Education is the concern of each and every individual. It is the backbone of every civilized society. In its centre lies the school. Since the birth of civilization, the school has been a major concern for the rulers and governments. The 'Education for all' (EFA) movement launched at Jomtien, Thailand in 1990, had as aim to bring the benefits of education to "every citizen in every society" (World Bank 2009). The movement brought a new dimension to education. Developing countries started to invest huge amount of money for the betterment of their education system which they consider as the key to their prosperity. In this process, the school was subjected to great reforms so as to cater for the goals of individuals, societies and nations.
The School is a complex open social system. It provides a balance between scientific management and human relations approach. The system is extremely dynamic. In this system the structure is a key element in transforming inputs into outputs. The structure, also called the bureaucratic expectations, defines our role and responsibilities. It has been organized in such a way so as to fulfill the organization's goals (Hoy and Miskel 2004). This dissertation will be based primarily on the bureaucratic part which is a major issue in educational management.
"The world is flat", Friedman (2005) rightly said. We are witnessing the flattening of structures in all settings and at different levels. The Weberian model of bureaucracy is being questioned. The pyramidal shape structure is becoming irrelevant. Even the school setting has not been left apart. All schools do not follow the same structure; some have an enabling or productive structure whereas others still have a coercive or hindering structure (Hoy and Miskel 2004).
Schools are social organizations with set objectives together with their human, financial, material and physical resources (Dash and Dash 2008). Therefore, school management is a crucial and complex matter. The one responsible for managing these resources is usually centered on one person who is called the headmaster or principal or rector. He has the responsibility of both the internal and external management of the school. This situation no longer holds good. Reforms were necessary in different spheres, settings and levels in order to bring change and transformation in school management.
"School management is a cooperative human endeavor," as Dash and Dash (2008) rightly pointed out. For an effective school management, teachers, parents, students and even the community members have to cooperate with the head of school (Dash and Dash 2008). This is the description of the concept of decentralization in school management which has been the driving force of educational reforms in the 1990s. Many schools adopted this school-based reform in many developing countries (Ng and Chan 2008). School-based management then came to light. The Economic Note (2007) defined School-based management as "the systematic decentralization to the school level of authority and responsibility to make decisions on significant matters related to school operations within a centrally determined framework of goals, policies, curriculum, standards, and accountability." It ensures significant, systematic, and sustained change as well as improving outcomes for every students in whichever settings and contributing socially and economically to a country (Caldwell 2005).
Decentralization or school-based management varies from country to country and it can take different shapes (Economic Note 2007). One way of achieving this decentralization is through distributed leadership. Leadership is the new trend in education worldwide. It is crucial for all transformation and innovation (Spillane, Halverson and Diamond 2004). It is about empowering others as partners in leadership (Huber 2004). This concept was meant with the aim of de-loading the duties and responsibilities of the rector. Everyone now share the different responsibilities in managing the school.
School management is not a simple task even in a small country like Mauritius, with a population of about 110,000 secondary students and 200 secondary schools. The concept of school-based management has been implemented to some extent even in our local schools. As early as 'Future in our hands' by K. Jagatsing (1979), up to the recent 'Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020' report, stressed were laid on the concept of decentralization in school management. Our Honorable Minister of Education, Dr. V.K.Bunwaree, talked about the decentralization of school management in these terms : "While the School Development Plan is available in all institutions as an indication of the direction to follow, the Rector needs support and resources to make critical decisions on a day-to-day basis. These decisions may well relate to pedagogical matters as much as to disciplinary cases. Nevertheless, it is also vital to understand that a Head of School cannot do it alone. He/She will have to resort to some delegation of responsibility and especially know when and how to do it" (School Management Manual, 2009). New posts were created and distributed leadership is becoming more and more a reality.
1.1 Problem statement
The Mauritian education system is very hierarchical where all decisions are centralized on very few individuals. This rigid Weberian model of bureaucracy was inherited from our British colonial past. It had a quite coercive structure which is gradually being changed in an enabling one at all levels from pre-primary to tertiary education. This dissertation will consider the model which has been opted for by the Ministry of Education at secondary school level.
There are three types of secondary schools in Mauritius namely State Secondary Schools and State Colleges, Private Secondary Schools and Fee Paying Schools (Ministry of Education and Human Resources 2012). The Private secondary schools can be further classified into private aided and private un-aided schools. These schools are under the aegis of the Private Secondary School Authority (PSSA). Another classification of these schools is based upon their related confessions (PSSA 2012).
