Head Teachers’ Perceptions and Practices of School Leadership in Private Secondary Schools in Sirajganj District, Bangladesh – 2

Bangladesh Education Article
Bangladesh Education Article
Written by Goutam Roy

Definition of Terms
Authors and practitioners currently use a variety educational and leadership terms that are interpreted in various ways. To clarify this research project, the following terms and interpretations are used consistently throughout the document.

Head teacher: Head teachers have responsibility for leading and managing schools. Internationally head teachers are referred to as principals. As ‘head teacher’ is the common term in Bangladesh that title is used in this research.

Assistant head teacher: Assistant head teachers assist the head teachers in their day to day work. They are the deputies of the head teachers.

Private schools: Private schools are those which are established by private funding and managed by a private authority. These schools are supervised by a local authority which is called the ‘School Managing Committee (SMC)’ in Bangladesh. Most of these schools receive the teachers’ salaries from the government.

Sirajganj district: Sirajganj is the name of an administrative district in Bangladesh. It is one of the 64 districts of the country. It is 110 kilometres from the capital city of the country.

Secondary teachers: Secondary school teachers in Bangladesh are generally graduates from a university. They are recruited by the school managing committees, according to the recruitment rules of the Ministry of Education of the government.

Student outcomes: Student outcomes refer to the achievement of secondary school students in their learning. It refers not only to examination results but also the overall learning of the students.

Literature Review
This chapter reviews the literature that informs the study and practice of school leadership from an international perspective. The chapter begins by defining school leadership. Different styles of leadership, with a brief description of each, are then investigated in terms of contemporary educational research. Following this, the concepts of ‘leadership’ and ‘management’ are compared. Then the idea of distributed leadership is investigated. Finally the influence of parental involvement on school leadership and the way leadership can affect change and school improvement is discussed, with reference to current literature.

In search of school leadership
Teaching today is increasingly complex work, requiring the highest standards of professional practice for high performance (Harris and Muijs, 2005). Teaching is the core profession which can change society. Teachers are the builders of the knowledge society. Leaders of schools can change schools and society through their strong influence. Harris and Muijs (2005) state:

Leadership can be defined as providing vision, direction and support towards a different and preferred state – suggesting change. Thus, leadership, change and school improvement are closely related. It could be said that leaders are the change makers and don’t necessarily need to reside at the top of the organisation (p. 15).

Development of leadership at all levels is one of the crucial elements of school improvement. In particular, schools must be led by principals who coordinate the day-to-day work to implement the mission of their organizations. Leaders must have vision to take the school to the position that all the stakeholders expect. Leaders should inspire the teachers to make the vision a success. Cammock (2001) says:

The world needs skilful leaders who can create powerful and positive visions of the future: leaders who can engage people in support of such visions and motivate them to enact those visions for the betterment of their organisations or societies. Leadership of this kind requires tremendous skill, skill that will always be in short supply (p. 28).

If traditions and beliefs surrounding leadership are considered, it is easy to understand that leadership is vital to the effectiveness of a school (Marzano, Waters & Mcnulty, 2005). School effectiveness is now usually defined in terms of student outcomes (Creese & Earley, 1999). School improvement research has shown that leadership is important in producing good student outcomes (Harris, 2002). Robinson (2004) notes the changing focus of educational leadership by tracing the development of educational leadership theory and research over recent decades, observing three significant overall shifts:

1. From generic to educational leadership – recognises that educational expertise and experience are important for the many aspects of educational leadership which are specific to schools and schooling;
2. From leadership style to leadership practice – focuses on identifying the leadership practices that make a difference to teaching and learning, enabling much improved professional learning and development for educational leaders; and
3. From a heroic to a distributed conception of leadership – recognises schools as complex organisations that need leadership capacity at all levels if they are to function effectively.

Robinson argues that these shifts have significant implications for both the research and practice of educational leadership. Overall, she views these changes as having the potential to deliver both research and leadership practice which make a positive difference to the quality of teaching and learning.

