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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


SPIES, Japie  and  HEYSTEK, Jan. Principals' educational practices in the field of rural villages. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2015, vol.55, n.3, pp.437-451. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article focuses on the influence of the field of rural villages on principals' educational practices. The focus is on aspects of principals' educational practices in a specific rural village context. It is a Bourdieuian study of educational practices in the rural context in relation to the influence of the field of rural villages. The focus of this study is the manner in which the field of rural villages manifests itself in the educational practices of headmasters functioning within a specific geographical context, namely a rural village. The conceptual question therefore focuses on the endeavour made by the headmasters with the manifestation of the field of rural villages in the educational practises of the headmasters in question. The macro (global) field determines that principals in public schools in South Africa function according to managerialism, where they are expected to meet the education department's objectives and requirements. The result is that principals' educational practices are increasingly limited by policy and control measures of the authorities, such as the establishment of performance goals, with little space for leadership and more emphasis on management and the administrative system. The macro educational field positions schools to function in a distinct way as the logic of the market, privatisation, deregulation and the individual's freedom of choice of school are manifested in the school as field. A further outcome is that a particular leadership practice namely managerialism, use of data, efficiency, performativity and a focus on outcomes and achievements in the school is established in the field and proffered as norm. The school as field has a direct impact on the educational practices of headmasters as it effects a distinct logic of practice which endeavours to influence the headmasters' leadership habitus in a certain way. Furthermore, it tends to influence the headmasters' reason to act directly in the form of policy changes and indirectly when proposed as the norm or standard of practice. On the other hand, the local micro field also has a direct influence. Each community requires a lot from their headmasters, although the expectation is realised in different educational practices. Priorities such as fundraisings for better and higher quality teaching and providing basic needs like nutrition for learners are local priorities. In this regard, we emphasised that principals' identity is partly given, but also partly acquired by their position in a given social field and how principals adjust to the discursive influences of the local micro field on their work environment. The research material for this article comes from a comprehensive research project on the principals of rural schools in a town with the pseudonym Cogmans in the Western Cape. Focused semi-structured one-on-one interviews were used to gather information through to principals' own stories to hear about their own life, in order to allow a construction of the story of each one's social world. In this way "professional" stories about a school principal in a rural village are linked to the critical analysis of the principal's teaching practices. The article is based on the application of the theory of Pierre Bourdieu. Bourdieu's concepts of field, capital, habitus and practices are used as theoretical lenses to highlight the analytical focus of this article, namely the educational practices of principals in the field of rural villages. The data of the twelve transcribed interviews (with the use of Atlas.ti computer programme) were coded by selecting segments of the primary documents to which codes were accordingly linked. By applying Bourdieu's conceptual framework of habitus, field, capital and practice as "super codes", the data were dealt with thematically and organised accordingly. The main argument we present in this article, is that the field of principals in rural schools affect the educational practices of the principals involved. Each of the principal's educational practices responds in a unique way to the distinctiveness of their local and even national field. An analysis of the data revealed that a headmaster increasingly has to play a dual role namely that of manager plus that of professional educationist. The educational skills or practises associated with those two roles are not always compatible. The latter places principals in a very difficult position where, on the one hand they are expected to act as Representatives of the Department of Education, while on the other hand, they have to function as professional educationists, the logic behind these practices and their educational accountability may be questioned. Headmasters however, despite the fact that the macro field seeks to enforce a uniform system upon them, respond in unique, diverse ways in their educational practices. This can especially be attributed to the fact that the creditworthiness of a principal in a rural town among the members of the community, depends rather on whether the principal succeeds to fulfil the acts that Fataar (2009:324) described as daily actions of the principals, acts that are not necessarily prescribed by legislation, but rather determined by the principals' successful implementation of the activities set out in legislation.

Keywords : Educational practices; rural headmasters; rural context; Pierre Bourdieu; logic of the market; performativity; habitus; capital; field; strategy.

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