Strategy And Its Universal Nature Education Essay

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Strategy has a universal nature whether it is in the educational field or the business sector. It is a vision of the future. Strategy is "a plan, a pattern, a position, a perspective and, in a footnote, he indicated that it can also be a ploy, a maneuver intended to outwit a competitor" Mintzberg (1995, p.36). According to Davies (2003), "strategy can be a specific pattern of decisions and actions taken to achieve an organization's goals" (cited in course reader Kvm 56, p1). We come now to a definition of strategy that I proposed for use: Strategy refers to a general plan of action for achieving one's goals and objectives. In the Mauritian Education sector a lot of reforms have taken place. An educational reform can be said to be a key strategy by which government's attempt to influence the processes and outcomes of schooling. A variety of imperative motivates such reforms.

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However, looking at the above mentioned definition, one thing that does not fit with the realities in Mauritius is that no educational reform put in place had a long term future. All governments have come with some kind of reforms different from their predecessors and consequently according to me, there has not been a strategy put in place for the education sector as the failure rates in both primary and secondary schools have increased(see Strategy plan 2008-2020, inefficiencies in the current system, p37-42). However, it should be noted that the current Education Minister has recently come forward with a plan entitled: Education and Human Resources Strategy Plan 2008-2020. This is the first time that the word strategy has figured in the title of an educational reform. Furthermore, in this piece of work, a strategic plan including several policies has been set up to improve students' achievements and promote their personal learning and create a holistic environment which will empower children.

Moreover, in Mauritius I believe that the management model involved is the "rational planning" which derives from an approach to strategy. According to Morrison (2003, p.13), the "rational model of change is very powerful and appealing, suggesting that change can be planned and sequenced". As for Davies (2003), the rational planning framework presumes that "a predictable future allows decision makers to carefully weigh up the consequences of alternatives and to choose a course of action that maximizes the achievement of objectives". Thus, through this new strategy plan, the Ministry is aiming to "transform Mauritius into an intelligent nation state in the vanguard of global progress and innovation through the development of a culture of achievement and excellence" (MOE, C&HR, 2008, p.12)

The college where I work as art and design educator is a private secondary school which is directed by the PSSA (Private Secondary School). It was founded in 1968 by the current manager. The school population is 375 presently, and it offers classes up to HSC (Higher School Certificate). The mission statement of the college goes along with the national vision and mission which are quoted in the (Strategic Plan 2008-2020, p11). Prior to implementation of a particular change, it is crucial to explore the school's present situation by reviewing its vision and objectives. However, this new mission statement will be a culmination of working in partnership with all educators and parents, the college will provide a happy caring learning community that promotes excellence; where the uniqueness of each student will be valued and individuals needs to be respected, developing each person to their fullest potential, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and in relationships with each other. Thus, I was quite perplexed that in my college art and design is not offered in the upper forms (HSC level). I felt that this situation is unfair as it implies inefficient use of human resources available and I believe that it should form part of the school's curriculum as specified in the National curriculum. Students must be given the opportunity to have Art & Design as option otherwise they have to move to other colleges and face many other difficulties. Another issue is that I have noticed that students as well as parents tend to look down upon the subject Art & Design, thus discouraging students to give their best potential in this subject and they do not have the incentives to take the subject even at SC level as they knew they would not be having it at HSC in the college. Some students just take Art & Design as sometimes they lack number of subjects to have a full SC (School Certificate), but they do not show interest at all, thus decreasing the performance in the subject. For quite a long time, I have been lodging on this situation and now I am seizing the opportunity to tackle this strategic problem. I believe it is high time that the problem is solved so as to include art & design in upper classes. Discussions in our Critical Study Group have led us to realize that educational reform is a form of renewal or transformation, where changes are brought to an existing system of education as Morrison (2003,p.2) admitted that "Change and reform in education are inescapable".

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However, I do not wish the change I want to bring in my subject area to be insignificant. Hence, I should be practical and there is great need to move beyond traditional planning and consider a strategic approach for the inclusion of Art & Design at upper level in my college's curriculum. As a professional educator, I must ensure the success and future of my subject in the school. With an eye for reform, as many educationists have either supported or criticized certain leadership styles, I have to choose which leadership style suits and works best to this situation and this is subjected to a matter of opinion. Education leadership styles are based on the understanding that certain characteristics, such as physical energy and/or social interaction play a part in the way education is imparted. Effective leadership styles in education are about strengthening the performance of education leaders, primarily the educators, to improve student achievement. Hence, effective leadership is crucial for teachers and students to enhance performance at the highest level. "For all aspects of school management, leadership is a crucial ingredient; most people in management positions within an organization should be showing leadership in their area of work" (Fiedler, 1996, p.72/74).

