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CASE STUDIES ON SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL MANAGEMENT


A Research Program of the Asian Network of
Training and Research Institutions in Educational Planning (ANTRIEP)

Concern for quality improvement coupled with decentralization of educational governance and introduction of school-based management has brought into focus the importance of effective school management in general and the role of the school head in particular. Consequently the school management framework in many countries of the region is undergoing significant transformation with direct implications for in-school management processes, community school linkages, the role of the head teacher as well as external support and accountability mechanisms. While some measures to improve school management could be initiated through system-wide reforms, others require a focus on local level efforts nearer to the school site. Though the nature of changes will vary among different countries, the move to redefine the roles of different stakeholders in the management of schools is easily discernible in both developed and developing countries.

Several questions are worth examining in more detail. What measures really lead to a significant change in the school management process? How have various measures influenced the role of head teachers? Do the changes have system-wide implications? Are they sustainable in the long run? Which of the changes are school specific innovations? Are there elements emerging from these innovations that could be adopted on a large scale? These questions are of direct relevance for ensuring that initiatives help improve the quality of schooling, in terms of effectiveness of the instructional processes and with regard to improving management processes at the school level. It is proposed that these and other related issues be explored in different countries of Asia through the member institutions of ANTRIEP.

Objectives

Against this background, the ANTRIEP program proposes to undertake case studies of successful school management in selected countries of Asia. The specific objective of the case studies is to develop a critical understanding of the characteristics of successful school management practices and strategies in different countries and to clarify how such practices and strategies can be adopted in different contexts.

The ultimate objective of the research program is to inform institutions on how to build school leaders' capacities in order to improve school management. It is envisaged that the case studies would subsequently help us to design training activities appropriate to different country contexts.

Types of Case Study

Keeping the overall purpose in mind, three types of case studies have been visualized, as indicated in the following:

(a) Macro level initiatives leading to changes in the country's system of school management would form the first category of case studies. These initiatives could be major policy reform measures or national level efforts to initiate changes that directly impinge on the way schools are managed, with particular reference to head teachers. Such measures could include the introduction of school improvement planning, the setting up of school managing committees or school governing boards, new practices regarding teacher and school evaluation and other innovative accountability measures.

(b) The second category of case studies could deal with a number of projects that have emerged to reshape the role of school heads and thereby improve school functioning. Some of these could be large-scale initiatives designed and implemented by government agencies while others could be small-scale projects implemented with the help and involvement of NGOs. The choice of the projects would be based on their effective potential to transform school management processes and eventually redefine the role of the head teachers.

(c) The third set would consist of “institutional” case studies covering only one or a few schools. This would involve identifying specific schools that have successfully improved the school management process through their own initiative (action projects or specific innovations). These can be very different schools: primary or secondary, urban or rural, and with small or large enrolment of children. It is important that the success thus obtained has shown to be sustainable.

Focus Areas for Case Studies

The main focus of each case study will have to be decided on the basis of contextual factors at national and school levels. However, based on the review of developments currently taking place in different countries, it is proposed that one or more of the following five areas, which are known to have a significant impact on the quality of a school could form the focus of the case studies:

(i) Internal management of the school: Studies in this area will concentrate on different dimensions of in-school management, both academic and administrative, and on the effective roles played by different actors in the management of human, physical and financial resources and of pedagogical matters. It can address issues such as: how to ensure active teacher participation in setting school policies and priorities; or what are the characteristics of successful school boards, and so on.

(ii) Roles and Functions of head teachers: As already noted, the head teacher occupies a central place in any effort to improve school management. The current thrust to decentralize educational governance and give greater autonomy to schools has raised further expectations on the management skills and leadership capabilities of school heads. Specific case studies could therefore focus on profiling the characteristics of effective school principals, the roles they actually play in school management and on their innovative experiments to improve the performance of their schools.

(iii) School-Community Linkage: Studies have clearly demonstrated the importance of community participation in improving school management. This has come under the spotlight in recent years with increased emphasis on school-based management and school development planning. Understanding the dynamics of community-school linkages in school management will be one of the critical areas to be dealt with by the case studies. The focus will be on different processes adopted for ensuring effective community involvement and on the mechanisms put in place for this purpose such as PTAs, school governing boards and school management committees.

(iv) External Support for Strengthening School Management: Schools function as units of a larger system of education. Therefore the relationship between the school and the representatives of the larger system (e.g. the district offices and the supervisors) and the support mechanisms operating to monitor and strengthen school functioning could form part of the analysis. An attempt should be made in these case studies to include not only the traditional systems of school supervision but also the emerging structures such as school clusters, resource centres and so on.

(v) School Evaluation and Accountability: Enhanced attention to school development planning and the corresponding provision of greater freedom and authority for institutional management at the school level has demanded increased emphasis on assessing school performance in a systematic manner. In this context many countries are examining the scope for establishing independent mechanisms for school evaluation and accountability, while others are putting greater trust in the school itself to undertake its own evaluation. This aspect could form an important part of the school management case studies.

Method of Study:

Some of the studies could involve carrying out desk based reviews of innovative efforts to transform the school management processes. It is clearly envisaged that the studies will not involve any large-scale surveys, as some broad reviews of the school management system and the roles of head teachers have already been done during the last 2-3 years by various ANTRIEP member institutions. The purpose of conducting the case studies is to go deeper into the phenomenon at the school level and understand the underlying dynamics of change and transformation. The field work would therefore largely be based on capturing stakeholder narratives, focus group discussions, structured and unstructured interviews, participatory information gathering, some school observation and so on. The choice of the methods of investigation and reporting should be guided by the fact that they will eventually help design capacity building of school heads and other concerned individuals in school management.

Organization of the Case Studies

Overall coordination of the whole exercise will be the responsibility of the International Institute of Educational Planning, UNESCO, Paris. Specific case studies will be conducted by the ANTRIEP member institutions in three stages as indicated below:

Preparatory Stage: In this first stage, each member institution will be asked to prepare a detailed draft proposal specifying the theme and types of case study to be undertaken. While selecting a topic, the institute will need to keep in mind the specific country situations and the expertise available within the participating institution.

Design Stage: Careful designing of the case studies will be critical. These studies are qualitative in nature and their validity depends strongly on the reliability of data collection. They also have to form the basis of capacity-building activities for school heads in various countries of the region. The study design will, to a great extent, depend on the nature of the topic and various contextual factors. It is proposed that the preliminary proposals will be shared among the participating member institutions and the design of the Case Studies will be finalized in a Technical Workshop to be organized for all the members during the first half of 2003. The Workshop will also ensure that the case studies together will comprehensively cover various aspects of School Management and the Role of Head Teachers.

Implementation and Reporting Stage: Actual implementation and preparation of case studies will be done using the country's available expertise both from within the member institutions and outside, and based on the study designs finalized in the Technical Workshop. It is envisaged that a continuous sharing and mutual exchange of experience will take place among various participating institutions electronically throughout the period of field work and report writing. Upon completion of the studies, the possibility of a second workshop to exchange and discuss reports will be examined.

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