26 SES 11 B, To Learn from Similarities and Variations- Country Specific Research on Principals Role. Work and Leadership 2
The field of research on school leadership is not really developed in France. Studies investigate the cultural and social characteristics of principals at work with respect to their social identity, professionalization, ethics and deontology, but not really the multiple dimensions of their activities in schools. Professional literature dominates over research papers and the concept of management is not very popular among educators and academics. It is considered as connoted to business and market and opposed to the values of public services. French principals view themselves as “administrators” or “representatives of the State” and they are concerned to apply national legislation and ministry’s directives. Under this bureaucratic top-down hierarchy, the idea of leadership encounters some limitations. Even if this notion is implicitly present within official instructions that define principals as “pedagogical and educative pilots” of schools, these executives lack legitimacy to act on teaching and learning issues which remain in the hands of State inspectors. So, leadership is recognized not as an official function, but through an implicit and blurred sense of professionalism expressed sometimes by professionals as “personal charisma”, “sense of dialogue”, “proximity”. “Authority” and “responsibility” are the main social representations allowing principals to define their “missions” as public servants.
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