27 August 2015

Ethiopia: Leadership and Education

New year is coming and so is the new academic year. Careers in educational leadership can be found at all levels of education ranging from per-school programme directors to academic deans at universities. At the college or university level, educational leaders are employed as department chairs, athletic or curriculum directors. At primary and secondary schools, educational leaders work as principals, assistant principals, athletic directors, headmasters, lead teachers or deans. Other educational leaders work with advocacy groups, lobby groups or other non-profit organization on creating or reforming policy and educational systems.

Educational leaders are school administrators who strive to create positive change in educational policy and processes. This piece discusses educational leadership and some of the roles these leaders play. Schools offering Education - Organizational Leadership degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

School leaders deal with a wide variety of competing tasks throughout each day. Add in long meetings and frequent interruptions demanding immediate response and it gets very difficult to perform the most important leadership role such as improving teaching and learning outcomes of the school. School leadership is now getting an education policy priority around the world. Increased school autonomy and a greater focus on schooling and school results have made it essential to reconsider the role of school leaders. There is much room for improvement to professionalize school leadership, to support current school leaders and to make school leadership an attractive career for future candidates. The ageing of current principals and the widespread shortage of qualified candidates to replace them after retirement make it abjuratory to take action.

School leadership has become a priority in education policy agendas internationally. It plays a key role in improving school outcomes by influencing the motivations and capacities of teachers, as well as the school climate and environment. Effective school leadership is essential to improve the efficiency and equity of schooling. As countries are seeking to adapt their education systems to the needs of contemporary society, expectations for schools and school leaders are changing. Many countries have moved towards decentralization, making schools more autonomous in their decision making and holding them more accountable for results. At the same time, the requirement to improve overall student performance while serving more diverse student populations is putting schools under pressure to use more evidence-based teaching practices.

As a result of these trends, the function of school leadership across countries is now increasingly defined by a demanding set of roles which include financial and human resource management and leadership for learning. There are concerns across countries that the role of principal as conceived for needs of the past is no longer appropriate. In many countries, principals have heavy workloads; many are reaching retirement and it is getting harder to replace them. Potential candidates often hesitate to apply, because of overburdened roles, insufficient preparation and training, limited career prospects and inadequate support and rewards. These developments have made school leadership a priority in education systems across the world. Policy makers need to enhance the quality of school leadership and make it sustainable.

Researchers on the field have identified four main policy levers which, taken together, can improve school leadership practice: one (Re)define school leadership responsibilities. Research has shown that school leaders can make a difference in school and student performance if they are granted autonomy to make important decisions. However, autonomy alone does not automatically lead to improvements unless it is well supported. In addition, it is important that the core responsibilities of school leaders be clearly defined and delimited. School leadership responsibilities should be defined through an understanding of the practices most likely to improve teaching and learning. Policy makers need to:Provide higher degrees of autonomy with appropriate support School leaders need time, capacity and support to focus on the practices most likely to improve student learning. Greater degrees of autonomy should be coupled with new models of distributed leadership, new types of accountability and training and development for school leadership. Redefine school leadership responsibilities for improved student learning policy makers and practitioners need to ensure that the roles and responsibilities associated with improved learning outcomes are at the core of school leadership practice.

This piece also identifies four major domains of responsibility as key for school leadership to improve student outcomes: Supporting, evaluating and developing teacher quality: School leaders have to be able to adapt the teaching programme to local needs, promote teamwork among teachers and engage in teacher monitoring, evaluation and professional development. Goal-setting, assessment and accountability: Policy makers need to ensure that school leaders have discretion in setting strategic direction and optimize their capacity to develop school plans and goals and monitor progress, using data to improve practice. Strategic financial and human resource management : Policy makers can enhance the financial management skills of school leadership teams by providing training to school leaders, establishing the role of a financial manager within the leadership team, or providing financial support services to schools. In addition, school leaders should be able to influence teacher recruitment decisions to improve the match between candidates and their school's needs. Collaborating with other schools: This new leadership dimension needs to be recognized as a specific role for school leaders. It can bring benefits to school systems as a whole rather than just the students of a single school. But school leaders need to develop their skills to become involved in matters beyond their school borders.

Develop school leadership frameworks for improved policy and practice School leadership frameworks can help provide guidance on the main characteristics, tasks and responsibilities of effective school leaders and signal the essential character of school leadership as leadership for learning. They can be a basis for consistent recruitment, training and appraisal of school leaders. Frameworks should clearly define the major domains of responsibility for school leaders and allow for contextualization of local and school-level criteria. They should be developed with involvement by the profession.


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