As this is my first strategic plan, I have opted for one of the two approaches to strategic planning proposed by Fidler (1996, p.87) which is the "reconciling the parts". This approach suits me being given that I am responding to an "internal dissatisfaction with the present state" (Fidler, 1996, p.87) of my subject area in the school. Although Fidler (1996) specified the possibility of failure with this method, I must always keep in mind while strategically thinking about my strategic problem and vision that the management, educators, parents are all here working in collaboration for the welfare of all the students and this should be the "unifying principle" (Fidler, 1996). Eventually, the Fidler and Bowles model of strategic management (see model in Fidler, 1996, p.60) will be used to tackle my strategic problem. This will ensure feedback at each stage which will be once again analyzed to guarantee implementation and future of my strategic plan, thus ensuring the survival of my subject as it "shows a cyclic nature of strategic management with the evaluation process at the end of one cycle feeding into the analysis stage of the next cycle" (Fildler, 1996, p.60).

According to Johnson et al. (2005, p.26), "the environment in which an institution operates and the culture within the institution are two important aspects in performing a strategic analysis". Following the "Fidler and Bowles model", I have performed my strategic analysis to evaluate the present state and possible future of the Art & Design in my college. It has been performed from April to June according to the three components proposed by Fidler (1996), namely the environment, the internal resources and the cultures and values of the school. The SWOT analysis (Knight, 1997) has been used as an analytical tool to understand the strategic positioning of my college, which has guided me to conduct a better system analysis. SWOT is a strategic planning tool, usually used as part of doing an environmental scan, that help identify external factors that need to be planned for, and internal factors that need to be planned for in determining where a business should be going in the future. More specifically, the process involves identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The SWOT analysis can be done as part of strategic planning, but it can also be done independently of the larger process as a standalone. (See model in ACCA study text, p.110). The Deming's 14 points (Knight, 1997) is another appropriate tool which I used to have a broader perception about the internal reality of the school so as to guarantee that meaningful change will occur from within the school.

It is surprising to note that although my school is in line with the national vision and mission of education, it does not offer Art & Design at HSC level as there was a lack of human resources since it started HSC level. Therefore the subject was not given as option for HSC and the students completing the SC level have to move to other colleges in order to get that option, thus creating adaptation problem. But actually it has become a paradox as the quality audit of resources from the PSSA has confirmed that the school has now a fully equipped specialist art room and professional educators for the teaching of Art & Design. Furthermore the Programme Based Budget Statement (MOE & HR, 2007) has among its priority to lower wastage in the education system at all levels. On the other hand, the National Curriculum Framework Secondary (NCFS) stresses the importance of Art & Design by proposing that "Arts be fully re-instated as an equally relevant and necessary pursuit in the curriculum at par with other academic subjects and the interdisciplinary potential of the domain in furthering knowledge and skills in other domains be fully explored. Given the current emphasis on tourism, developing the artistic skills of our adolescents by giving them the opportunity to experiment with the Arts and investigate the domain will prove to be crucial in the near future" (NCFS, p.23). Hence, all students must be given the opportunity to opt for Art & Design at HSC level.

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Furthermore, as the SWOT analysis showed that certain factors can be considered as both opportunities and threats and these aspects help me to convince the stakeholders so as to move my subject forward strategically in the school, ensuring a strategic fit (Fidler, 1996). During the strategic analysis phase, I have also designed questionnaires for students and parents and then collected data on their perception on the introduction of Art & Design at HSC level. At the same time, it was an opportunity to get the other staff members involved in the distribution and analysis of data. I also got the occasion to discuss with the members and president of the PTA who, in turn gave me full support. Information was also gathered on the performance of the subject in other colleges so as to make a comparison of data.

The school culture is also an important element in the shaping of the school, Peterson (1990, p.3) note that the definition of culture includes "deep patterns of values, beliefs, and traditions that have been formed over the course of the school's history." Paul E. Heckman (1993, p.2) reminds us that school culture lies in "the commonly held beliefs of teachers, students, and principals". Without a school culture, "school improvement can be hindered" (Fidler, 1996, p.173). The most effective change in school culture happens when principals, teachers, and students model the values and beliefs important to the institution. Principals shape the culture in all of their daily interactions. As Mauritius is a multicultural country and school is trying to change, it will be necessary to understand one's own reactions and resistances. It will be necessary for the head of a school to be able to communicate the process to the members of the school community. A greater understanding of school and organizational culture will permit that to happen. However, being a staff member of 11 years in that college, I have a clear idea of the school culture and values. I can confirm that there is a strong organizational culture in my college and any staff members bringing any valuable change are welcomed with "the accepted way to operate successfully in this organization" (Fiedler, 1996, p.99). Thus, it is to my advantage to propose my change and ensure its implementation with the support of other stakeholders. "Alternatively, leadership concerns the capacity to influence a group of individual to achieve specific goals" (Coombs, 1995).

