Improving school management by degrees

Schools are increasingly under pressure to run as slick businesses in order to attract top-notch staff, operate according to good governance principles and, importantly, to stay in the red.

This was one of the motivations behind the development of distance education institution, the Management College of Southern Africa (Mancosa), which opened its doors in Overport, Durban, in 1996. The college offers an accredited Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, as well as other postgraduate diplomas in management studies, to people such as educators and other professionals who need to sharpen up their workplace management skills.

‘What we were seeing was that there were a lot of people placed in high positions without the slightest idea about good management practices and were therefore doomed to fail,” says Mubeen Seedat, a former schoolteacher and now the administration co-ordinator at Mancosa. But, adds Seedat, ‘a lot of people do realise that they don’t know everything and that they benefit from having additional qualifications and skills training”.

When it comes to educational institutions, says Seedat, the schools that stay ahead are those that have innovative approaches to areas like attractively structuring salary packages, setting up staff incentives and creating better marketing strategies. This means daily operations can be tightly run, resulting in increased productivity and buoyant staff morale.

Though there is a strong focus on education at the institution, Mancosa courses are not restricted just to educators. They also focus on aspects like management in local government and management in the tourism industry, which are sectors in dire need of better management strategies. In fact, says Seedat, ‘for some teachers, these postgraduate diplomas in educational management and school governance are a springboard for them to diversify their skills base and even to try something new for their personal career advancement”.

The college has an intake of about 1 000 students a year, most of whom are already working professionals. Relevant work experience and prior learning are recognised in Mancosa’s assessment of applications.

The curriculum covers local, regional, national and global issues and perspectives and course material is revised and developed on an ongoing process.

The range of topics covered includes marketing strategies and management sciences as well as financial and business research skills.

Mancosa employs the outcomes-based approach to teaching, emphasising that the theoretical principles taught must be implementable in daily life.

Students are required to attend workshops throughout the year. These are held around the country and in the Southern African region.

As the college is a distance learning facility, students access lecturers and facilitators through phone, fax and e-mail correspondence and write exams in a number of support centres within South Africa or in seven centres outside the country (including Mauritius, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia). The institution has an added international flavour in that those enrolled with Mancosa also qualify for membership of organisations such as the International Academy of Management, based in the United Kingdom.

Their fees start at R6 590 for the first year of an MBA degree and go up to just less than R11 000 for the third year. A full list of fees can be found on the Mancosa website at www.mancosa.co.za

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