Management

Head Teachers’ Perceptions and Practices of School Leadership in Private Secondary Schools in Sirajganj District, Bangladesh – 1

SHEIKH MOHAMMAD ALI


Abstract: The goal of this exploratory research project is to gather data on head teachers’ leadership perceptions and practices, so that educational researchers, government officials and head teachers themselves have a better understanding of leadership and management in Bangladeshi high schools. Such data is critical for gaining a better understanding of leadership in Bangladesh and for future head teacher development and school improvement.

Leaders can play a very important role in improving teaching and learning in schools. Many Western countries are interested in the power of leadership to generate and sustain school improvement. Bangladeshi schools strive to improve, to develop effective teaching and raise the achievement of students. Much depends on the vision and practices of the head teachers who lead the schools. This study explores the leadership concepts, styles, trends and current practices of the head teachers in four Bangladeshi private secondary schools both in rural and urban areas.

Findings of this study show that Bangladeshi school leaders have vision for school improvement. They lead their schools with managerial and democratic styles of leadership. They work for professional development inside the school with a view to improve the teaching and learning process. Students’ achievement is their ultimate goal. They work under pressure with their skill of handling different kinds of adverse situation like bureaucratic complex, political influence, and shortage of human and physical resources.  

The methodology of this research is qualitative and the methods used for data gathering were interviews and focus group discussions. Four schools from Sirajganj, a district which is approximately one hundred kilometres away from the capital city, provided the sample. Four head teachers participated in interviews and were invited to meet together to take part in a focus group discussion about their leadership practices.

Introduction

This research examines the leadership of four secondary head teachers of Sirajganj district in Bangladesh. In Bangladeshi secondary schools, management rather than leadership prevails. In fact leadership is not a discussion topic in the education sector. Rather education authorities and head teachers in schools tend to focus on issues of class size, the physical facilities and teacher supply. In my role as a teacher educator, I hold the view that it is leadership rather than management which offers a way forward to be effective schools. My study includes case study data from four head teachers in order to gain greater insight to their practices, understandings and aspirations of school leadership. Such information, I believe, has the potential to improve understanding of leadership in Bangladeshi secondary schools, and shape future actions and policies, so as to better prepare head teachers for their roles.

My interest in the topic of head teacher (principal) leadership and professional learning development stems directly from my professional role as a tertiary lecturer at a government owned Teachers’ Training College in Bangladesh. As part of that role I teach Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) students in the college and also conduct training sessions for secondary school teachers, assistant head teachers and head teachers.

This study examines the leadership concepts, styles, trends and current practices of the head teachers in four Bangladeshi private secondary schools in both rural and urban areas. To the best of my knowledge, little research has been done on the leadership of secondary schools of Bangladesh. This study offered an opportunity to draw findings which may lead to a better understanding of the work of head teachers and lead to enhanced school leadership and further research in the future. This kind of research could have a positive impact on the development of the secondary education sector.   

This is an exploratory study of secondary school headship in Bangladesh. As there is little literature on this topic available on-line or in journals (available in NZ), I located further literature on this issue when I was in Bangladesh for data gathering.  

Research Questions
How do head teachers of secondary schools in the Sirajganj district of Bangladesh work as leaders of their schools?

Sub Questions
1. What do the head teachers understand by educational leadership?
2. What are the goals and strategies of the head teachers and how do they envision these?
3. How do head teachers work with their School Managing Committee (SMC), assistant head teachers, teachers and with the authorities?
4. How do head teachers work with the students, parents and community?

It is important to know how the head teachers view leadership concepts, approaches, models, styles and activities, and how these perceptions influence their practice.

Head teachers work within education legislation, administration guidelines and constraints of government policy. It is important to know how they work with these guidelines and constraints to create and develop their leadership vision, goals, strategies and practices.

Schools are about people. The head teachers have to work effectively with their school managing committees, their assistant head teachers, their teachers and the students in order to achieve teaching that results in positive learning outcomes for students. Schools are not an isolated part of society. The head teachers need to be working with the members of the community so that schools can meet the expectations of the people, especially the parents of the students. Head teachers can build a bridge between the school and the community to work together for the betterment of the society.


Acknowledgements: I am grateful to many people who have helped and supported me throughout this study. I would like to acknowledge and convey my thanks to:
Dr. Barry Brooker, who was my supervisor throughout this study, for all the advice, guidance and encouragement.
Jan Daley, who was my co-supervisor throughout this study for her kind support, guidance and encouragement. She was my teacher for three leadership courses in the first year of my study and I have learnt a lot from her.
The Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project (TQI-SEP), Ministry of Education, Bangladesh for providing funds for this study. I thank the Project Director and all the staff of the project office for arranging for me to study abroad.
The University of Canterbury College of Education. Thanks to the teaching staff for their support and special thanks to the Henry Field library staff for searches for material for the literature review and their continuing interest in the research.
Thanks to Dr. Missy Morton, Prof. Janinka Greenwood, Prof. John Everatt and Dr. Susan Lovett for their kind advice, friendly support and encouragement to me, which helped me to choose courses and continue my studies.
The principals from Bangladesh, who participated enthusiastically in the study and despite their heavy workloads gave their time freely.
Family, friends, colleagues and neighbours, who have listened, questioned and contributed their thoughts and opinions about leadership in education over the last two years.


Note: A thesis submitted to the University of Canterbury, Christchurch in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Education, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand, 2011


Writer: Lecturer in Education, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Rangpur, Bangladesh.

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