Do School Leaders’ Practices Influence Quality Education in Consumer Sciences?

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Published on International Journal of Social, Politics & Humanities
Publication Date: July 10, 2019

Dlamini Dlalisile & Dumisa Celumusa Mabuza
Department of Consumer Sciences Education and Community Development
Faculty of Consumer Sciences, University of Swaziland
Luyengo, Swaziland

Journal Full Text PDF: Do School Leaders’ Practices Influence Quality Education in Consumer Sciences? (Consumer Science Teachers’ Perceptions in Eswatini).

Abstract
Intensive research has been conducted in education; however the potential influence of school leadership and its role in the provision of quality education has been neglected. Examine. The purpose of this study was to examine the practices of school leadership on how they influence quality education in Consumer Sciences. The objectives of the study were to determine teachers’ perceptions on school leaders’ practices in developing positive school culture, their management of school resources for Consumer Science teaching as well as the leaders’ practices in promoting leadership qualities in teachers. A mixed research methods was used in this study employing qualitative and quantitative approaches. A 180 Consumer Science teachers were randomly selected to participate in this study. Questionnaire and structured interviews were used for data collection. For data analyses, SPSS version 22.0 was used. The results of this study revealed that the school leaders somewhat promote leadership qualities in teachers mostly through delegation of authority to teachers to better manage school activities and setting high expectation of staff and students in terms of academic, social and emotional efforts. However, it is evident that the school leaders are not proficient in handling and managing resources for the department of Consumer Sciences yet the teachers in this subject need resources to conduct practical lesson. Lastly, the leaders’ practices do not promote a positive school culture and thus quality education may not be attained. It is thus recommended that school leader through workshops and in-service be trained on effective strategies that guarantees effective learning through development of a positive learning and teaching environment

Keyword: School leadership, quality education, leadership quality & school culture.

1. Introduction
School leadership has become a priority in education policy programs worldwide. It plays a crucial role in the provision of quality education and positive school outcomes. School leadership influences the motivation and capabilities of the teachers, as well as the school climate and environment (Eyal & Roth, 2011). School leadership is vital to improve the efficiency and pertinence of quality education (Ling & Ibrahim, 2013). However, most school administrators and the principals have heavy work-loads, they are over-burdened with work. Day and Sammons (2016) attest that school leaders are faced with endless challenges in their endeavor to quality education. There are many challenges faced by school leaders and these include; ensuring consistently good teaching and learning; integrating a sound grasp of basic knowledge and skills within a broad and balanced curriculum; managing behavior and attendance; strategically managing resources and the environment; building the school as a professional learning community; and developing partnerships beyond the school to encourage parental support for learning and new learning opportunities. Mwangi (2016) and Harris (2013) state that effective or successful leadership is critical to school reform. This is why we need to know what it looks like and understand more about how it works.

1.1 Problem Statement
Leaders have direct and indirect effects on student learning and the quality education. School leadership is a priority in line with the Education 2030 Agenda, “to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. There is a growing recognition in Eswatini kingdom on the need to invest in and expand access to quality education. Many countries have invested in teacher training, learning materials, equipment and facilities in order to address issues relating to quality education. However, a few have attempted to tap to the potential of school leadership as a lever for improving quality education. School leaders help to improve teaching and learning indirectly and most powerfully through their support and influence on teacher/staff motivation, commitment and working conditions. Moreover, school leaders undertake the main responsibility of ensuring that student achievement is at its maximum potential. The studies conducted on student achievement assume that there is a direct relationship between educational leadership, quality education and learning outcomes. This therefore shows that there is a need to widen the knowledge base and learn about school leadership in the kingdom of Eswatini as well as other regions of the world. It is also of critical importance to raise awareness on the potential of school leadership as a means to enhancing school performance and students’ learning outcomes, especially in developing countries.