At secondary school level, all managerial activities are centered on the rector. He is the only one responsible for the smooth running of the school. In the decentralization process of school-based management, the government created some new posts sharing the complex responsibilities of the rector. These posts as well as the duties and responsibilities they are entrusted with, are not the same in state secondary schools and private secondary schools.
In Private secondary schools, we have the Head of Department HoD and the Section Leader posts that bring about the distributed leadership in the school-based management process. The HoD is mainly concern with academic issues of the school. Teachers are divided into various departments according to the subjects they teach. The head of department provide leadership to the department. He helps the rector in monitoring teaching and learning in his department (PSSA 2010).
The post of Section Leader is a rather new one which has been appointed in 2010 following the Pay Research Bureau recommendations of 2008. This post is exclusively found in Private secondary schools. It is mostly an administrative post. The section leader is responsible the rector in solving indiscipline issues absences, etc. He must assist the rector in planning, organizing and coordinating activities. Pastoral care is also under his responsibility. He is to assist the rector in conducting examinations, preparation and distribution of time-tables (PSSA 2010).
This dissertation will analyze to what extent are the heads of department and the section leaders helping the rector in school management. The relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of these posts in private secondary schools will be dealt in depth.
1.2 Aims and objectives
The aim of the study is to find out the efficiency, effectiveness and relevancy of distributed leadership in school-based management in private secondary schools in Mauritius with special reference to the role of section leaders and heads of department.
To evaluate the impact of distributed leadership in private secondary schools.
To find out whether distributed leadership is considered as a solution to the various issues facing private secondary schools.
To measure the extent to which the posts of section leader and head of department have decrease the work load of the rector.
To evaluate the effectiveness of these posts in bringing flexibility in managing the schools.
To evaluate the improvement, if ever, in the relationship between teachers and rectors.
To find out the impact of these posts on the teachers and their duties.
To find out whether these posts are sources of motivation for teachers or not.
To compare the application of these two posts in schools with different settings and measure their respective efficiency, effectiveness and relevancy.
1.3 Research questions
According to the objectives of the study, the research questions have been formulated as follows:
(1) What is the impact of distributed leadership in secondary schools in general and in private secondary schools in particular?
(2) How is distributed leadership being applied in private secondary schools?
(3) Is distributed leadership the proper solution in solving issues facing these schools?
(4) How is the creation of the post of section leader and HoD decreasing the workload of the rector in these schools?
(5) Have these posts brought more flexibility in the school management?
(6) Has there been any improvement in teacher-rector relationship by the introduction of section leader and HoD?
(7) What is the impact of section leaders and Hods on the teachers and their responsibilities?
(8) Is the creation of these posts a motivation for teachers?
(9) What are the different responsibilities of section leaders and HoDs in different schools?
1.4 Flow of dissertation
This chapter is about the introduction of the dissertation. It comprises of the background, problem statement, aims, objectives and research questions. Distributed leadership is introduced and explained in brief terms from an international to a local perspective with precisions on the posts of HoD and Section leader.
It is the literature review chapter where literatures from the world of education were selected and written down. Both the international and local perspective were taken into account. It starts with definitions and explanations of key terms such as leadership, management and administration in the education sector. Then the school structure and the major reforms in it were elucidated. Decentralization, School-based management and distributed leadership were explained together with their criticism. Teacher leadership was given also mentioned which included the HoD and other middle manager posts. Furthermore an overview of the Mauritian context with the application of distributed leadership in Mauritian schools was explained.
It is the methodology chapter. Two schools were selected namely the Aleemiah Forms I-VI Boys' College and the girls department of the Cosmopolitan College. The mix method was adopted to collect data. Interviews were carried out with rectors, HoDs and Section leaders. Two observations were carried out in both schools. Survey questionnaires were distributed to educators in both schools.
It is the result and discussion chapter where the data were thoroughly analyzed. SPSS were used to make bar-charts, pie-charts and cross-tabulations. The results obtained from observations and interviews were written and analyzed with relation to the literature review.
It is the conclusion and recommendation chapter. All the research questions were answered. The aims and objectives of the dissertation were reached. Some recommendations were made for a better distributed leadership in schools.