October 7, 2014

Advanced Diploma in Education

This project supported the development of a common curriculum for the Advanced Diploma in Education so that all school principals and aspiring principals could be mandated to undertake this course. Zenex supported the development of the curriculum, which was facilitated by the South African Institute for Distance Education.

Development of an Advanced Diploma in Education: Leadership and Management

Name of organisation/service provider: Department of Basic Education (DBE)

Duration of Project: 2014

Where is the Project based: National


The Zenex Foundation supported the development of the Advanced Certificate in Education in Leadership and Management (ACE) programme in partnership with the DBE and higher education institutions.

This resulted in a common curriculum with associated materials which all tertiary institutions adopted. It was innovative in that it was the first time that tertiary institutions have worked together to develop an academic programme. Our particular contribution was with the evaluation of the pilot of the ACE (led by Professor Tony Bush), revising the materials, and funding meetings of the national task team to plan and review the roll-out.

The project ran from 2006 to 2011, with the final report presented to the DBE in 2012.


The DBE together with universities are required to design a new qualification for school principals, in line with the most recent changes in the higher education qualifications framework1. This necessitates the design of an Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE) which is pitched at a higher level than the present ACE qualification. All ACE qualifications are being phased out and will not be offered as of 20142.

Previously the DBE worked in partnership with universities to develop the ACE programme aimed at supporting school principals to improve their management and financial capabilities. This collaborative approach which was funded by Zenex, worked well as it resulted in the ACE programme being standardised across all higher education institutions. An external evaluation of the implementation of the ACE programme showed that the programme made a significant difference to school management practices and school performance in under-achieving schools.

However, based on new policy, the Council for Higher Education (CHE) has resolved that the Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE) will be removed from the national qualifications framework. In addition, a review of all the ACEs by the CHE suggested that this qualification was not located at the appropriate academic level for the education community. In many cases the ACE was pitched at too low a level and was not focused enough. As a result of this review, DHET, DBE and the CHE agreed to phase out the ACE and replace it with the Advanced Diploma in Education (ADE). The Advanced Diploma is a two-year programme pitched at a higher cognitive level than the ACE programme.

The DBE are therefore embarking on a similar collaborative process to design the new ADE, in association with higher education institutions. Together with universities, the DBE will design a curriculum framework and a set of materials for the ADE. The Advanced Diploma in Education on School Leadership and Management will comply with the national policy as described above.

The challenge the project is addressing

There are no formal qualifications required to become a principal in SA. As such there is a general lack of competence and skills amongst principals. The DBE are exploring the possibility of using the ADE as a requirement for newly appointed principals.  

In a review before the ACE was developed, it was found that there was a high level of variation of quality offered in such programmes across institutions. By embarking on a collaborative process of curriculum and materials development, the DBE will be minimising this problem of variation.

Thus the project will:

  • Develop the curriculum and materials for a high quality programme to enhance school principals' knowledge and skills.
  • Standardise the programme that will be offered across institutions to ensure quality and consistency.

This project has the potential to influence education at a systemic level, by ensuring the development of a common framework of delivery across higher education institutions.

1. CHE, National Qualification Framework for Higher Education and the new Teacher Development Policy on Minimum requirements for Teacher Development.

2. Although the DBE has made an application to DHET to review these time lines.

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