1.2 Purpose and Objectives
The purpose of the study was to examine the direct and indirect influences of school leadership, especially that of the head, upon teachers and upon pupils’ outcomes which in turn determine quality education. Although the study looks at these practices relative to the teaching of Consumer Sciences in Eswatini, it will also help in understanding the leadership practices and characteristics of school leaders within schools. The objectives of this paper were to:
a. Determine Consumer Science teachers’ perceptions on school leaders’ practices in developing positive school culture
b. Describe how school leaders manage school resources for Consumer Science teaching
c. Determine school leaders’ practices in promoting leadership qualities in teachers

2. Literature Review
Karadag, Bektas, Cogaltay and Yalcın (2015) in a study conducted in Turkey contend that leadership is associated with schools and administrators in education studies. School administrators are expected to guide all employees and students, support them, undertake all responsibility, and inspire them to meet the objectives of the school. The school leader is the person who plans and maintains program development, allocates resources, improves the performance of employees and students by encouraging them, and guides them to meet the objectives of the school and therefore school administrators pave the way for curriculum reform and the development of a positive learning environment (Mulford, 2003). Similarly, research by Nichols (2011) simultaneously asserts that school leaders ensure that these objectives are stated and agreed upon with the students and teachers. Furthermore, these leaders manage the out-of-school activities. They direct the employee and student activities in other areas of the school, encourage local organizations to work with the school, and collaborate with families and business organizations (Busher, Harris & Wise, 2000). Moreover school leaders undertake the main responsibility of ensuring that student achievement is at its maximum potential, the studies conducted on student achievement assume that there is a direct relationship between educational leadership and student learning. This, therefore, highlights the tiresome duties of school leaders that have sometimes been ignored and considered as their practice.
Day and Sammons (2016) states that a set of national standards for head teachers was established in 2004 which identified core professional leadership and management practices in six key areas. These include; shaping the future by creating a shared vision and strategic plan for the school (in collaboration with governing body) that motivates staff and others in the community. It also includes leading learning and teaching as the responsibility of head teachers to raise the quality of teaching and learning and for students’ achievement ultimately quality education. This implies setting high expectations and monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of learning outcomes. A fruitful learning culture will empower students to become effective, enthusiastic, autonomous learners, committed to life-long learning. Day and Sammons (2016) continues to state that developing self and working with others is of vital importance through building effective relationships and building a professional learning community through performance management and effective professional development for staff. Further, managing the school is crucial standard in improving school structures through self-evaluation, organisation and management of people and resources in order to build capacity across the workforce/ staff and deploy cost effective resources (Everard, Morris & Wilson, 2004). This suggests that the school leadership must be capable of safeguarding accountability on both human and non-human resources. Head teachers are accountable to all education stakeholders such as to students, parents, carers, governors, the local authority and the whole community to provide quality education for promoting collective responsibility within the whole school community and for contributing to the education service more widely. Mulford (2003) therefore allude that strengthening community is of core professional leadership and management practice. This can be done through creating links and collaborating with other schools, parents, carers and other agencies to share expertise and ensure children’s wellbeing.
Furthermore, leadership practices and teaching and learning process are inherent in the practices of the school leader. Brown and Posner (2014) in a study conducted in Canada alludes that school leadership is closely connected with the concept of change, and change, in turn, is at the essence of the teaching and learning process. Another study by Safeek and Nawastheen (2016) conducted in Sri Lankan argue that instructional leadership is the role of principals and is perceived as a significant factor for developing effective schools and improving the teaching and learning process as well as the students’ achievement. Further, principals need to serve as instructional leaders in school teaching and learning process for school success. Principals are responsible for classroom teaching and learning process. They are expected to lead to teaching and learning process. Principal is the leader of the school therefore he/she must be prepared to give the proper leadership. This suggests that principals must portray very high standards in work and behaviour. With his encouragement, the rest of the school will follow where he/she leads. This therefore is present enough evidence that there truly is a positive relationship between school leadership and the teaching and learning process. This therefore demands for some kind of a transformational and or instructional kind of leadership.
Eliophotou-Menon and Ioannou (2016) contend that transformational leadership and pedagogical/instructional leadership models of leadership promote successful schools and quality education. This implies that central to the practice of such a leader is the curriculum and manipulation of the human resources to be motivated towards achieving a common but set goal. In addition, Day and Sammons (2016) explains that transformational leadership model of leadership is associated with vision; setting directions; rebuilding and realigning the organisation; creating staff and educational plan; and involvement with the outside network. This model shows four core sets of administration practice which incorporate; building vision and setting directions; understanding and creating individuals, upgrading the association; managing the teaching and learning programme and other practice (Leithwood and Jantzi, 2005). It is about the formation of collective drive as a basic stimulant for one’s work. Mulford (2003) assert that such drive ought to be centred on student performance which according to Leithwood and Riehl (2003), the fundamental function of school administrators is to control all systems towards better student achievement. Several other scholars (Robinson, Lloyd & Rowe, 2008; Hallinger, & Heck, 2010; Quinn, 2002; Sammons, Gu, Day & Ko, 2011) attest that effective school leadership fosters the acceptance of group goals and thus promoting high performance expectations. These studies have in common that the key and specific practices needed for effective leadership include motivating and inspiring, clarifying roles and objectives, and planning and organising.
Further, Day and Sammons (2016) demonstrate that managing the teaching and learning programme is yet another leadership practice which contributes significantly to quality education. Specific practices included in this category aim to create productive working conditions for teachers, by fostering organisational stability and strengthening the school’s infrastructure. Specific practices are staffing the teaching programmes, providing teaching support, monitoring school activity, and buffering staff against distractions from their work. Providing resources for teachers and minimising student misbehaviour or disorder in the school are highly valued conditions of work which head teachers should provide (May & Goldring, 2012; Louis et.al, 2010).

