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Are principals of schools administrators, managers or leaders?

Principals of public schools whom I have referred to in previous articles as managers of schools are involved in the practice of public administration or what is now being referred to as public management. Since public administration [simply put] is government in action (Wilson, 1887) and since the business of public education is facilitated by government, then the heads of public educational institutions are doing the work of government which is public administration.

Now the question as to whether or not these heads of public educational institutions are public administrators, public managers or leaders of schools is best answered by heads/principals of schools, I think. We are in an era when one of the major discourses in public administration centres on the need for leaders in government agencies to be managers rather than administrators. Management, the proponents of this view believe will lead to the achievement of results while administration is passive. It is concerned with mai…

Food for Thought

Statue of Mahatma Ghandi in Tavistock Square, London
Photo by J. Fuller

There are many wise sayings attributed to Mahatma Ghandi. I’ll leave two with you for you to ponder.
The first is: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever [my emphasis].
(http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/mahatmagan133995.html)
The second is: ... Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.
(http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/2988.html) Every new day which dawns for us gives us a chance to learn something. There is a lesson to be learnt in every experience we have, bad or good. We should learn these lessons by critically analysing each of our daily experiences. And, having learnt each lesson life throws our way, let us take the positives from them, apply them to our lives as we continue to strive to be the best persons we can be.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

This is just a note wishing all visitors to this blog a happy holiday season. I know that, at this time of the year, there are many people who prefer that we wish them, Merry Christmas!, instead of Happy Holiday! However, I am aware that there are many people who do not celebrate Christmas (at least not in the Christian sense of the word) although they enjoy many of the festivities of the period. So, from me to you, whatever your belief or practice, have a happy and safe holiday. Be merry – in moderation. And remember, to share some joy and love this season and always.

Students carolling; shoppers pause to enjoy the music Photo by J. Fuller


Why do children attend school? Part 2

From the responses students give when I ask them their reasons for attending school I have deduced the following: students attend school because they have a realistic vision of where they see themselves when they grow up; students attend school being motivated by an unrealistic vision of where they see themselves when they grow up; students attend school because they enjoy acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge; students attend school because they enjoy socialising with their friends.

Unlike the students who attend school because their parents send them and who have not thought about the possible benefits of schooling, these students have given some thought to their purpose in school.

Some of these students, whom I have categorised as having a realistic vision of where they see themselves when they grow up, will identify career paths as either in the traditional professions – medicine and law – or in engineering, business, the airline industry as pilots. Other students …

Biology and Educational Performance?

In the last article, I presented one response expressed by many students as to their reason for attending school. That is, they attend school only because of the initiative of their parent/parents and/guardians. I will, in a subsequent article, examine some of the other responses given by students for attending school.
But in this article, I want to present one perspective on the performance of students in the education system which was shared by former Professor of Education, now Emeritus Professor of Education, at the University of the West Indies, (UWI) Mona Campus.
Professor Miller was participating in the discussion programme, All Angles which was aired on Television Jamaica on the 22nd of August 2012. The topic under discussion was “Major Problems in the Education System”. Professor Miller presented some information which I will describe as “a biological profile of students in the education system”. The Professor received his early training in Biology so I have no reason to disco…

Why do children attend school? Reason number 1

If a teacher, just on a whim, asks a class of forty students why they attend school, emanating from the babble that will ensue will be several responses. The majority of students will respond that they attend school because their parent/s or guardians send them. A number of these students will be joking. But many others will be totally serious.

The students who are only in school solely because their parent/s or guardians insist that they attend are the ones who are the most resistant to learning. They have reluctantly done their caregiver a favour by attending school. They do not want any further hassle from teachers with any grand design that they can make them learn. They are willing to give up without trying. I have found, though, that in cases like these when these students display no interest in my subject I have had to find other means of engaging them than by only presenting a lesson to them in class.

I have found in most of these cases that it is prudent to get to know the stud…

Understanding the environments in which schools operate (part 6): The spatial environment

In a number of previous articles, I have outlined the different environments in which schools operate and have argued that it is important for managers of schools to develop an understanding of these environments, because in understanding these environments these managers will be able to make prudent decisions as regards the tasks with which they are entrusted and will, therefore, enjoy some amount of effectiveness. The environments in which schools operate, with which I have engaged in previous articles, are the physical, socio-political, economic, political and technological environments.

However, we should also consider another type of environment in which schools operate which I will refer to as the spatial environment. This is probably not the best descriptor of the phenomenon, space, which I want to explore, as the idea of space is bound up with that of environment. Anyway, the idea that I am putting forward, here, is that managers of schools need to be concerned about, and some…

Understanding the environments in which schools operate (part 5): The evolving technological environment

Before I explain why managers of schools should seek to constantly develop their understanding of the technological environment, I will outline what I mean by the technological environment.

The technological environment refers to a space that is defined by the technologies that proliferate there. Technologies, here, refer to the tools/methods that societies are now using to manipulate nature and each other for gain. In this light, the technological environment of the school referred to here, means the tools/methods which are available in the space in which schools operate and to which the schools have access and which can help those in the school community – managers, administrators, teaching staff and students – to increase their productivity, create knowledge and substantially enhance communication and the work of the school.

The technological environment is dynamic. If we travel vicariously through history we will pass through stages of civilisation where different technologies pr…

Understanding the environments in which schools operate (Part 4): The political environment

How well do school managers understand the political environment in which they work? They have to begin this process of understanding by examining the nature of power, their perspective of power and the political culture of the environment in which their schools are located.

To understand the nature of power, the school manager must have an understanding of the concept of politics. Because, at the heart of politics is power. If one asks many Jamaicans to attempt a definition of politics, one will get responses such as: Politics is dirty. It’s what the politicians do. It is voting in elections. It is violence and, from these responses, one will realise that the concept connotes lots of negative sentiments. These Jamaicans will tell you that they are not interested in politics, so why do they have to talk about it. Many managers of schools take this position. Politics is what the politicians do and much of what they do is not good. So, only “special” people engage in it. What many of thes…

Understanding the environments in which schools operate, Part 3: The economic environment

Long time managers of schools (principals) as well as new managers need to constantly assess the economic environment of the country because the nature of the economic environment will determine the amount of resources that government, through the Ministry of Education, will make available to their schools. And the amount of resources that they get and use efficiently will determine the effectiveness of the school. Today, the economic environment in which schools operate is dire.

In 2009 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) calculated that if Jamaica’s public debt burden were divided by all members of the population at the time then “each Jamaican would carry a debt burden of US$7,920, roughly three times the average annual income per person” (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/ourwork/povertyreduction/projects_and_initiatives/projects_jamaica-debt-exchange/). This situation has not significantly improved since then and will not improve any time soon unless the econom…