Education – Preserving the Closed Shop

Who can lead in the world of education? Well, here in India, as in most countries, who can be a school Principal is all wrapped up in all sorts of provisions relating to their academic qualifications. Have we now reached the time when we should really question and challenge the validity of this approach? Have the needs from educational leaders now evolved to the point where, like other professions, we should be ready to take leaders with the most appropriate skills from wherever we can find them (and regardless of how many certificates they have to PROVE they are a product of the old-paradigm education systems)?

These kinds of questions are brought in to stark focus as a result of a recent controversy in the US. This has come about because Mayor Bloomberg of New York has selected Ms Cathleen Black as Chancellor of the school system of the entire city of New York. The controversy is that, until now, Ms Black’s experience was in the publishing industry. Obviously, one of the points being made is that different industries and professions are far more receptive to senior people with transferable leadership skills in such things as ‘change management’ than the education profession.

Time Article

Somewhere along the way, I believe the resistance comes from education’s focus on ‘content’. A degree in a particular subject is seen in the context of its content – the body of knowledge that was ‘gone over’.

I believe that with the speed of change in today’s world leadership of the highest quality is at a premium. The skills – things like inspiring people, leading them towards a meaningful vision etc. are not narrowly specific to any one field.

Similar goes for teaching, as highlighted in the article. Closed shops in any industry or profession have always served to stifle innovation and progress, keep everything ‘cozy’ for those inside the profession at the cost of those who use the services.

We need the best, most committed teachers, with the most capable leaders – and it shouldn’t matter where they’re coming from or what their backgrounds.

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One Response

  1. Certainly we must seek out expertise in leadership and management and bring it into the education sector. A problem arises, however, when the expert in leadership and management starts to believe s/he is an expert in education and overrules or worse, does not even consider, the opinions of education experts, in this case teachers. The most obvious example is that of IAS officers who come in to lead Departments of Education and issue all sorts of mandates about instruction and assessment with no understanding of of education systems in general and the needs of their Department in particular. But this is more a failure to understand facilitative leadership and facilitative systems rather than education systems, so I would concur with you: bring in the best, they’ll know how to inspire staff and parents and students to attain a shared vision.

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