’ teacher does not know about thus making you the ideal candidate to empower others in your school or faculty.
  2. The Master of Education empowers you to improve your personal skills base and thereby enabling you to help other staff members to improve their skills as well.
  3. Educational leaders build community through dedication to improving themselves and also ensuring they extend their vision to help others within their school community. Naturally, good leaders also go-the-extra-mile to ensure that the community supporting the school is taken care of, physically and educationally.
  4. Educational leaders are able to employ scarce resources as efficiently as possible. Having the knowledge and skills of a good leader enables school resources to be optimised to ensure the teaching and learning event is successful.
  5. The Master’s Degree in Education will allow you to develop greater confidence in developing your vision of education for the future. Great leaders are able to influence the vision of the institution for the greater good of educating the nation.

What are the Benefits of having a Masters Degree in Education?

  • Prepares learners to contribute to knowledge in the field of educational leadership and management, including knowledge of professional practice at an advanced level.
  • It develops in students’ capacity and capabilities in dealing with complex issues in educational leadership and management.
  • Empowers students with professional knowledge and research knowledge and skills to undertake investigative processes to inform, solve problems and transform Educational Leadership and Management through systematic and creative processes.
  • The qualification develops learners research skills, with the focus of developing systematic processes of collecting, organising and analysing data, within ethical principles.

The duration of the Master of Education programme is 18 months (3 semesters) and includes the following modules – Theoretical and Conceptual Frameworks in Educational Leadership and Management, Management of Technology in Education, Research Methods and Educational Leadership and Management: Past Practices, Current Trends and Emerging Debates.

Become an Innovative Leader in Education

To become an innovative leader takes effort and personal sacrifice of time and energy and many students who have gone before you will all tell you “it was worth the extra effort”. Further study in the art of teaching Postgraduate Certificate in Education or how to become an educational manager Postgraduate Diploma in Educational Management will prepare you to engage in the Master of Education degree. The natural progression is to conclude your educational leadership journey with a Doctoral degree. It is a truly wonderful achievement and the culmination of the progression of study from Bachelor of Education all the way up to Doctor of Education.

Drive your Leadership Career and Upskill with MANCOSA

At the MANCOSA School of Education, a proud member of the Honoris United Universities, you will be challenged and prepared to take on the role of an educational leader. You can become more innovative and creative in your approach to matters of education, to make your ‘voice’ heard in the educational space and to empower and lead others to greater achievements to achieve their full potential. The starting point is to develop your own skills and competencies before you lead others in the education space of South African schools. Visit our Master of Education in Educational Leadership and Management programme page to find out more about this postgraduate degree in education.