ICT in secondary school administration in rural southern Kenya: An educator’s eye on its importance and use

Lazarus Makewa, Jackson Meremo, Elizabeth Role and Jesse Role
University of Eastern Africa, Baraton, Kenya

INTRODUCTION

School administration is a key determinant for the realization of desired outcomes and success in both public and private schools hence is seen as critical by all stakeholders.  Gray and   Smith (2007) observe that the twenty-first century principal administrator faces numerous challenges emanating   from   the   technology.   Information   and   Communication   Technologies   (ICT)   are increasingly used and viewed as important in all spheres of operation including education. This requires  effective  and dynamic  school administration.     (In this study, Information  and Communication  Technologies,  ICT,  refers  to  technologies  that  provide  access  to  information through telecommunications  in general but specifically to computers.)

 Consequently,   Whitehead,   Jensen,  and     Boschee  (2003)  are  concerned   that  “the  current movement toward putting the latest technology into classrooms is causing educators to reassess school programs and policies and to examine the impact computers and other data-processing equipment are having on teaching and learning” (p. 3).

 Due  to  these  rapid  changes,  administrators  and  other  educators  globally  are  compelled  to carefully analyse the academic and social needs of their students. Maki (2008) stipulates that ICT plays a vital role in supporting powerful, efficient management and administration in the education sector:   technology  can be used from student  administration  (i.e., students’  record)  to various resource  administration  in an education  institution.  According  to Zainally  (2008), “ICT provides several facilities and possibilities for educational administrators to perform their tasks” (p. 283). In this regard, Voogt and Knezek (2008) observe that the development of computer technology from processing information to supporting communication augmented its potential for education. Our society, without exception,  is in transition  towards  an information  society due to the enormous impact  of these  technologies  in all facets  of life. However,  the importance  and use of ICT in schools  in  Kenya  differ  from  one  district  to  the  other  due  to  a  number  of  factors  including academic, economic, political, and cultural levels of development.

 Although ICT use in secondary school administration in Kenya and Kuria Districts in particular, appears  to be a new  concept  and a complex  change,  Fullan  (1993)  advises  that there  is an urgent need to unpack the complexity  of change to provide guidance  for those who must deal with it. Also, Day and  Leithwood (2007) remark that this is the ‘golden age’ of school leadership change. Educators should re-examine  their attitudes, perceptions,  plans, and implementation  of ICT in their daily administrative operations however challenging it might be. This is central to the success with which favoured solutions actually work in schools. If the new technology is being embraced  by students  and teachers,  including  computers  as educational  tools; it is imperative that school administrators, as key educators, also embrace it for effective administration.

 Since  the  mid-1980s,  the  scope  and  pace  of  change  around  the  world  have  accelerated dramatically. The work of administrators has changed in organizations, including schools, from manual and mechanical to electronic data processing, storage, output, and communication hence the importance of ICT use. Taylor and Hogenbirk (2001) suggest that the transformational rate of change  might  find  professionals  outdated  in  their  own  profession,  thus  countries  that  do  not integrate policies of scientific and technology development with education components will be left behind.

 Kuria District Secondary School educators are no exception; they face the challenge of change in their operations.  Hallinger (1995) says

Increased access internationally to ICT has also had an impact on administration of organizations…thus   an  understanding   of  how   culture   shapes   both   the  nature   of leadership and the portability of knowledge is increasingly salient to both scholars and professionals throughout the world (pp. 1, 4 ).

This  study  endeavoured  to  establish  educators’  perceptions  of  the  importance  and  extent  to which administrators  use ICT, which had not previously been explored in this area. The findings would be used to recommend possible measures to be taken by the Ministry of Education, school managers,  school administrators  and other interested  stakeholders  for effective  school administration.

Administrators’  participation in professional development is crucial for any meaningful change to occur as they have a vital role to play. Data use in school administration  currently ranges over multiple areas, informing administrators about demographics, school processes, student learning, as well as perceptions and projections (Bernhardt, (2000)).   These examples are included to encourage  teachers  and  administrators  to  get  started  on  data  analysis  and  database  work, wherever they are, for school improvement.

