Differences in student performance between schools: A comparative analysis of two Swazi high schools

Thab'sile Daphne Mkatshwa, University of Pennsylvania


This study looks at what goes into the preparation process for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate course or O'level in two Swazi high schools. Both schools are located in an urban center of Swaziland. These schools have shown differences in student performance at O'level over the last decade. Whereas Mbekelweni has shown an improvement, Sigombeni has experienced a decline. The study's major purpose was to investigate what accounted for these differences in student performance. The researcher conducted an ethnographic study of the two schools and spent about nine months doing field work during the 1990 school year. Participant observation and interviewing were the major means of data collection. Differences were found in the schools' administration and leadership. At Mbekelweni leadership was defined in more inclusive terms and shared between the Head and the Deputy, yet at Sigombeni leadership tended to be defined in restricted terms with most power and authority remaining with the Head. The schools exhibited distinct ethos. Mbekelweni had a positive ethos, characterized by good discipline among both staff and students. The school's ethos allowed everyone to concentrate on its instructional goals. Sigombeni had a negative ethos characterized by general lack of discipline. This school's ethos diverted all concerned from its main instructional objectives. At Mbekelweni there was good communication between the school and the students' parents. Parents felt part of the school's community and the school used this link to support instruction. Inadequate communication at Sigombeni made this link weak. Some parents felt left out and the school lost the opportunity to use parents to support instruction. There were no discernible differences in terms of teaching methodology between teachers in the two schools. However, teachers differed in how they related to their students and in how they gave and followed-up homework. One of the major conclusions of the study is that schools do not always work to the disadvantage of children from working-class backgrounds. The poor home backgrounds for the Mbekelweni students made them work hard to pass so they could lead better lives in future.

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Recommended Citation

Mkatshwa, Thab'sile Daphne, "Differences in student performance between schools: A comparative analysis of two Swazi high schools" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9200374.