Head Teachers’ Perceptions and Practices of School Leadership in Private Secondary Schools in Sirajganj District, Bangladesh – 10

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Goutam Roy

Head teacher and the teachers
All the head teachers were happy with their teaching staff. They believe that they work closely with their teachers. The head teachers were asked about the ways they work with their teachers. All the head teachers said that they supervise the teachers through observation of their teaching. Shahid states: “I do staff meeting once a week. I observe the classes of the teachers. I try to ensure whether they teach in modern methods of teaching. I advise them accordingly after the observations”.

Hasan works in a slightly different way from Shahid. He makes some time everyday to observe teachers’ classes. He takes confidential notes while observing the sessions. In the afternoon all the teachers meet together to discuss the teaching and learning activities of the day. He also meets with the teachers on the last day of the week (Thursday). Hasan explained about the meeting as:

We sit together for analysing our work of the week in the meeting. We discuss how we can improve our teaching. As a head teacher I never find faults with the teachers. I just advise them how they can improve more as classroom teachers. I think that I am not a master of all the subjects. I feel that they know more than me in some issues. I suggest them to read some article related to their professional development.

Hasan believes: “A real teacher should remain a student throughout his life. Therefore I want my teachers to study for their professional development”.

Rahim has taken some different initiatives to encourage the teachers with their professional development. He has declared prizes for the teachers for their good work. Teachers are entitled to take casual leave for 20 days a year. The teacher who takes the least casual leave in a year gets the prize. On the other hand the teacher who uses effective teaching materials in the classroom teaching gets the ‘best teaching award’ from the school authority. Furthermore a ‘best performing teacher’ award is given to a teacher each year whose performance is considered the best overall. He believes, “if we take these steps for the teachers they would be encouraged for better future performance and ultimately the students would be benefited from it”.

When Karim was asked about his working relationship with the teachers he reacted differently. He raised the issue of sincerity of the assistant teachers of the school. He expressed his concern: “I have to say there is a problem regarding the sincerity of the assistant teachers. This is an unfortunate matter. The teachers are getting salary at the rate of Tk.11,000/- per month. When I joined as an assistant teacher I used to draw a salary of Tk.130/- per month. The salary has been increased a lot. Those who are drawing Tk.11,000/- now are not doing their duties accordingly. They are much aware of their rights and benefits but not committed to doing their job properly.”

Karim also said that when the head teacher tries to ensure accountability of the teachers it creates a psychological conflict with them. He also observes the classes and meets with the teachers twice a month to discuss the professional development works.

The head teachers in this study reported that they work as the team leader in their schools. They supervise the activities of the teachers in a friendly way. As the leaders of the schools they discuss matters with the teachers before making decisions. The head teachers expect a positive approach and commitment to the profession from the teachers. To ensure accountability, the leaders of the schools keep themselves involved in academic and administrative matters so that they can do the best for the school.

Head teachers and students
All the head teachers in this study said that they are friendly to the students. They believe that students are their first concern. Concerning his responsibility towards students as the head of the school, Shahid said: “We have assembly before going to the classes. I attend the assembly every day and speak something to the students in a big group. Besides I go to their classes and talk to them. I ask them if they have any demand, and complaints. I discuss with them for the possible solution. I advise them regarding their activities, dress up, behaviour.”

He also expressed his confidence in his friendly relationship with the students: “I always behave well and friendly with the pupils. Both the boys and girls can talk to me frankly. Students share their problems with me which they cannot or would not like to share with other teachers at all. I try to solve those problems by discussing with the teaching staff.”

Hasan said that he is very helpful to the students. He thinks that students are the heart of the school. He described how he takes care of students: “My students can tell me frankly about their problems. Suppose, a student is not able to pay his school fees and if he/she tells me that, I do contact with the parents and discuss how school authority can help them. If any student is misguided, I think that it is our duty to bring him back to the track. I believe that every student has potential inside them and it is our duty to find it out.”

Rahim is also caring of the students. He thinks that he loves the students as a father loves his children. When asked how he takes care of the students, he stated: “I make some time to visit each class to talk to the students about their problems. I ask them whether they are enjoying the lectures of the teachers. If they tell me about any specific teacher problem I try to solve the issue as soon as possible.”

Karim thinks that he has a spiritual relationship with his students. He expressed his belief as: “From class six to class ten I have a good spiritual relation with all the students. They all obey my words, listen attentively what I say. To the students, sometimes I am an administrator, sometimes their father, sometimes their friend.”

All the head teachers were concerned about their students and take good care of them. The head teachers make some time to go to the students to know they are getting on at school. They think that students can speak frankly to them. They believe that they represent themselves in different roles in different situations – like a friend, a guardian, a guide or an administrator. The head teachers try their best to attend to the students’ needs.