The government, through the Ministry of Education, has plans to integrate ICT training in teacher training,  where school administrators  and teaching  staff will be presented  with opportunities  to learn file management, word processing, spread sheets, email, and Internet skills, as well as ICT integration  awareness  [MOEST,  2005].  However,  in  2008,  Boakye  and  Banini  argued  that teachers need to seek and receive initial and on-going training on how to use ICT to enhance their training. They call for “re-forming” teacher education rather than just trying to “re-tool” the teachers.

Upon realizing this, the Ministry of Education, (2008) notes that all target groups are aware of the importance of ICT integration  within the Ministry of Education  and education institutions,  where the activities take place. Some of its achievements  are: 1). Advice has been given on the online training modules developed by the Kenya Education Staff Institute (KESI). The KESI courses on ICT  integration  for school  heads  were  revised.  2). A National  ICT  Innovation  and  Integration Centre  is  now  operational,  with  the  mandate  to  collect,  test  and  share  ICT  innovations  and harness emerging technologies for integration  in all aspects of education.

CONCLUSIONS

This study found that both teachers and administrators saw the use of ICT in secondary school administration as important. Teachers and administrators viewed the use of ICT in student administration as equally important while administrators rated the importance of using ICT in supervision of instruction and in student administration higher. This is encouraging for the implementation  of ICT in secondary  school administration  because  administrators,  who have a greater influence in implementing ICT use in schools, have a higher perception than that of the teachers. They could easily influence the staff they lead through mentoring. In fact, they rated the importance of ICT use in supervision of instruction and in student administration higher than any other item.

There was a significant difference between the perceptions of teachers and administrators on the importance  of  ICT  use  in  student  administration,  general  administration  and  supervision  of instruction. This may suggest that in most cases teachers view administrators as supervisors of personnel in their organization, as well as custodians of financial matters. It is in this regard administrators gave a higher rating than teachers to the importance of using ICT in areas such as computerizing  financial  systems,  fee  payment  and  analysis,  income  projections  and  school financial monitoring, and planning for prudent decision making in administration.

There  was  no  significant  difference  on  the  extent  of administrators’  use  of ICT  in secondary school administration  between teachers and administrators.  Both agree on the extent of use of ICT in various administrative tasks.  The difference between administrators and teachers in their perceptions on the extent to which administrators  use ICT in secondary school administration  is apparently the opposite of their perceptions on the importance of ICT use. Teachers and administrators have similar perceptions on the extent of administrators’ use of ICT in student administration. In particular, administrators use ICT in preparation, administering, compiling and analysing   students’   test  marks.  Both  teachers   and  administrators   indicated   this  to  be  of importance in ICT use. Conversely, both agree that administrators do not apply ICT much in the rest of the areas namely: personnel, financial, general and supervision of instruction.

It is evident from this study that ICT has a dominant position in education; it enters the school environment  progressively,  aiming  to adopt technological  applications  not only in the teaching and  learning  process  but  also  in  the  management  of  the  whole  school.  Information  systems provide tools that contribute to the improved execution of administrative  work. More specifically, using an information system in school administration provides for data integration where data is derived  from several  information  sources,  for decision  making  as well as for management.  As such,  the  implementation  of  ICT  facilitates  the  effectiveness  of  administrative  services  and reinforces communication channels within the school community.

In conclusion, the introduction and adoption of ICT in schools ensures an advanced electronic administrative framework. Information management systems can be used for the modeling and organization  of administrative  procedures,  which align school administration  with the principles and strategies of our information  society. Within this framework,  administrators  are expected to be equipped with technological infrastructure to provide the educational community with upgraded technology  applications.  We  may  also  observe  that  ICT  is being  increasingly  implemented  in schools  considering  the  valuable  benefits  that  school  units  have  gained  by  using  advanced technological tools in their everyday work. However, it is important to create the environment necessary for the successful and efficient adoption of new technologies in the classroom as well as in administration, taking into consideration that school management is regarded as one of the main factors contributing to a school’s effective function.

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