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On 11th September 2012, the Ministry of Education (MoE) had launched the Education Development Plan 2013-2025. This blueprint has been developed to meet the challenges of the 21st century as well as to evaluate the performances of the current education system taking into account the results of previous reports and compare them to the international benchmarks.
The Malaysian Ministry of Education (MoE) believes that good teachers alone are not enough. As stated in the Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (2012), the international evidence clearly outlines that strong school leadership is also needed in order to produce major improvement in student achievement. In high-performing school system, the principals are the instructional leaders who focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning. High-performing school status will not be achieved if the principals just being administrative leaders. An effective principal also plays a major role in producing the high-performing teachers.
Research taken from the Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (2012), shows that the high-performing school systems are moving away from the idea of being "heroic" leader to "distributed leadership". The "distributed leadership" will allow the assistant principals and other members of middle management to have a greater share in decision making in schools.
Background of the problem
Description of problem situation
A precise, plain and transparent principal selection process is believed to be essential for building and sustaining effective schools. In Malaysia, the selection criteria for new principals are more likely related to tenure than competencies. The selection is based primarily on the achievement of a minimum civil service grade, which in turn is linked to length of service. This situation clearly demonstrates that professionalism factor should be prioritized for the selection of the new principals (MoE, 2012).
The latter challenge as described in the Education Blueprint 2012-2025 (2012), is the length of time taken in the current selection process. The whole process from the selection of suitable candidates to the appointing official may take almost a year due to the various parties involved in the district, state, federal and Ministry. The situation becomes more complicated with the existence of two service schemes: one for non-graduate teachers in primary schools and one for graduate teachers in secondary schools. Shift made â€‹â€‹by the Ministry to increase the minimum qualifications has resulted in more graduate teachers serving in primary schools. However, the position of headmaster in the primary school is still designated for non-graduate teachers. This policy has eliminated the qualified graduate teachers in primary schools from consideration.
Outcomes of prior efforts to solve problem
Preparatory and induction training
In 1987, the Ministry introduced an induction programme named the Education Management and Leadership Course or Kursus Kepimpinan dan Pengurusan Pendidikan (KKPP), in order to prepare and equip the principal with the important skills which is required for the first three years as principal. The Ministry also introduced another preparatory training programme called the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (NPQEL) which formerly known as National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH). This programme was specially designed for the aspiring and high-potential candidates of becoming principal. Upon their selection as principals, graduates of the NPQEL programme are exempted from attending the KKPP as the curricula of the both training programmes are quite similar (MoE, 2012).
England's Future Leaders programme: Identifying and developing school leaders early
The Future Leaders programme is a three-year leadership development program which aims in providing a fast route for high-performing teachers to the post of school leaders within four years. Specifically, the program aims to produce school leaders who are committed to working in 'challenging schools'. Candidates are selected through an interview and assessment process which their thinking skills, leadership and interpersonal are being assessed. The selected ones will undergo a three-year program begins with an intensive leadership training in the summer followed by a one-year deployment in challenging schools under the guidance of a mentor principal. Thereafter, candidates are supported in applying for a full-time school principal position. If successful - 95% of candidates - the program continues to provide one-on-one coaching and off-site training to the individuals to perform their roles as school leaders for two years. This training is intended to fully prepare and transform a teacher to a principal within four years (MoE, 2012).
Ongoing professional development
As stated in the Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (2012), the participation in ongoing professional development activities was much higher. Under the helm of the Institute Aminuddin Baki (IAB), various types of courses and delivery methods were developed. A survey was conducted in 2011which showed a high level of participation, which 87% of 1,662 principals completed the minimum seven-day requirement. At present, the principals determine their own training needs. They do a self-assessment via on-line using an instrument prepared according to the IAB's leadership model, School Leadership Competency, or Kompetensi Pemimpin Sekolah (KOMSAS) and use the information to make a choice of courses.
Current working conditions
Ministry of Education (MoE) believes that the time management of a principal gives an impact on their daily chores. Research has shown that an instructional activity which increases the quality of teaching and learning such as lesson observation and curriculum development give a higher impact on student outcomes compared to the administrative activities. Being aware of this situation, current principal are able to divide their time evenly across the administrative and instructional activity.
Scope and severity of problem
Assessment of past policy performance
Preparatory and induction training
According to Ministry of Education (2012), the reviews indicated that these programmes were effective. For example, research conducted by Universiti Malaya and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris has shown that newly-appointed principals via NPQEL training are better prepared to be positioned as principal compared to those who are being appointed without such training. Yet the participations of the principals into the programme were low. About 55% of current principals have not participated in either the KKPP or NPQEL training programmes. Since 1999, only one quarter of the NPQEL graduates have been appointed as principals due to the fact that participation in both KKPP and NPQEL is neither a prerequisite for promotion nor a fast-track opportunity.
