P. Balkrishen, R. Mestry

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
The scarcity of empirical data on educational leadership in Further Education and Training (FET) colleges in South Africa is especially disconcerting in view of the strategic importance of the sector and the poor performance of FET colleges. Considering that the research on educational leadership relates largely to schools in urban, Western contexts, this study sought to address that part of the research gap which explores the link between leadership roles played by campus managers and student performance in FET college campuses in the rural province of Mpumalanga, South Africa. The contexts surrounding FET colleges in South Africa are very similar, especially when comparing their funding rates, programmes offered and student cohorts. Yet, the academic performance of FET college campuses, even within the same college, varies greatly. The aim of this study is to investigate whether the role played by the campus manager impacts on student achievement by comparing the leadership roles played by campus managers in high performing FET college campuses with those in low performing FET college campuses.

Data was collected through the use of structured questionnaires due to the quantitative nature of the research. Fifteen college campuses, both peri-urban and rural, from three FET colleges in Mpumalanga province were chosen for the study. The respondents to the survey were academic staff members from each of the fifteen campuses. Quantitative analysis techniques, including t-tests, were used to determine statistically significant differences between the high and low performing campuses.

Arguably, the most substantial finding in this study is the significant difference in leadership roles played by campus managers of poorly performing campuses compared to campus managers of high performing campuses. The leadership of campus managers of high performing campuses was rated at a significantly higher level than campus managers of poorly performing campuses. For example, in the leadership role of setting direction, the mean score of the campus managers of the lowest performing campuses was 44% lower than the campus managers of the highest performing campuses. The findings suggest that there is a tangible link between the leadership role of the campus manager and student achievement. Replicating the leadership roles of campus managers of high performing colleges, especially as the contexts surrounding the majority of FET colleges in South Africa are very similar, has the potential to impact on improving student achievement in FET colleges. The researcher believes that expertise for the FET college sector in South Africa lies within the sector, as shown by the top-performing campus managers, and that this expertise should be optimally utilised in the development process of campus managers. Hence, the formation of a provincial community of practice or community of learning for campus managers was recommended.