3. Methodology
A mixed research methods was used in this study employing qualitative and quantitative approaches. McKim (2015) alludes that mixed methods research uses two different types of data and therefore the researcher ensures that good time management was employed. Mixed research methods helped to increase the validity of the study findings, helps gain a deeper, broader understanding of the phenomenon as it allows for integration. Similarly, Doyle et.al. (2014) contends that mixed research methods helps to strengthen the results of the study while Trefry (2018) allude that mixed research methods makes triangulation possible, thus providing a more complete and comprehensive understanding of research problem, more context specific research methods and it helps to explain findings.
The target population for this study were Consumer Science high school teachers and inspectors aged between 20 – 60 years who were selected from the four regions (Hhohho, Manzini, Shiselwni and Lubombo) of Eswatini. Teachers were randomly selected from government and private schools and inspectors were purposively selected. According to the ECOS (2018), 2018 subject statistics report indicate that there are 158 high schools offering Consumer Science in Eswatini with approximately 316 Consumer Science teachers as each school has at least two teachers. A sample of 176 teachers (44 from each region) were randomly selected. This technique helps to prevent biasness in the study and reduces the chance of systematic errors thus leading to a better representative sample (Davis, 2018; Hall, 2018). Then, 4 inspectors (1 per region) were purposively selected. Alvi (2016) contends that in purposive sampling involves identification and selection of individuals that are proficient and well-informed with a phenomenon of interest. It allows the researcher to draw upon a wide range of qualitative research designs. It leads to accurate results and low margin error.
Questionnaire was used for data collection; the questionnaire was developed from the literature review based on the objectives and variables of the study. Open and close- ended questions were asked about school leadership practices. Closed-ended questions were in form of a Likert scale with 6 levels of agreement. Data was collected using a questionnaire. Research assistants and the researcher collected during study time and lunch time in order to avoid disturbing classes as well as preventing the non-response rate. Inspectors were interviewed through face to face interviews. Letters seeking permission were sent to the REO and high schools explaining the purpose and intensions of the study. According to Bruin (2018), the term validity refers to whether or not the test measures what it claims to measure, it seeks to find out if the instrument is trustworthy and accurate. Bruin (2018) further states that reliability reflects consistency and explicability. Reliability is seen as the degree to which a test is free from measurement errors; the more measurement errors occur, the less reliable the test time to test reliability. Content and face validity was tested, the instrument for data collection (questionnaire) was validated by six seasoned researchers from the University of Eswatini. Pilot testing was done consisting of 25 teachers from two high schools in the Hhohho region. Cronbach alpha statistics was used to calculate a reliability coefficient that was estimated to 0.89.

4. Ethical Consideration
There was no deception; participants were told about the intensions, purpose and objectives of the study. There was no cohesion; participants were not being forced to answer the questionnaire they will be free choosing to or not to take part in the study. Confidentiality was considered since the questionnaires were identical; participants were not required to write their personal details like name and surname. Therefore, the relationship with the respondents during the survey was kept professional but comfortable. In addition, in the analysis and reporting, identification of respondents (such as real name) was kept be anonymous.

