school leadership and management

The much-awaited results of Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2019, have scraped the wounds of school education leaders and policy makers. PISA is a test of reading, math, and science abilities of students in the age group of 15-16, from 79 OECD countries.

The latest seventh batch of PISA results came about two decades after it was first conducted in 2000. The hope was that it would give a wealth of new information, and preferably a magic wand for school leadership and management to K12 leaders and policymakers. Far from achieving them, new insights dashed the hopes for eternity, signaling two major implications for K12 education system. The results show the situation is as abysmal as it was decades ago. There is no significant improvement in the learning abilities of students on average when compared to 2000 results.

Here are the implications of what PISA report has in hold for global school education leaders, and how K12 principals and heads need to better lead and manage their institutions.

No Silver Bullet for Improving School Education – Two implications for K12 leaders

The Economist quotes, “If a silver bullet for improving education existed it would have been discovered by now (with PISA).” Yet, it does not imply that improvement in school learning outcomes isn’t possible. For K12 education, it signifies that the path is trickier than one may have initially imagined. Here are two major inferences of PISA report for school education leaders and K12 heads worldwide.

1. Not much correlation between increasing expenditure and test scores.

Despite increasing the spending per pupil in 79 participating countries, the average performance of students in reading, mathematics, and science remained the same as when the test was first started.

Part of the reason of overall lack of improvement in learning outcomes of students signifies that infusing more money in education system doesn’t automatically translate to improved results. This implies that the investment in school education should be done with much forethought.

Beyond a certain threshold, the improvement in test scores in school education can’t be brought by increasing spending alone. As per PISA report, the data suggests that spending cumulatively around $60,000 per pupil during the span of 6 to 15 years would do good. The correlation between increased spending and improved outcomes start to fall beyond that.

This means, it is the strategic investment of resources and bringing other cultural changes that account for improved learning. Say, spending on hiring better trained teachers.

A big part of the problem is that many institutions pay little attention to hiring trained and excellent teachers, and rather prioritize shrinking class size. This is a bad idea. – Andreas Schleicher, Head of education, OECD

2. Schools will have to go above and beyond their walls to influence overall progress of students – triggering a cultural change.

It is commonly assumed that schools hold the prime responsibility for educating students. It is certainly so, but cultural and societal influences matter as much. Building a culture beyond school is very important. For school education leaders, it implies that they will also have to take up this matter under their ambit. To create a leading school educational institution is important to devise plan for nurturing a culture of learning, not just in the institution, but in families and societies at large.

Schools can play an instrumental change in triggering a cultural change in societies toward learning. It can be done by engaging with the parents and steering learning activities at homes through nudging.

Other Highlights – The New Best.

  • The results show, Finland once touted as the example of best school education system in the world, has seen its results fall. The reason report state is the inability of schools to influence the culture outside school premises when it comes to promoting a learning culture.
  • Singapore is continuing to reach higher grounds, whose leaders are said to be reaping benefits of investing in the quality of teachers in schools.
  • The school systems from some parts of China – municipalities of Beijing and Shanghai, and the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang – have come out as the highest achiever in PISA test, especially math, whose average is roughly three years ahead of OECD average.

School Leadership and Management Program – What makes the school system tick?

Heads and principals of K12 and school education are not just responsible for management, but also leadership. “A lot of principals separate the two roles and don’t pay much attention to how their role as a leader and manager goes hand-in-hand,” says Dr. Alvy, a former principal in the Department of Education at Eastern Washington University.

Successful school education leaders combine management and leadership strategies, say by using periodic faculty meetings to also understand training levels of their teachers, using little time they get for student interaction to also gauge the levels of learnings, observing first five minutes of class instructions to see how teachers are faring in imparting learning, using data of test scores to inform their decisions, making weak students an opportunity for teachers to improve their pedagogy, among others.

To expand the quality and reputation of K12 education organizations, school leaders can engage in executive school leadership and management programs offered by top education leaders of the world from the likes of the Wharton School, Harvard Business School, and others.

Developed with a unique collaboration of the world’s No.1 B-School (QS Ranking) – the  Wharton School, Education Management Research Centre and the Graduate School of Education of the University of Pennsylvania, the Global Fellow of School leadership and management program exclusively aims at school principals and heads. It brings together K12 leaders around the globe to help them build efficient leadership plans for their institutions to successfully deal with new age challenges. The leaders engage through Wharton Online learning, as well as two five-day residential MasterClass sessions, conducted in the Wharton campus.

Harvard Business School offers a program in leading change and organizational renewal for executives who may come from any sectors and industries.  It is developed in conjunction with the Stanford Graduate School of Business. It would help school leaders delve into the challenges and intricacies of leading and managing change.

A long-term master’s and doctoral program in education policy and planning is also offered by the University of Texas (Austin) for leaders looking to invest significant time in preparing themselves for school leadership.

K12 institutional excellence needs leaders who can build a heart into planning, even after accounting for limitations. Find your conduit to finding the heart in the equation of learning!


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