Styles of leadership
Much research has been conducted on leadership in education. Researchers have investigated various approaches to leadership practice. According to the review of Leithwood and his colleagues (Coleman & Earley, 2005) there are six broad categories or styles of leadership which represent the models of leadership in educational institutions:

  • Instructional leadership
  • Transformational leadership
  • Moral leadership
  • Participative leadership
  • Managerial leadership
  • Contingent leadership (p.14).

When the principal’s focus is on the learning of students, this approach is called instructional or pedagogical leadership. It is also referred to as “learning-centred leadership”, when the focus is on good teaching, effective learning and student achievement (Coleman & Earley, 2005). In this type of leadership the main concerns of the principals are likely to be the curriculum, teaching and learning processes and monitoring of students’ learning. Teachers can improve their effectiveness through the guidance of the leaders.

Transformational leadership is an approach where leaders are able to inspire their teachers with a vision that energises them and encourages them to work together towards a common good (Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009). In such an approach, the leaders consider the importance of others rather than their personal needs. They inspire their followers by communicating the vision of the organisation. They encourage innovation and creativity of the staff (Coleman & Earley, 2005). These practices influence the way teachers do work for their schools. Transformational leaders are thought to employ four influence processes:

  • Individualised consideration: giving personal attention to individual staff so that they feel uniquely valued.
  • Intellectual stimulation: encouraging creativity and new ways of thinking about old issues.
  • Inspirational motivation: communicating optimism and high expectations.
  • Idealised influence: providing a vision and a sense of purpose that elicit trust and respect from followers (Robinson, Hohepa & Lloyd, 2009).

Moral leadership is an approach that is founded on the importance of values and morality. Values play an important part in constructing leaders’ mindscapes and in determining their leadership practices (Sergiovanni, 1992). This kind of leadership aims for morally justified actions and democracy in schools. To develop democratic behaviour of students and teachers, democratic values are used in the classroom (Coleman & Earley, 2005).

Participative leadership is focused on democracy in schools and on the sharing of decision making within them (Coleman & Earley, 2005). Leadership is distributed among the teachers. This helps to create a co-operative atmosphere in the schools. Schools become more democratic through the practice of participative decision making and actions. Leadership requires participation from everyone so that all members are engaged in creating a meaning and acting on that meaning (Darth and Palus, 1994, as mentioned in Bennet, Crawford and Cartwright, 2003).

Managerial leadership is a formal approach that focuses on efficient achievement of goals. This approach to leadership may also be called transactional, technical or organisational leadership. This style of leadership is seen as bureaucratic and hierarchical (Coleman & Earley, 2005). Everything is done in a formal way and administrative actions are dominant in this style.

In Bangladesh a managerial style of leadership, that uses power and authority to compel others to do what they are asked to do (Kimmelman, 2010) is practiced in many schools. Head teachers keep themselves busy with administration and official issues rather than focussing on issues relating directly to teaching and learning. The difference between leadership and management is discussed in the following section.

Contingent leadership stresses the variation in response of leaders to various situations. Leaders aim at increasing capacity of the organisation to respond productively to demand for change needed for development (Coleman & Earley, 2005). It places importance on responding to various situations in the schools. Principals respond effectively to solve the problems according to the needs of the specific situation.

Each leadership style has its own characteristics. What might be the most appropriate approach depends on the school context. The environment in which leaders work obviously influences leadership. Leadership is contingent on context.  Hallinger & Heck (1996) state that it is “virtually meaningless to study principal leadership without reference to the school context” (p.14). Principals should be context educated; as that understanding is very important and significant for effective leadership in schools.

The styles outlined above are practised, in whole or in part, by educational leaders according to their preferences, needs and contexts. To become successful leaders in schools it is important that head teachers understand these ideas and practices in relation to their school context.

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

About the author

Goutam Roy

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