From the editor

| September 9, 2019 | 0 Comments

‘This year,’ says ISASA’s executive director, Lebogang Montjane, on page 10 of this magazine, ‘the organisation’s focus has shifted to the need to evaluate what has been accomplished [over a five-year period] and to reflect on how to proceed so as to further the goals and aspirations of membership’. Montjane goes on to remind readers of ISASA’s principal mission, which is to ‘welcome those independent schools that are of quality and are aligned with ISASA’s values’. Furthermore, says Montjane, ISASA’s vision is to ‘attract new schools and organisations, by being more inclusive and by encouraging diversity’. Undoubtedly, ISASA will also consider other key ‘trending’ education ideas in its future planning – taking note of, for example, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEPUNESCO), which organised an International Policy Forum (IPF) in Manila in the Philippines in 2018. Education policy-makers from 15 countries gathered together to discuss open school data. They agreed that quality schools focus on, inter alia, accountability and transparency. Delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand concurred that with open school data, the public at large can monitor educational progress and identify any bottlenecks and malpractices in a school, or even a larger school system. These countries are all participants in an IIEP-UNESCO project that focuses on sharing school-level data online through a form of report cards. Says a UNESCO spokesperson, ‘[The cards] can cover many aspects of the school environment, from student enrolment and achievement, funding, teacher qualifications and pupil-teacher ratios, school facility conditions, to materials such as textbooks. The information can enable the school community – and specifically parents – to hold a school to account.’ The fact that parents are designated recipients in such initiatives is significant, says Keryn House, on page 44 of this edition of Independent Education. In many parts of the world, she says: Today’s parent is informed, online and expects to be treated like a customer. With the rapid growth of instant, user-friendly, personalised online shopping, entertainment and information channels, the customer of an independent school is very different to 10 years ago. Since today’s prospective parents have definite expectations, and the marketing and admissions functions are responsible for identifying and satisfying customer needs and trends, school marketers should be involved in strategic decisions. Whilst ISASA schools are subject to Independent Quality Assurance Agency (IQAA) appraisals, in many instances it is prospective and current parents of today who will tip the scales when it comes to holding schools accountable and transparent. And in this edition of the magazine, you will read about schools that rise to the occasion. On page 12, for example, Venilla Kohler, deputy headmistress at St James Preparatory School in Johannesburg, tells the story of how the school chose to link to its community by offering parenting courses. School management, teachers and parents are now united by a central goal, embodied in the question: ‘What is the ideal or vision that each of us would wish for our child at the age of 16?’ On page 16, Muthandwa Sincuba, principal of Bulungula College on the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape, reports with total openness: Instead of focusing on academic ability, we have set our admission criterion as the geographical boundary of the Xhora Mouth Administrative Area. We have taken on the task of building a model for how to get all learners through high school – regardless of their starting point – in a region with the most under-resourced schools in the country. It is an innovative and exciting challenge, but one that we believe will yield an enormous impact on our community. Complete transparency is also evident in the wonderful story penned by Andrew Taylor about Maru-a-Pula School (MaP), in Gaborone, Botswana and entitled ‘What we are; what we are not’. Speaking of the flourishing school culture, Taylor observes: Our students are not required to stand every time an adult enters a room, but they will greet in a friendly fashion and respectfully accommodate an elder’s needs. We encourage our students of all ages to ask ‘Why?’ – and, more essentially, ‘Why not?’ We value assertiveness, especially in the service of curiosity, and humility where appropriate. You will find a treasure trove of ideas in this edition of Independent Education. I cannot mention them all, but I close with some frank and honest ponderings from Helen Ashley, deputy head of scholar affairs at Penryn College in Mpumalanga, which should set us all thinking: While we have a number of stars among our alumni who are making a difference both here and abroad, questions we cannot fully quantify are: do the majority of our scholars go out into the wide world and become change agents, or do they get swallowed up by the power of groupthink outside our grounds, however toxic? Will the seeds we have sown germinate when the time is necessary?

Category: Spring 2019

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