In my college, there is a mixture of cultures, namely the "Club Culture", the "Role Culture", "Task Culture" and the "Existential Culture" (Handy, 1995). Irrespective of the type of culture which prevails there are strong values and beliefs which are attached to the school. A strong family ethos is encouraged where all members of our school community care for each other. Partnership with parents is essential in all these areas and there is regular dialogue between home and school to monitor the student's progress. Open, honest and supportive relationships with parents are promoted. We value the contribution of parents and ensure that their views are heard enabling us to work together to improve our college. We also ensure that parents receive good clear communications about their children's learning, current needs and how to help at home letters are sent out to parents on a regular basis informing them about the different activities and making them involved in our projects. Our college holds an Open Door Policy which is extended to all our parents.

It is crucial for leaders to "promote the culture of learning within the organization by encouraging staff to embrace the organizational fear that comes with change" (Heslop, 2007, p.4) so as to encourage the investment of all the stakeholders and ensure sustainable success. Schools that implement change are more likely to sustain improvement over time as they can generate the readiness to change and the internal capacity to manage the change process (Harris & Lambert, 2003, p.52). Therefore emphasis should be laid on "transformational leadership" (Jameson, 2006, p.65) rather than "transactional leadership" (Jameson, 2006, p.64). Assessing the leadership qualities of my rector, I would say that I found her to have good leadership traits. From the different types of leadership models which exist I would attribute a mixture of "instructional leadership" (Bush &Glover, 2003, p.7), "transformational leadership" (Jameson, 2006, p.65) and "shared leadership" (Jameson, 2006, p.68) to my HOD. I appreciated the considerate touch she gave to the project. On the other hand the theory of educational management which she preferred was the "collegiality" (Bush, 2002, p.25) approach which implied that educators were involved in decision making concerning the methods of including Art & Design at HSC level. However, Riches (1997, p.165) stated that "mistakes are often made because communication is not seen as a two-way exchange". There should be open and honest communication for the success of any change. Furthermore Heslop (2007, p.4) suggested that "communication is critical to understanding the context of knowledge management, enabling it to be reinterpreted and making it applicable to new settings". Teamwork promotes learning collectively and collaboratively (Harris & Lambert, 2003). Since departmental members, other staff members, rector, attendants, PTA are involved; this approach must be implemented initially and sustained consistently. The leader must maintain on-going involvement and the stakeholders given strong support, consistent feedback, and continual opportunity for discussion. According to Maslow motivational theory (Maslow, 1954) delegating responsibilities for certain actions motivate members to achieve aim. Staff will participate, share their ideas on how to improve and hence this will create a sense of ownership.

However, there is still some staff members who are always resistant to anything that disturb their daily routine and in other words it means more works and effort for them. As I will need the help of all staff in my department, I could not risk having some of them showing resistance when they will understand that they will be involved in the analysis and implementation phase of my strategic plan. So, careful planning and management is needed to take care of the proposed change process to avoid unnecessary chaos because people are involved. Here, the appropriate method to decrease resisting force is the Lewin's model of unfreezing, changing, and refreezing (Lewin, 1951) though old but still stands good as it is simple, goal-oriented and easy-to-understand framework and can be cyclical if a new need arises. (Bronwyn, 2006, p.2)

After the strategic analysis done on the current situation of education in our school and " a strategic choice which is concerned with generating and evaluating options before making a choice (Fidler, 1996, p. 145). As the college possesses adequate physical and human resources, I believe it should offer all subjects specified in the NCFS (National Curriculum Framework Secondary), hence diversify its choice of subjects at HSC level in order to satisfy the needs and wants of the school population. The strategic plan was set which will be followed by the implementation, control and learning according to Grundy's model (Fidler, 1996, p.150). It was decided that a 5 year plan would better meet the school's needs and concern.

