Educational institutions need effective leadership in order to implement positive and desirable changes. Policy makers all over the world are now determined to enhance the capacity of educational institutions for sustainable growth of knowledge and skill. To achieve this, educational leaders can play a vital role. Harris and Muijs (2005) explain:
In England and many other western countries, there has been a renewed interest in the power of leadership to generate and sustain school improvement. A premium has been placed upon the potential of school leadership to contribute to school improvement and to create the conditions in which the best teaching and learning can occur (p. 4).
Educational reforms can reshape the education systems to attain long term targets, but educational reforms are not easy to put in place. It takes a long time to bring changes in management administration, curriculum development, qualifications and assessment. Effective leadership in schools helps enable implementation of educational reforms.
Reform is necessary in order to have sustainable education systems. Fullan (2009) has suggested system reform which has six components:
1. Direction and sector engagement
2. Capacity building linked to results
3. Development of leaders at all levels
4. Manage the distracters
5. Continuous inquiry regarding results
6. Two way communication
First, direction and sector engagement involves direction from the top combined with partnership within the field (schools and district offices). It is neither top-down nor bottom-up, but rather a blended strategy. It involves an overall vision, a small number of ambitious and publicly stated goals, a guiding coalition (a leadership team at the top who work together), investment of resources, and a sense of flexibility with the field (schools and districts).
Second, instead of leading by insisting on accountability or compliance, which is currently commonplace in Bangladesh, capacity building is at the heart of the strategies. This component consists of actions that mobilize capacity, defined as new knowledge, skills and competencies.
Third, it is very important to develop leaders at all levels, for example, school leaders, district staff, and state or province department staff. All aspects of the work require strong leadership to support and propel the system.
Fourth, it is important to manage the distractions. In complex political systems, distractions are inevitable. Political pressure to recruit partisan candidates as teachers, budget allocation in favour of schools, and appointment of head teachers are all common problems in a developing country such as Bangladesh. Leaders need to face and resolve those issues with skill.
Fifth, it is important to engage in continuous evaluation and enquiry into effective practices, what can be learned from specific examples of school and district success, and how this can be spread across the system.
Finally, there should always be two-way communication between the government and the schools and district offices. This serves simultaneously to communicate the vision, to detect and respond to problems, and to mark and celebrate success.
Fullan’s criteria for school reform are an ideal to which Bangladesh could aspire; however, it is a long way from current practice of school leadership. The Ministry of Education and the schools need to have a common longterm vision in order for leaders to make positive changes in education. Thoughtful investment of resources by the government and flexibility at the field level can facilitate the change process. Knowledge, skills and competencies should be the main area of concentration for accountability in educational administration. Developing leaders for the future is also very important. Leaders can learn from the current implementation process which may help them to avoid the same problems in future. It is also important to have a process of continuous evaluation to identify best practice and to implement this in the future. Last but not the least is the necessity of effective communication between the school and the government. Effective communication would help establish a common vision for the organisation.
Leadership is a crucial component of school improvement. One style of leadership may not fit well in all contexts or for all situations. Transformational leadership, pedagogical leadership, distributed leadership, moral leadership, and managerial leadership all have a place, depending on the leader, situation and context. Effective leadership practices play an important role in school improvement and change. Although it would appear that a managerial approach to leadership is predominant in Bangladeshi secondary schools, there is little research to confirm this. 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 professional development and school improvement.
The literature discussed in this chapter shows that an important aspect of leadership is to provide vision, direction and support to improve schools. To effect positive changes school leaders need powerful and positive visions of the future. Leaders have different styles, which can be defined in terms of educational leadership theory. The literature also shows that leadership style and practice depends greatly on the national and local school context. It is evident that strong and effective school leadership can produce ongoing school improvement by providing direction, capacity building, teacher development, conflict management, action research and effective communication.
Writer: Assistant Professor in Education, Govt. Teachers’ Training College, Rangpur, Bangladesh.