England's Future Leaders programme: Identifying and developing school leaders early
This program started in 2006 with 20 candidates. Within six years, the number of candidates increased ten times. Overall, there are now 350 graduates of Future Leaders programme working in 200 schools across the country. 95% of them are in senior school leadership, while 24 graduates are holding a full-time principal position (MoE, 2012).
Ongoing professional development
As stated in the Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (2012), the results of self-assessment in 2011 indicated that most principal tend to give almost equal scores for all dimension of leadership. This suggests the possibility that the principals are not able to identify their training needs accurately. In this situation, a training program can be less effective. This issue becomes more complicated when there is no formal record on training program followed by the principals. Better approaches needed in order to track and match the program to meet each individual needs as to realize the full impact of professional development.
Current working conditions
In the year of 2011, a survey resulted that a principal was able to identify two out of three most important skills which closely related to the instructional leadership - teacher coaching and improving the curriculum. However, main skills like the ability to understand and use data and the ability to lead assessments of school performance were ranked relatively lowly on the participants' list of priorities. These activities are actually critical to guiding the principal in forming meaningful strategies for moving the school forward.
Significance of problem situation
As stated in the Education Blueprint 2013-2025 (2012), the tenure-based appointment of principals resulted in an aging cohort, with 40% of principals due to retire within the next five years. This implication is considered bias towards the length of service in two ways. Firstly, it will prevent the system from securing the best talent existing in the entire teaching body for its leadership positions. Secondly, talented principals will serve in their role for a shorter time. However, there is an exception to this practice in rural schools, where the difficulty in placing principals has led to a high amount of young teachers promoted at a younger age. This practice has its pros and cons. The pro of this exception is that it allows for the promotion of young talent who can serve for many more years until retirement. The con of this exception, those teachers that are being promoted may be unprepared for the responsibilities of leadership.
Definition of problem
To determine student outcome, it is best to identify the factors which are based in schools. Teacher quality is indisputably the major factor that influences students directly. Nevertheless, the quality of school leaders is correspondingly one of the major factors which not to be disparaged. This fact is supported by the evidence found in some previous international researches, mainly focusing in school leadership. According to the seminal research conducted in the state of Tennessee, USA in the mid-1990s, it is stated that a total of 20% of student outcomes can be increased through school leaders; with the criteria of being an instructional-focused principal. Typically, principals in schools are more administrative typed. The tenure of principalship ordains the existing selection of principals in schools, instead of the competency of leadership. To add on, the appalling figure of 55% among current principals had no preparative training before or when they started as one for three years (Institut Aminuddin Baki, 2010). This suggests that they might not be well prepared in functioning as school leaders. Hence, ensuring high-performing of school leaders in schools is proposed to be the fifth shift in Preliminary Report of Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025, which is needed to make a change in schools.
The major stakeholders primarily consist of principals, assistant principals, heads of department and heads of subject; all of them are considered as part of the school leaders. They will have the opportunity to make instructional and administrative decision under shared leadership with the goal to improve planning of curriculum and co-curricular. Prior to that, they will be prepared to utilize this flexibility in schools. On the other hand, teachers are aspired to be inculcated in the value of professional excellence. The culture of peer-led is introduced for teachers and school leaders in order for both to be accountable in reaching standards. Mentoring, training, developing and disseminating the best in their practices are a few relevant examples.
Goals and objectives
The ultimate goal of ensuring high-performing school leaders in school is to raise student outcomes. The objective is to ensure that every single school will be assigned a high-performing principal. A high-performing principal will be persistent in his emphasis and effort to improve student outcomes, academic, non-academic or even both. It is the target of the Ministry for school leaders to practice high-performing school leadership in every school, regardless of student performance level or location.
A new career package will be introduced by the Ministry in order to improve the method of how principals are selected, developed and rewarded. Measures undertaken will contain, (1) refining and clarifying the selection criteria, (2) building a pool of potential future school leaders, (3) improving preparatory and continuous professional development and (4) introducing a performance and competencies based performance management approach.
Descriptions of alternatives
There will be a dynamic change for the principal selection criteria beginning of the year 2013. It will be enhanced together with the succession planning processes. This planning aims to identify then nurtures individuals who have high potential to become the readied pool of candidates. The focus will shift to the leadership competencies which are demonstrated by school leaders, moving away from the tenure-based selection criteria. The requirement for every principal before they are appointed, to complete the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (NPQEL) at Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB) is now expected to be fulfilled. Future principals will be enrolled in a new on-boarding programme. They will have a period of one month under mentoring by the former principal who will soon be leaving. After they are formally appointed, they will have a School Improvement Partner (SiPartner), where they will be coached and mentored by experienced principal. This form of individualized opportunities is part of continuous professional development that will become a useful source for principals to renew their professionalism.