The sequencing, pace and phasing of implementation will, to a large extent, be determined by the

development of increased management capacities at all levels in the schools. Another tool which helped to carry forward in my strategic thinking was the "scenario planning" (Schoemaker, 1995) as it is a technique which is applicable to "virtually any situation in which a decision maker would like to imagine how the future might be unfold" (Schoemaker, 1995, p.27). Concentrating on these features, the ideas were discussed in a staff meeting in order to improve the quality of strategic thinking to help me to capture the other possibilities which I may have ignored. My strategic choice will concentrate on the component of Art & Design which is not offered at HSC level, therefore my selection has both rational and political process (Fidler, 1996, p.36) as I am considering the organizational culture of the school and the future of my subject in the school including the policy of the Ministry of Education. The strategic plan I propose is to achieve my vision for my subject's, students' and school's future. All educators including me, the rector, and the pedagogical committee will be involved in the implementation process as well as in the monitoring of the plan following the "consultation model" of involvement proposed by Fidler (1996, p. 84). Even the IT department will be involved for the inclusion of ICT in the teaching and learning of Art & Design. The project will be monitored on a regular basis through structured meetings. Throughout the year, regular meetings will be organized in order to keep all stakeholders informed about progress made and problems encountered during plan implementation. However, I expect the sustainability of the project to be positively satisfied and it moves successfully forward with in the future years.

The strategic plan consists of a time plan and a pattern of involvement (Fiedler, 1996, p.83). The basic repeat cycle as based on "Fidler and Bowles model" (Fidler, 1996, p.60) will be for a period of one academic year. The progress will be reviewed and the strategic plan updated at the end of each academic year. The strategic plan will be in four different phases where Phase 1, the transitional level will start from August 2010 to December 2011 and will consist of setting up the system. Phase 2 beginning from January 2012 to December 2012 will be based on monitoring success and extending range. Phase 3 from January 2013 to December 2014 will be for perfecting the system and the Phase 4 is meant for January 2015 to December 2015, it will comprise the auditing and reviewing and ultimately planning to move forward.

Timescale

Strategic goals

Strategic Objectives

2010-2015 Targets

Activities

Monitoring

July 2010-2015

Minimize wastage of resources in art department (based on PBB)

Efficient use of equipment and area available for the teaching and learning of art & design

Full use of specialist room and equipment by all students up to HSC

Classes mentioned on the time table for all classes on a weekly basis

HOD and myself to ensure efficient use of resources by keeping a practical record book for the dept

August 2010-December 2015

Introduce and ensure survival of Art & Design at HSC level

To be in line with policy in NCFS - to provide the subject as an option at HSC level

Art & Design on option forms at Lower Six as from 2013

Review teaching strategies at lower level to maximize interest and develop creative skills in art & design.

Career guidance to inform students about job prospects in this field.

HOD and the rector to perform class visits and verify lesson plans and advise on effective use of teaching strategies.

Inclusion of a resource person for career guidance

January 2011-December 2015

Undertake yearly review of lower secondary curriculum for art & design

Curriculum review for practical work as a continuous process based upon requirements of subject trends

Revision of curriculum in departmental meeting at beginning of each academic year based on feedback using the "Fidler and Bowles model"

Continue revision by considering interests of students in relation to commercial art that prevails in the country, providing extrinsic motivation

HOD in collaboration with all members of the art & design department

Approval of the rector and pedagogical committee

August 2010- December 2016

Improve quality of results in art & design as from lower secondary level using measurable learning outcomes

Improve assessment mode

Integrate remedial education by 2011

Shift from summative assessment to formative assessment

Developing modality for remedial education

Develop standard assessment criteria for art & design

One activity period to be devoted on a weekly basis for those who require remedial work

Art & Design educators under supervision of HOD

Rector

January 2012-December 2015

Introduce the use of ICT as support tool in the teaching and learning of art & design

Introduce the use of ICT as support tool by all art educators in the teaching and learning of art & design

ICT plan to be developed for all classes of Art & Design by 2012

To update existing ICT facilities in specialist room by adding internet connection to allow access to online materials

Pedagogical committee

IT Department

January 2011-December 2015

In-service use training of art & design educators

To promote in-service training as a means of professional development

Graduate professional development encouraged at development and school level

Art educators trained to be more polyvalent in the subject

Rector

HOD

Finally, this strategic plan is essential for sustaining school improvement as it is looking forward to offer more choice and more subjects at HSC level. "The formation of a strategic plan enables schools to be proactive by developing a coherent approach to raising levels of quality" (Fidler, 1996, p.163). However, as mentioned in the strategic plan, it also involves willingness on the behalf of the school staff to move forward the school's vision and ensure overall development of students.