5. Findings and Discussion
5.1 Developing a Positive School Culture
Studies (Leithwood, 2012; Leithwood & Riehl, 2003; Sergiovanni, 2006) assert that educational leaders geared towards attainment of quality education ought to develop and vision a positive school culture. This involves developing good relationship with parents, teachers, learners and other stake older who should have a voice in school decisions and be made to feel involved and appreciated. However, the findings of this study as presented in Table 1 generally indicate that teachers in Consumer Sciences slightly disagreed that their school leaders create a positive school culture (x̅ = 3.44). Specifically, this suggest that the school heads are not easy to approach, do not appreciate or reward teachers for good work done and do not collaborate with stakeholders in decision making. The inspectorate, as well, during the face to face interviews noted that head teachers are somewhat difficult to deal with and such culture have negative effects in the teaching of Consumer Sciences since teachers frequent their offices regarding planning and funding of Food & Nutrition and Fashion & Fashion student projects. “I feel like head teachers are a government of their own. They are difficult even to us as inspectors when we visit the schools and the worse thing is that most of our teachers, maybe due to the fact that they are mostly females, are afraid of the school heads”, inspector A, noted. Inspector B and C also shared the same sentiments while Inspector C added that “there is a need for a government instrument that will specify terms of practice for head teachers in order to create a healthy school culture”. Northhose (2012) and Bass (2018) argue that leadership is a crucial factor for the success or failure in quality education for the total quality system as it involves influencing teachers and students to accomplish designated goals. This therefore suggests that these leaders must create a culture that will enable all stakeholders to work collaboratively, particularly teachers. This observation is supported by other studies (Pootrakul, 2014; Achua & Lussier, 2004; Day & Sammon, 2016) who assert that it is the responsibility of school leadership to collaboratively design and carry out strategic plans in collaboration with teachers and all involved personnel. Day and Sammons (2016) advocate that if leaders develop a positive atmosphere towards teachers, they will be in apposition to know what is going on in their classroom and have a clear view of the strength and weaknesses of their staff.

Table 1. Practices in developing positive school culture

5.2 Managing School Resources
Effective teaching and/ or learning cannot be adequately measured without consideration of the available resources. However, even in elite schools where all teaching and learning resources are available, teaching may fail. Therefore, a teacher’s abilities to make effective use of resources are a necessary practice for maximizing learning (Coe, Aloisi, Higgins & Major, 2014). Apart from the teacher’s ability to effectively use resources, the leadership has a crucial role of providing those resources. Consumer Science teachers were asked about their head teachers practices in the management of school resources, particularly those specific to the Consumer Science teaching and learning. Results presented in Table 2 indicate that teachers slightly disagreed (x̅= 3.27) that school leadership properly manage resource for quality education in Consumer Sciences. Specifically, this means that head teachers fail to mobilize teachers, parents for generating resources and raising academic excellence. The mobilization aspect, however, is partially regulated by government in Eswatini but school leadership has role to play in making it possible and effective, noted inspector 4 during the one on one interview. In addition, the school leadership, according to the Consumer science teachers, is not effective in allocating enough teaching time. The inspectors revealed there are problems experienced by Consumer Science teacher with the allocated time and that there is limited time they have. None of them was specific, nevertheless, on the amount of time commended for the curriculum. This implies that it may be problematic to conclude, as they claimed, that the syllabus is too lengthy. It is possible that the allocated time does not tally with recommended time. Secondly, educators expect school administrators to allocate Consumer Sciences ‘more’ time without specification of how much time is adequate. This challenge in allocation of teaching time could be expected in this curriculum because both the Swaziland education policy sector for 2018 and the Consumer Sciences curriculum documents are silent about the recommended school period for secondary schools for Consumer Sciences. The practice of school leader allotting insufficient time for teaching is common (Loewer, 2009; Hollowood, Salisbury, Rainforth & Palombaro, 1994). This practice has negative effects for practical oriented disciplines such as Consumer Sciences (Farenga & Ness, 2015; OECD, 2014). Other scholars (Loewer, 2009; Kerr, 2015) consequently suggest that allotting insufficient time for instruction directly affects the performance of the students. further, the leader were found to be poor in developing the physical infrastructure in the department, supporting procurement of ingredients and materials needed for learning and recruiting competent teachers. This suggests that there is need for empowerment of head teachers to yield a more effective usage of material and financial resources (De Grauwe, 2004). In addition, Aturupane et al., (2013) affirm that management of human and physical resources, plus procurement of teaching-learning materials are a prime responsibility of the school leader. The Inspectors revealed that the Consumer Sciences need a wide range of resources such as sewing machines, electric irons, ironing boards, pattern envelopes, laundry equipment, textbooks, stoves, microwave ovens, refrigerators, laboratories, food ingredients, fabric, charts and electronics. It became apparent that the inspectors felt that the school leaders have taken these resources for granted in Consumer Sciences and thus that affects the teaching and outcome.