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Improving South African school effectiveness through distributed leadership: A study of gender

R.J. Botha


In South Africa the context in which school decisions are made has become more complex. The Ministry of Education is increasingly calling on school leaders to take on more responsibility in the decentralised management of their respective schools. In addition, gender issues in education have become an increasingly important factor worldwide. As a result, the contribution of both male and female school leaders to ensure more effective schools is more important than ever. The concept of collaborative or distributed leadership becomes vital in such a system of decentralised school-based management. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate the extent to which distributed leadership by male and female school leaders can contribute to school effectiveness, and how the respective views and perceptions on this issue differ between genders. The paper is based on a qualitative study of a sample of 20 South African school leaders of which ten are male principals and ten female principals. Ethnographic interviews were conducted with the sample from these purposefully sampled 20 schools to establish their perspectives on and attitudes towards the role of distributed leadership in school effectiveness. The outcome of this study demonstrates that sharing of leadership via collaborative decision-making can make a significant contribution to the improvement of school effectiveness because it supports the effective distribution of leadership. The study also shows that male and female school leaders differ on the perceptions and outcomes of leadership distribution and its’ role in school effectiveness.

Keywords: Leadership, Distribution, Gender, School Effectiveness, South Africa