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Students in a classroom in South Africa

Accountability is Essential to Sustainable Improvement in the Education System

Guest Author: Victor Huni

Accountability is a cornerstone of the modern education system. It holds those within the system responsible for their actions — as well as inactions — and functions to identify any opportunities and shortcomings. Accountability is essential in order for any meaningful improvement to take place within the system.

The Department of Basic Education’s Data Driven Districts (DDD) programme empowers its users to have conversations around accountability that are made possible through the availability and accessibility of school-level data from the South African School Administration and Management System (SA-SAMS).

The DDD programme creates a platform on which data can be gathered, stored, accessed, and analysed so as to be incorporated into complex decision making and used to drive change.

Principals and other leaders can now use the data provided through the DDD programme to guide and support their conversations with their staff and to engage with them more effectively. The data also empowers them to be more effective decision makers and better leaders overall.

Mbuyiselo James Deleki is a circuit manager and works in rural Eastern Cape, where part of his job entails regularly visiting schools which fall into his jurisdiction. “The DDD programme lets me know what is happening in a school before I go there. I can simply log on, have a look at the school’s data and see what needs my attention,” he says.

Deleki uses the graphs and charts that the DDD programme provides to show — rather than just tell — the principals and other staff with whom he interacts how their schools are performing. “I’m able to present the reports of different schools and this encourages those that are lagging behind to pick up their socks and work harder,” he says.

He also says the DDD programme identifies where and how a school, subject or individual is lacking and, as a result, where and how he should intervene and assist. “I’m also learning through the DDD programme. As a circuit manager, it makes my job much easier and lets me work smarter,” Deleki says.

Tshangane Johannes Mbule — the principal of Mookodi Secondary School, in the Free State — agrees and says the data analysis provided through the DDD programme has made his job more enjoyable and more focused. “It assists me in terms of both accountability,” he says, “When I have to talk to teachers about, for example, the performance of our learners, I can use the data from the DDD programme. It shows me where we are doing well and where we are not.”

Mbule also says the graphs and charts help his teachers to see the bigger picture and describes the programme, overall, as “valuable and reliable”. “It’s given me an advantage. I am no longer just a manager, I am now an instructional leader,” he says.

There is a strong link between heightened accountability and better-quality education. Crucial to effective teaching — and the delivery of better-quality education — the teachers have to find the right way to communicate with the different children in their care.

And it is only through accountability that we can establish whether or not our communication methods are working and, as a result, whether or not our children are learning what they should be learning, at the rate they should be learning it.

Victor Huni is a  cluster leader on the Data Driven Districts programme at New Leaders Foundation. He is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the DDD programme in three provinces across South Africa.