Over the last couple of days I’ve visited 3 x matric exam preparation camps. Some 250 learners are spending a week in preparation set-ups for the start of the 2014 NSC EXAMS that gets into full swing on Monday. At each of these venues, educators commented on the discipline of the learners. The kids were unrecognisable outside their school context. They were well-disciplined, focussed and engaged. I just smiled. I ask one teacher why she believed the kids were different. She spoke of the different environment they were experiencing. I responded by asking why they couldn't create a similar environment in the school. She smiled back. The school was too troubled. It got me thinking. What kind of culture exists in schools that generally have depressed learner outcomes? But first, what is organisational culture?
Wikipedia defines Organizational culture as the behaviour of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviours. Culture includes the organization's vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.
Education-portal.com highlight seven characteristics of organizational culture. These are identified as;
- Innovation (Risk Orientation) - Companies with cultures that place a high value on innovation encourage their employees to take risks and innovate in the performance of their jobs. Companies with cultures that place a low value on innovation expect their employees to do their jobs the same way that they have been trained to do them, without looking for ways to improve their performance.
- Attention to Detail (Precision Orientation) - This characteristic of organizational culture dictates the degree to which employees are expected to be accurate in their work. A culture that places a high value on attention to detail expects their employees to perform their work with precision.
- Emphasis on Outcome (Achievement Orientation) - Companies that focus on results, but not on how the results are achieved, place a high emphasis on this value of organizational culture.
- Emphasis on People (Fairness Orientation) - Companies that place a high value on this characteristic of organizational culture place a great deal of importance on how their decisions will affect the people in their organizations. For these companies, it is important to treat their employees with respect and dignity.
- Teamwork (Collaboration Orientation) - Companies that organize work activities around teams instead of individuals place a high value on this characteristic of organizational culture. People who work for these types of companies tend to have a positive relationship with their coworkers and managers.
- Aggressiveness (Competitive Orientation) - Companies with an aggressive culture place a high value on competitiveness and outperforming the competition at all costs.
- Stability (Rule Orientation) - A company whose culture places a high value on stability are rule-oriented, predictable, and bureaucratic in nature. These types of companies typically provide consistent and predictable levels of output and operate best in non-changing market conditions.
Whilst the characteristics have a private sector orientation (they speak of companies), many of the listed points can so easily apply to schools and any other organization. Now, if I asked you if your organization's culture meets the definition at the start of this post or is characterised by the 7-elements above, what would you be able to say? In fact, I wonder what learners would say of the schools they attend?