Comparison of future consequences
The new principal career package will provide larger support and direct accountability as a mean to deliver student outcomes. Based on the leadership competencies of school leaders, the average age of principal will have a declining tendency. Moreover, their serving for schools is permitted and will be extended lengthier. Principals who serve in weak schools will be rewarded incentives as well as becoming mentors in a wider community.
Spillovers and externalities
School leaders will not only transform to be great instructional leaders, they are becoming the agents for transformation. Friendlier support and improved services from federal, state and district education officers will be enjoyed by the principals. In long term, they are accessing world-class leadership training. School leaders will be rewarded based on performance through working in a better and conducive working environment. Administrative burden which has been long carried by school leaders will be shared mutually with assistant principals, heads of department and subjects.
Constraints and political feasibility
A transformation is not to be developed in a day. It needs sequence and variety of initiatives as it is a broad and complex process. Overtaxed and execution fatigue are needed to be avoided during the progression. By looking at the successful transformation in either private or public sectors, it is normal to have prioritization in certain aspect for improvement. Therefore, the Ministry has come up with the three waves sequence as constraints and to ensure political feasibility; Wave 1 (2013 to 2015) to improve selection standards and support systems, Wave 2 (2016 to 2020) to elevate the profession and moving towards distributed leadership and Wave 3 (2021 to 2025) to creating a peer-led culture of professional excellence.
After looking into the shift and the waves for the policy implementation, we hereby put forth a few suggestions for better implementation of the policy.
Grant site level research for school improvement
In order to build administrative flexibility, to encourage creativity, and to acknowledge the work of school principals, the policy makers should establish via legislation, grant program to encourage and reward principals for undertaking research projects on school improvement at the school level.
Redefine school leadership responsibilities for better student learning
Policy makers and practitioners need to ensure that the roles and responsibilities associated with improved learning outcomes are at the core of school leadership practice. There are four major domains of responsibility that must be looked into as key for school leadership to improve student outcomes:
Supporting, evaluating and developing teacher quality.
School leaders have to be able to adapt the national curriculum to school needs, promote teamwork among teachers and engage in teacher monitoring, evaluation and professional development.
Goal-setting, assessment and accountability.
Policy makers need to ensure that school leaders have discretion in setting strategic direction and optimise their capacity to develop school plans and goals and monitor progress, using data to improve practice.
Strategic financial and human resource management.
Policy makers can enhance the financial management skills of school leadership teams by providing training to school leaders, and establishing the role of a financial manager within the leadership team, other than the principal.
Collaborating with other schools.
This new leadership dimension needs to be recognised as a specific role for school leaders. It can bring benefits to school systems as a whole rather than just the students of a single school. However, school leaders need to develop their skills to become involved in matters beyond their school borders.
Regard leadership development as a continuum
Leadership development is more extensive than specific programmes of activity or intervention. It requires a combination of formal and informal processes throughout all stages and contexts of leadership practice. In-service programmes need to be seen in the context of prior learning opportunities for school leadership. Where there are no other initial requirements, basic in-service programmes should encourage development of leadership skills. In-service training should be also offered periodically to principals and leadership teams so they can update their skills and keep up with new developments.
It is important that the core responsibilities of school leaders be clearly defined and delimited. School leadership responsibilities should be defined through an understanding of the practices most likely to improve teaching and learning. School leaders need specific training to respond to broadened roles and responsibilities. Strategies need to focus on developing and strengthening skills related to improving school outcomes and provide room for contextualisation.
Schools require effective leaders and managers so that they can provide the best education for their students. Principals of today are responsible for providing top-quality leadership that aims to promote best practices in teaching and other related instructional areas for the chief purpose of ensuring student achievement. Trained and committed teachers in schools need the leadership of effective principals. The quality of school leadership needs to be enhanced and it needs to be made sustainable.
School leadership plays a major role in education reform. Much has been written about top-down versus bottom-up strategies for school improvement and there is widespread agreement that the two need to be combined and synchronised (Fullan, 2001; Moos and Huber, 2007). While the Ministry of Education can provide policy directions for schools, their success often depends on the motivations and actions of leaders at the school level. Successful implementation and institutionalisation of reform requires leadership at the school level to promote adaptations of school processes and systems, as well as cultures, attitudes and behaviours. Therefore, unless school leaders possess the competence of an administrative and instructional leader, the dissemination of educational policies from the ministry will be ineffective.
The contemporary challenge of leadership is not only to improve the quality of current leaders but also to develop clear plans for future leadership and effective processes for leadership succession.