By Roli S
The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the limits of every workplace and every culture’s willingness to sacrifice freedom and mobility. Amidst this scenario, a new education policy has also been introduced in our country and the spotlight is now on school leaders. The need for adaptive leadership is great and, with the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, schools at large are looking for solid leadership. They are searching for leadership that offers honesty, hope, guidance, direction and motivation. Unfortunately, many school leaders are unsuited and ill-equipped to deal with the level of challenge that the current pandemic situation and NEP 2020 present together.
We need school leaders who are actively and aggressively working towards achieving all the objectives of NEP 2020. School leaders must have deep knowledge of and be committed to developing an awareness and understanding of the National Education Policy. Far too often, leaders do not do the hard work to identify and live in their core values. If leaders are unaware of their core values, they will be easily blinded by unnecessary noise and seemingly insurmountable goals that, in many ways, can be debilitating.
The leader of the school is ultimately responsible for student achievement. While teachers remain the primary determinate of student success – it is the principal who is primarily responsible if this success does not occur. Now is the time when the leadership of the school must rise above the organisational management and begin to give importance to continual data-analysis, professional development and academic content knowledge. There is an immediate need to establish clear vision and identify measurable goals and strategies required to achieve the goals stated in the NEP 2020.
The hiring practices of the school leadership cannot be overlooked. Hire the best resource available and make continuous effort for the development of those resources. It is like educational magic. Principals should make personnel decisions based on what is best for the school and nothing else.
These are tough times and motivation of Staff and Students is equally crucial. Countless studies prove that people respond to different types of motivation in different ways, but everyone responds. A successful principal will determine what makes him/her tick. For some individuals, offering comments of praise or presenting them with a challenge can increase their intrinsic motivation, while others are motivated by more extrinsic factors such as rewards. Regardless of the method of motivation, successful principals must be adept at bringing out the best in people if they are to contribute meaningfully towards the education system overhaul that the NEP is proposing.
With so many changes and teaching methodologies and approaches doing the rounds, to implement the changes suggested by the NEP is making teachers confused and they want to know clearly what is expected of them. They want well defined procedures, as well as someone who will listen when problems arise and will be able to guide them. Often, school leaders focus more on the speaking/delivery aspect of communication rather than listening. Now is the time to listen patiently and provide solutions to the teachers.
Leadership must implement Meaningful Professional Development because every school has a few passionate teachers who desire to improve their content knowledge.
Communication is, both, an art and a science, and the balance is delicate and complex. The information in these demanding times needs to be timely and valid and leaders must communicate effectively, early, and often, and above all, truthfully. During this time of uncertainty, confusion, and conflation of reality and rumour, it is paramount to serve as leaders who are clear in their communication, compassionate in their words and candid at all costs.
School improvement efforts must be data driven and learning focused. In the face of the current pandemic and leading through crisis, in general, school leaders must work aggressively to collect data and commit to deep learning. As examining data, both historically and current, helps ensure leaders to understand causes and trends and possible outcomes of different teaching approaches and methods.
COVID-19 has also uncovered disparities in the access to technology and internet access that many middle and lower middle-class educators take for granted. A commitment to data triangulation and study will guide leaders away from repeating mistakes and come closer to solutions. Leaders must do the hard work of daily study to get smart about the context and complexities of the multitude of scenarios that may arise while implementing NEP 2020.
Lastly, school leaders must resist the temptation to compete against other school leaders. Instead, a sense of collaboration must be fostered and baked into the fabric of the organisation or institution. Collaboration makes space for kindness, critical thinking, problem-solving and collective efficacy.
These are unprecedented times and strong leaderships and strong commitment to the cause of education will be the most powerful weapon that can be used to change the education environment of our country and make it possible for India to have an education system by 2040 that is second to none.
(Roli S is an Educator, Teacher Trainer, Author and School Reviewer based in Mumbai)