Leadership Initiative

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A joint project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Education

The Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Department of Education Management at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have developed an innovative educational leadership initiative to raise the professional standards for South African school leaders, national and provincial education officials, and other education stakeholders. Faculty teams from UJ and HGSE envision a three-year Initiative to strengthen school and district leadership to support and improve the core functions of teaching and learning in schools. Designed to complement and enhance the current ACE program of UJ, the model provides a continuum of learning and leadership development opportunities for school and district leaders.


During the three years, the HGSE/UJ collaboration will focus on building school leadership capacity to improve the quality of schooling in South Africa by:

  • Designing and implementing leadership training programs and short courses for leaders at the school, district and provincial levels;
  • Developing a Principal Network aimed at providing ongoing support and training for school leaders through online programmes and other professional development activities;
  • Establishing an Education Leadership Institute that will be a learning centre and supporting institution for the ongoing professional development of school leaders and South African DoE officials. This Institute, through its national focus on school leadership, will play an important role in the country’s collective efforts to improve education outcomes for students;
  • Identifying a research agenda on educational leadership, to be pursued over the course of the three years and beyond. The research projects and teaching cases developed through the course of the collaboration will become part of a national repository of scholarship and practice-based resources on effective educational leadership, to be housed at the Education Leadership Institute at UJ. These materials will become assets for all educators in the country, and will be designed to contribute to national-level policy discussions.

Opportunity to Make a Difference

Few initiatives have the potential to be as pivotal to the transformation of South African society as the systematic improvement of schools. The principal and other school leaders remain key players in any school, affecting the level of professionalism and morale of teachers, the school’s relationship with the community, and the overall climate of learning. District officials also play an important role in working with school-based leaders to create an enabling environment for effective teaching and learning by creating coherent school and system structures that are designed to support the core work of schools. A strong and sustainable leadership development and support system for both individual school leaders and district officials will make a significant contribution to providing South African children with a meaningful education. The members of the University of Johannesburg and the Harvard Graduate School of Education project teams see this collaboration as a unique opportunity to not only contribute to school leadership development in South Africa, but also to inform and advance their own understandings of leadership both in