33 SES 06 A, Gender and Leadership in Education
This paper centres on the preparation of leadership personnel within religiously managing convent schools in Pakistan and India. The overall project includes a needs analysis of teachers working the schools in order to design an appropriate and relevant programme of continuing professional development to support them in their teaching work. However we begin by investigating the current leadership and administration of the schools and the extent of continuing professional development provided to them upon promotion.
Studies on the preparation of school leaders in low- and middle-income contexts are few, possibly reflective of the lack of formal principal preparation programmes. The role is complex; “the new principal has to learn basic practical managerial skills, diagnose the school culture and environment, develop leadership capabilities and devise a new school vision” (Oplatka, 2012). Instructing and preparing new principals need to address this complexity of tasks in formal learning environments, but also provide support and guidance for new leaders. Rarieya (2007) highlights the female support system and the availability of female role leaders are crucial elements for school principals in Kenya and Pakistan.
Oplatka describes reviews twenty‐seven papers on influences on principalship in developing world contexts. Many of these principals experience the challenge of limited autonomy, autocratic and hierarchal leadership styles and low degrees of change initiation (Oplatka, 2004). Mohammad and Harlech-Jones describe how ‘teachers are compelled to follow instructions of their school heads and other professional seniors, usually suppressing their individual potential and eschewing creative thinking … teachers are expected to follow prescriptions without any deviations’ (2008, p 534).
In the context of Sustainable Development Goal 4, to “ensure inclusivity and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning” (UNESCO, 2015) with its associated targets for education, there is an imperative to ensure school principals are prepared and supported for leading educational reforms within their schools.
The study utilises a mixed methods approach, with in-depth interviews and an anonymous online survey. Assurances of confidentiality (interview participants), anonymity (survey participants) and evidence of full ethical approval from the institution in which the study was based was given to each participant. Signed informed consent forms were collected from interview participants. This survey was distributed by email in May 2019, to four schools in each country. The schools were selected on the basis on staff numbers, in order to maximize the potential responses. Survey questions asked about participant characteristics (including age, gender, highest qualification and length of teaching service), and addressed their experiences of continuing professional development opportunities and its impact; concluding by ranking a number of challenges encountered by teachers who wish to undertake professional development through their careers. In total, 136 survey responses were received. The current analysis focuses on responses from women in a leadership role (n=68; 50%). On the qualitative side of the data collection, 20 interviews were conducted. All interview participants were Principals in schools in Pakistan or India, working in one or more schools during their careers. The interviews examine the history of leadership promotion, the extent of leadership preparation offered, and provide insights into the cultural and social environment of these schools. The interviews were transcribed and analysed using Listening Guide framework (Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg and Bertsch 2005; Gilligan and Eddy 2017). This voice-centered relational method of data analysis centres on four listening and cycles of data analysis.
Within this sub-sample, participants had a mean age of 39 years and 67% were educated to Master’s level. The mean length of teaching experience was 15 years. Over half of participants were secondary teachers, and 28% taught at primary level. When asked about preparation of their leadership role, 26% had completed formal education courses, and 23% had completed training courses. Just over a third (36%) said they had received mentoring by an experienced school leader. Half the respondents (51%) felt that experience in work other than teaching had prepared them for leadership, while 57% felt that their teaching experience had prepared them. In the interviews with school leaders, support was provided to new school leaders but little preparation as highlighted in the title quote. Many spoke of the need to ‘learn on the job’, by doing the necessary tasks, with much support from former religious school leaders. Two mentioned how they learned the administrative tasks and procedures from office clerks and support staff. Prior experience in school administration such as examination enrolment and processing, preparing attendance records, and organising school activities was also highlighted. Others highlighted their own abilities and experience as preparing them. When asked about specific forms of professional development, two interviewees described a leadership programme they attended. Others mentioned school wide values-based programmes. To conclude, the job description for school leaders is complex with varying tasks of people management, administration, managing learning and teacher work as well as representing the school in the wider community. Preparation for this complex role needs to address all these areas, but also informal mechanisms of support and guidance from former school leaders are essential. The mentoring provided by former school leaders is perceived to be key to the success of the current school leaders in the schools in this research.
Mohammad, R.F. and Harlech-Jones, B. (2008) Working as partners for classroom reform. International Journal of Educational Development, 28(5), 534-545. doi.org/10.1016/j.ijedudev.2008.01.006 Oplatka, I. (2004) The principalship in developing countries: context, characteristics and reality. Comparative Education, 30(3), 427-448. doi.org/10.1080/0305006042000274872 Oplatka, I. (2012) The principalship in developing countries: context, characteristics and reality. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 15(2), 129-151. doi.org/10.1080/13603124.2011.640943 Rarieya, J.F.A. (2007) Women in educational leadership: A comparison of Kenyan and Pakistani women educational leaders. Quality in education: Teaching and leadership in challenging times. Karachi: Professional Development Centre. Available at: https://ecommons.aku.edu/book_chapters/85/
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