Head Teachers’ Perceptions and Practices of School Leadership in Private Secondary Schools in Sirajganj District, Bangladesh – 13

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Goutam Roy


Training for School Leadership

It is now widely accepted that teachers and head teachers need pre-service, in-service and continuing professional development throughout their careers (Bush & Jackson, 2002). The head teachers in this study realise the importance of training for leadership. They receieved their leadership training from different sources. Bangladesh has a countrywide training network for the school leaders. The government provides some ongoing training for secondary teachers and head teachers. The head teachers in this study recieved their basic training from their Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) program from the Teachers’ Training Colleges (TTCs). There are courses on ‘educational administration and management’ in this program. All of the head teachers have a B.Ed. degree as this is the basic requirement for teaching in Bangladesh. Hasan recalled his training experience at the time of doing B.Ed and stated that he learned many leadership techniques through arranging and attending different types of programmes in the TTC.

Although Teachers Training Colleges are the main source of leadership training, there are other government institutions such as the National Academy for Educational Management (NAEM), Higher Secondary Teachers’ Training Institutes (HSTTIs) and District Education Offices (DEO) that arrange leadership training for the heads of the schools in Bangladesh. There are also some education projects run by the Ministry of Education, including the ‘Teaching Quality Improvement in Secondary Education Project (TQI-SEP)’. This project is for the development of the secondary level teachers and head teachers. The head teachers attend this 21 day training course in HSTTIs as residential trainees, which gives them some time to reflect, without interruption, on their job in the school. Although the head teachers receive different training from different organisations, there is a lack of coordination among the organisations. Moreover, there is no integrated curriculum policy for the training programmes.

In these training programmes the head teachers learn about different aspects of leadership, government education policy, how to teach well, supervision of the teachers and other administrative rules and regulations that apply to schools. The government concentrates on training, re-skilling and certification of the heads. The problem is that the training focuses mostly on management rather than leadership. The training organisations need to have a greater focus on visionary leadership, so that head teachers can develop long term goals of their schools, which would create scope for further improvement of their schools.

Training organisations in Bangladesh need to be more effective and need a greater awareness and understanding of current theory, research and best-practice in school leadership. Coleman and Earley (2005, p. 23) describe some common trends of training programs conducted in different countries:

•    The acknowledgement that leadership is not confined to the principal of the school
•    The development of more integration of leadership programmes across careers
•    The use of many types of learning including virtual learning environments
•    Development programs for teams
•    Using experienced principals as trainers
•    Recognising that schools are learning organisations
•    The need for leadership centres

For the above trends to be taken into consideration in Bangladesh there would need to be a massive reform of head teacher training and development.

Vision for school

An essential requirement of leadership is vision (Duke, 1987). The term ‘vision’ has become prominent in the literature on leadership. The school leaders who took part in this study did not show a clear understanding of the term ‘vision’. Duke (1987) describes a practical example of how school leaders respond to the questions about ‘vision’:

When asked, “What is your vision for this school – your long range goals and expectations?”, more effective principals listed a variety of goals related to meeting the learning needs of all students, helping teachers adjust to changing school populations, raising test scores, and the like. Less-effective principals “usually responded with a long pause and then a non-specific statement, such as, ‘We have a good school and a good faculty, and I want us to keep it that way’…In short, the less-effective principals had no vision for their schools; they focused on maintaining tranquillity in here and now” (p. 51).
There were similar responses from the head teachers in this study. They expressed few long term goals. They confined their expectations to ‘a result oriented school’. School leaders should focus on the quality of education in a broad sense. If school leaders in Bangladesh are to provide quality education they need to focus on more than good academic achievement. They also need to consider a curriculum that develops in students a strong foundation of positive attitude towards life, good moral values and life skills. If the results of the public examination become the only criteria for ‘best performance’, students are unlikely to learn about the many other aspects of life which are very significant for them personally and for the future of Bangladeshi society. 

Formulating a vision and communicating it to the stakeholders of the school provides a framework for making decisions (Farina & Kotch, 2008). The participants of this study want to have positive change in their schools. They have dreams for their schools, but, as described above, their thinking regarding the future of the school was mostly oriented to good results in public examinations.  In Bangladesh people want good academic results from their children. All parents and head teachers want their school to be in the top position for public examination results. Moreover, the education authorities (MoE, BISE, and DEO) rank the secondary schools according to the results of the public examinations. There is competition among the head teachers to be in the top position. All the participants said that they want to be first in their district.

The participants also want to develop their schools as ‘ideal schools’ of the area. People from the local area want their children to be admitted to the best school. The head teachers want to meet the expectations of the local people. Ideal schools are expected to have sufficient physical infrastructure, expert teaching staff and good discipline of the students.

Another goal of many educators is to develop information and communication technology (ICT) in schools. Karim said that he wants to produce ICT capable graduates in his school. In this age of digitalisation and globalisation, the government and head teachers, such as Karim, do not want their schools to fall behind the rest of the world. Karim put much importance in introducing ICT as a subject in his school. He sees ICT education as one of the most effective ways to produce an IT-educated generation for the future. The present government has declared it aims to build up the country as ‘digital Bangladesh’. Similarly, Karim has a vision and long-term goal of producing students with digital knowledge and skills so that they can contribute to the nation and lead the nation to further development. He wants to develop information and communication technology in his school so that future generations in Bangladesh can play their part in a rapidly changing, global world.

Head teacher and Assistant Head Teacher

Assistant head teachers are the deputy leaders of the school. The head teachers work closely with the assistant head teachers. When the head teacher is absent, the assistant head teacher deputises as the acting head of the school. Therefore, it is very important to have an effective working relationship between these two people. Out of four head teachers interviewed, three of them did not have an assistant head teacher in their school at the time of this study. Although they did not have an assistant, they reported that an assistant head teacher is very important for the smooth operation of the school, because the assistant head teachers support the head teachers in doing the day to day work of the school.

In Bangladesh senior teachers are usually promoted to the post of assistant head teacher within the school or sometimes they are recruited from outside the school. In Bangladeshi private secondary schools the head teachers generally delegate certain responsibilities to their deputies, such as preparing class timetables, examination timetables, examination papers and the management of relieving teachers. In some cases the head teachers do not have a good relationship with their assistant. Shahid said that his assistant does not co-operate with him whole heartedly and that this situation is not healthy for the school. To improve the school there should be a team spirit among the staff members. The head teachers and assistant head teachers need to work closely together so that other members of the school can have confidence in them to work as a team.

In the hierarchy of the school administration, the assistant head teacher is the second person to lead the school. Therefore, becoming an assistant head teacher is a vital step for teachers who aspire to be head teachers. Karim and Shahid, two participants in this study, have been suffering from not having assistant head teachers in their schools. They said that there is competitiveness among the teachers to be the assistant head teachers of the school and that this sometimes creates an unhealthy situation as they lobby for the promotion. Sometimes the school managing committee does not play a fair role in appointing the deputy and this can result in further clashes. The timely appointment of assistant head teachers in the vacant post can inspire the senior teachers to work with confidence.

SHEIKH MOHAMMAD ALI: Senior Lecturer,Teaching & Learning Centre (TLC), BRAC University, 66 Mohakhali, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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Goutam Roy

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