Implementation of the performance management system in senior secondary schools in Botswana: the perspective of the senior management team

Bulawa, Philip (2011) Implementation of the performance management system in senior secondary schools in Botswana: the perspective of the senior management team. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

[img] PDF (Thesis)
Download (3MB)
View at Publisher Website:


Public sector organisations worldwide have implemented performance management systems to improve performance. They were initially designed by the private sector in western countries and then adopted by the public sector. Now, the performance management system (PMS) has become a global reform also implemented in the public sector of less developed countries such as Botswana. Success in implementing the PMS in public sector organisations has varied. This study investigates the less than satisfactory implementation of the PMS in the education sector in Botswana. While similar to performance management systems elsewhere, the PMS in Botswana differs from most in that it does not tie pay to performance. Furthermore, unlike most reforms of this magnitude in less developed countries that are funded by donor agencies, it was self funded. However, a similarity that it does share with other less developed countries is that it attempted to implement PMS models developed in western countries.

The PMS was introduced in the education sector in Botswana in 1999, but eight years later, schools had not yet fully implemented it. This study sought to investigate why the PMS had not become fully established in the senior secondary schools, the relatively better funded part of the schooling system. As well, the study limited itself to the perspective of the schools' senior management teams, the on the ground implementers and managers of the PMS.

The study used an adapted grounded theory approach to explore senior management's perceptions of the PMS in their schools. In total, interview data were collected from 94 senior management team members from 22 of the 27 senior secondary schools existing in Botswana in early 2008. The school heads were interviewed individually while deputy heads and heads of houses were interviewed in their respective schools as groups. The data were analysed using a repetitive process of coding to develop categories leading to theory development that explains the participants' lived experience of the implementation process.

This study concludes that eight years after the introduction of the PMS, the on the ground implementers in the senior secondary schools of Botswana are caught between the government's insistence that the PMS be seen as operating effectively (principally through reporting mechanisms), and a school environment that prevents this from happening. In summary, the PMS limps along as schools go about their business seemingly unaffected by the absence of a successfully embedded PMS. Overall, the study showed that senior management did not reject the PMS reform. They saw it as a reform that could benefit their schools. The potential of the PMS to help senior management teams manage performance better was acknowledged. The use of the PMS as a tool for strategic planning and for holding people accountable for their performance through objective monitoring was identified as a strength. Value was also perceived in its requirement for teamwork amongst members of staff and in the professional development that would ensue from responding to teachers' professional needs.

Senior management also recognised the significance of their role as ―overseers‖, a term acquired from their training, which involved the coordination of the school strategy plan; the cascading of the PMS to the entire staff; the internal monitoring of the implementation process; and reporting and liaison with regional office. However, the impediments they encountered constrained their capacity to effectively implement this reform.

In general, the difficulties resulted from a mismatch between the PMS and the existing cultural and organisational structures within the schooling system, and the school managers' lack of capacity to effect changes either to the existing school environment or to the PMS itself. Impediments reported included PMS performance indicators that did not match what teachers valued; school staff who did not have the skills required to implement the PMS; school managers' lack of confidence to lead the PMS; resourcing constraints; increasing resistance by staff; and failure to liaise with the regional office.

Two particular impediments constrained their efforts to effectively lead the implementation process. First, was the ministry's use of the cascade approach to implement the PMS. This approach followed a top-down hierarchical structure whereby the strategic plan at the ministry level was cascaded to departments, regions, and ultimately to the schools. Reporting was in the reverse order. When blockages between regional offices and schools occurred, the process faltered. As soon as this link was broken, as it did happen in some cases, implementation of the PMS did not work. Training also followed the cascade approach.

The major problem with this ―train the trainer‖ approach was that the level of expertise of the trainers diminished at each level of the ―cascade‖. The quality of the information received at the vii school level was often distorted and did not accurately resemble the information delivered in the first round of training.

The second major challenge was trying to implement a reform that had been transplanted into an environment that was different from where it originated. Participants believed there was a mismatch between the PMS and their particular context. Not only did it originate in industry and the corporate world, but also in foreign countries different from Botswana. Despite this, the government had made no attempt to contextualise the PMS and had implemented it as a package across the whole public sector without undertaking trials or pilots.

Transplanted reforms from industry and from more developed countries have found their way into the schools of less developed countries. This study's focus on the school management's perspective of the implementation process of the PMS will inform not just policy makers in less developed countries, but also potential international foreign aid donors. To increase their chances of success, future school reforms need to better take into account the distinctive conditions at grass-root level in schools where the reforms are to be implemented.

Item ID: 26275
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Africa; Botswana; developing countries; education systems; educators; grounded theory; high schools; implementation; improving performance; LDCs; less developed countries; managers; opinions; perceptions; performance improvement; performance management system; PMS; public sector; reform; senior management teams; senior secondary schools; staff; teachers; team members
Additional Information:

For this thesis, Philip Bulawa received the Dean's Award for Excellence 2012.

Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2013 02:34
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1301 Education Systems > 130106 Secondary Education @ 50%
13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130304 Educational Administration, Management and Leadership @ 50%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9304 School/Institution > 930403 School/Institution Policies and Development @ 60%
93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9304 School/Institution > 930401 Management and Leadership of Schools/Institutions @ 40%
Downloads: Total: 9848
Last 12 Months: 62
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page