At the beginning of last year, the ISASA Council adopted a new strategic plan spanning 2020 to 2024.
This new strategic plan follows the successful completion of the previous one. During the combined conference in 2018, attended by governors, school heads and bursars, ISASA reported extensively on the goals achieved or exceeded in the 2014 – 2018 Strategic Plan.
In the 2014 – 2018 Strategic Plan, ISASA set itself five strategic imperatives, which were to:
maintain and grow the membership base of ISASA
secure an enabling environment for independent schools to survive and thrive
provide strategic and professional support to ISASA members
ensure the sustainability of ISASA, and
promote transformation and diversity.
Grow membership base of ISASA
From 2014 to 2018, ISASA membership grew from 769 to 852 schools. This growth trajectory continues.
Enabling environment of independent schools to thrive
Central to an enabling environment in which independent schools can thrive, is for ISASA to have a constructive and principled engagement with regulatory authorities.
ISASA has established itself as a leader and reliable partner of government to ensure that the independent schooling sector meets the constitutional imperative of offering an education which is not of a lesser quality than that of a comparable public school. With government’s duty to provide a basic education, the independent sector is there to alleviate this state obligation.
The relationship between ISASA and the Department of Basic Education is therefore symbiotic. It is from this understanding that ISASA believes that it and its member schools must serve a broader public purpose. Supporting quality independent schools is ISASA’s national and regional contribution.
Strategic and professional support to ISASA members
Through its Policy Department, ISASA has distinguished itself as a sectorial expert in independent schooling. Members are able to turn to ISASA for general legal, regulatory and policy advice. They are also informed of regulatory updates that may affect them as they fulfil their mission of providing quality education to their charges. These services offered by the Policy Department are often described as ISASA’s jewel in the crown, since no other association in southern Africa provides a comparable service to its members.
The Membership Department is constantly identifying members’ needs and finding ways to meet them. This is best illustrated by ISASA’s ever expanding professional development offering, which is strongly supported by our Publications and Communications Department. Our workshops are focussed on institutional improvement at member schools. The services offered through membership are favourably comparable with ISASA’s international counterparts.
Whilst a well-resourced organisation is central to properly dispensing a mission, ISASA has consistently reduced the cost of subscriptions to its members, all the while improving its services. This has been achieved by increased efficiencies. Through astute fiscal management, ISASA has augmented its resources and is now building an endowment to make itself sustainable in perpetuity.
Transformation and diversity
Long before the issues of transformation, diversity and inclusion were globally topical, ISASA was leading the way due its understanding of the constitutional imperative to discard South Africa’s wretched past. As this pandemic has reminded us, we live in a globalised and interconnected world. It is therefore beholden on our schools to prepare humanitarian leaders who are able to be positively animated by difference and revel in our world’s diversity. They must be citizens who heal and unite our fractured world.
2020 – 2024 Strategic Plan
It was from this strong basis that the 2020 – 2024 Strategic Plan was developed. The process leading up to finalisation of the half-decade roadmap for ISASA was extensive and collaborative. ISASA is a participative member-led body; as a result, the input and collective intelligence of our constituent bodies was sought. This entailed a membership survey, a detailed document review, and a range of stakeholder interviews and workshops, culminating in a nationwide roadshow, during which time membership could make direct input at the various regional annual general meetings.
It was only after the forementioned had been completed that the ISASA Council adopted our present strategy, in the knowledge that its development had been thorough and reflected the views and wishes of ISASA’s diverse and broad membership.
Now ISASA’s vision is to continue to lead the independent schooling sector boldly in its pursuit to provide quality education. This has been a mainstay of ISASA since it was founded in its present form in 1998.
Our present mission is to:
provide services in a professional manner to the highest standard, while maintaining an efficient, member-centric operation that is responsive to a dynamic and complex environment
champion independent education as a leader in governance and policy in the sector, while maintaining strong relationships with government and other relevant authorities
promote the sustainability of the sector as the largest, most representative organisation in southern Africa, and ensure the long-term financial viability of ISASA in carrying out its mandate efficiently and effectively
be a thought leader in the sector, pioneering innovation and embracing technology in education in order to unlock the collective intellectual capital of the region, and
be the sector leader for transformation in independent education, while representing, promoting and protecting the common interests of the broader membership.
As can be seen from our present mission, nothing has changed since 2013, when the previous strategic plan was formulated. Service excellence, championing quality independent education, financial sustainability, advocating for transformation, diversity and inclusion are all central to retaining ISASA’s leading position amongst independent schools’ associations in southern Africa.
There have been only two changes: an emphasis on ISASA being a regional body that must make a concerted effort to attain its mission in all the southern African countries where it has a presence; and the necessity to be innovative in the rapidly changing times in which we find ourselves.
In order to bring to fruition its mission, ISASA’s eight new strategic imperatives are:
service and operational excellence
leadership and governance
diversity and transformation
regulatory stakeholder management
innovation and technology
marketing membership and brand, and
sustainable organisation and sector.
Again, none of these strategic imperatives is new; rather they are a restatement of the earlier strategic plan, only more distinctively stated.
ISASA spent last year undertaking a comprehensive organisational review in order to execute its strategic imperatives skilfully.
I am pleased that the organisational structure that has been implemented will continue the great tradition of service excellence to members.
What the strategic planning processes reminds us of is that ISASA is attuned to its mission and has an incisive perspective on the independent schooling sector. It is intricately associated with quality independent education on the African continent. By dutifully planning and implementing its strategy, ISASA does and will maintain its position as a leading independent schools’ association.