Changing Roles of School Principals – Ali Khwaja

Today, a principal or head of an educational institution is no longer the venerable and respected master, who spends his initial three decades as a teacher and occupies the principal’s chamber for the last few years, managing a decade-old institution whose norms, rules and traditions are well laid out.

Currently, we have corporate schools, institutions promoted by industrial groups in their colonies and by individuals who invest their own money or take a loan to set up educational institutions. We have highly educated and very quality conscious parents who want the best for their wards. And we have more single-child families with the parents’ lives revolving around their only offspring. The irony is that such parents are mostly DISK (Double Income Single Kid) families, leading very busy and stressful lives, yet expecting their child to get an all-round upbringing along with good education in the school.

Gone are the teachers who would spend their entire life in one school right up to their retirement. Teachers keep leaving every year — for better avenues (and fierce competition among schools means very tempting offers for efficient teachers), or because they wish to stop working and look after their children, and others due to transfers of their spouses. This adds to the burden of the principal who is perpetually trying to reduce attrition and simultaneously recruiting, training and orienting new teachers every year.

Due to a spate of media reports of molestation of kids in schools recently, the police and education department are constantly breathing down the neck of all educational institutions. Many principals spend sleepless nights wondering if they will be arrested and put behind bars for some misdemeanor which might have slipped their notice.

But ultimately, the fact remains that heading an educational institution can be very fulfilling — seeing a new generation blossom every year, leading a team of teachers who are responsible for bringing out the best potential of children, and knowing that he or she is working for betterment of the society and country and so on and so forth. Hence, any person who is heading, or is aspiring to head an educational institution should be properly prepared, trained and guided to handle the multifarious challenges that will accost him. These include:

Learning the basics of human resource management. Good personnel management automatically ensures harmony and better efficiency. Skills required would
include interviewing, recruitment, motivation, prevention of attrition, exit interviews.

Leadership traits to improve teamwork and achieve better synergy amongst the teachers. Skill of empathy to understand what goes on in the minds of students, teachers and parents and inventing activities for better bonding between children and teachers.

n Bringing variety into the routine of academics to prevent stagnation and boredom. Motivation through awareness of why education is also important.

n Stress management, balancing work and personal life. Ability to deal with government or school authorities with least distress and multitasking is also necessary.

n At least a concise version of management skills related to marketing, finance and operations management would be appreciated. It is a fact that most managements are greatly concerned about their growth, annual enrolments and profit margins. The principal can be abreast of these factors if he is properly trained, even though the activities are implemented by qualified professionals.

n Networking with other institutions and their heads, sharing experiences, keeping abreast of latest changes in rules and regulations, pedagogy and current affairs. If possible, upgrading qualifications and skills from time to time also helps.

n Basic skills of counselling and psycho-therapy in order to deal with emotional and interpersonal issues of each of the stakeholders in education and to diffuse potentially disturbing situations.

n Developing a visionary outlook, being able to see and think outside the box, plan for the future, including crisis management. This should also include some inputs into ethics and values, since upholding the highest standards is not only essential for producing good student-citizens, but also goes a long way in building up a strong reputation, ensuring long-term credibility and success for the institution.

While BEd is compulsory for most teachers, and MEd does give some insights into management of education, the time has come to develop more advanced, current and practical training for heads of institutions. Recent positive developments have seen the establishment of new institutions and courses specialising in education management. If all aspiring and existing heads of institutions are given opportunity to avail of such courses and then provided internship under the tutelage of a proven and experienced head of an institution, they will be able to manage the 21st century educational institutions with great efficiency.

Courses in education management

The following is a representative list of courses in education management:

G D Goenka University, Gurgaon, http://www.gdgoenkauniversity.com.
Regional Institute of Education, Mysore, nnprahallad@yahoo.co.in.
National University of Educational Planning and Administration, New Delhi, http://www.nuepa.org.

Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, http://www.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in.
Indian Institute of Education, Pune, http://www.iiepune.org.
There are many distance learning courses offered by universities in the country:
Indian Soc for Training & Development, New Delhi, http://www.istdtrg.org.
Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, http://www.mkudde.org.
Annamalai University, Annamalai, http://www.annamalaiuniversity.ac.in.
Karnataka State Open University, Mysore, http://www.ksoumysore.com.
Symbiosis Center for Distance Learning, Pune, http://www.scdl.net.
University of Mumbai, Mumbai, http://www.mu.ac.in/idol.

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