Head teachers and Bureaucracy
Bangladesh is a developing country with a population of 140 million. It has so many schools that the government is under huge pressure to finance and control them. To manage this number of schools the government has a wide network of offices all over the country. Private secondary schools are mostly financed from the government budget. Therefore government education offices have control over the schools. One issue explored in this research is the relationship between the education offices and school heads. The head teachers said that they follow the government instructions in the organisation of the school. Hasan explained the relationship between the two parties as: “Different government institutions are working to implement the ‘government formula’. We execute their orders with honour. We try to work smoothly with them so that no ‘deadlock’ is created. If I do not maintain the chain of command my school will suffer. We want to do the government work in a regular manner. If we have any problem, we discuss them openly with the officer.”

Hasan seems to be more technical and tactful with the government offices. He thinks that it is not possible to enjoy one hundred percent freedom in his work, as he has to comply with the government directions and orders. He explained clearly how he works with the government offices: “To me it is skilful work to maintain good liaison with the government offices. It is my duty to go ahead with the school by maintaining liaison with the education offices”.

Karim said that the critical problem the head teachers face is how to work with the government offices. He said there is political pressure on him to implement their agenda. The ruling party have their influence on the government offices. He stated: “In this situation the head teacher cannot take his decision freely. He has to bow his head to the political pressure. The teachers feel distress at that time”.

The head teachers express their concern over the official procedures of work. The education related offices issue letters to collect information from the school time to time. Most of the time the school authorities do not recieve these in time and they are often given a very short time to submit the information. The education office creates pressure to recieve the information back from the school. Karim explained: “Government education offices ask for information within a very short period of time. Even they give us one working day to submit a lot of data which is very hard for us. Another problem is that they write letters to us for the same information again and again although we have submitted that information earlier in both hard copy and soft copy. This practice must be stopped.”

The head teachers accept the necessity of supervision by the government authorities, as the Ministry of Education pays the salary of the teachers, but sometimes they are disturbed by the authoritative behaviour of the government officers. The approach of the government authorities also limits the head teachers’ freedom to make decisions regarding what they see as best for their schools.

Head teachers and the School Managing Committee
The School Managing Committee (SMC) is the highest authority in the school to make decisions on different issues related to the school. Each School Managing Committee consists of thirteen members. Shahid, a head teacher of an urban school, explained his experience of SMC as: “The chairman of the managing committee of my school is a government officer. He is very busy most of the time. When we want to meet him for our purpose he might be very busy. Sometimes we do not find him in good mood as he does much administrative works of the locality. Some officers are good; they help us in all regard. But we get some officers as the chairman of the managing committee who think themselves as a ‘high level bureaucrat’. They underestimate us and do not like to cooperate fully with us. They try to avoid us. Sometimes they like to do the regular SMC meeting in their office; not in the school premises.”

Most of the head teachers want the SMC members who represent the parents or local community to be educated, as they believe that if the members are not educated they cannot contribute fully in the area of education. The head teachers reported that in the rural areas illiterate people sometimes become members of the SMC and that they have difficulty understanding and deciding on matters related to school management. Hasan emphasized the issue as: “This is a very important issue. To advise the graduate head teachers the SMC members must be educated. Otherwise there are clashes between the head teacher and the members. This hampers the progress of the school. I think there should be a criterion of minimum educational qualifications for the members of the committee.”

Hasan also thinks that in a democratic society anybody can be elected to a SMC position if they are popular with the people. However, he questions how an uneducated person can contribute fully to SMC if he/she does not understand what is happening inside the school. Rahim’s experience with SMC is different from Hasan’s. He had some positive experiences regarding the SMC. He thinks that the situation is not the same in all the schools. He stated: “In all the schools the situation is not the same. If the members are aware enough and have mutual respect then discussion among the members of the committee can solve all the issues. If the head teacher is skilled enough to run the school then SMC members will not poke their nose all the time.”

Rahim, however, also thinks that it would be better if educated people were elected as the members of the committee. He also raised the issue of political influence on school management. According to Rahim: “In 75 percent of cases it has political influence to select members for the school managing committee. People who have liaison with the ruling party they lobby to be the member of the committee. This practice should be stopped.”

The head teachers explained that there are two types of members in the SMC: government officers and political leaders. The government officers are from the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS) Administration. They are very busy with their work as local administrators, so they cannot make enough time to work for the schools. Moreover, they have a bureaucratic mindset which is not acceptable to the head teachers. Political leaders want to be the members of the SMC in order to have an authoritative role in the community. The process of selection or election should be fair so that those who can make a positive contribution to the school development have a chance to be elected.

SHEIKH MOHAMMAD ALI: Assistant Professor in Education, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Rangpur, Bangladesh.

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Goutam Roy

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