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Showing posts from November, 2013

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…

Understanding the Environments in which schools operate (Part 2): The socio-cultural environment

School Managers must, if they have not yet seriously engaged themselves with this activity, develop an understanding of the socio-cultural environment in which students have their being. This environment does impact the performance of students either positively or negatively. Three elements of the socio-cultural environment demands study by school managers. Understanding these elements determines how these managers develop their vision for their schools.

The first element of the socio-cultural environment that requires much study by school managers is that of poverty. School managers need to acquaint themselves with the extent and nature of poverty in the country and in their locales. They can do this in several ways: either by reading about the subject as it relates to Jamaica, its manifestations and effects or they may listen to discussions of the issue on various media or they may sharpen their observation of what happens in their environment. School Managers may be familiar with th…

Understanding the environments in which schools operate (Part 1)

Managers of schools (Principals) have to make every effort to develop an understanding of the local environments in which the schools that they manage are located. In addition, they need to understand the macro environments, that is, the socio-cultural, the economic and the political environments in which the school system operates. Also, they need to have a sound understanding of the technological environment. School managers need to have a profound understanding of all these environments if they want to be truly effective in their jobs. And their understanding of all these environments must happen simultaneously. The school managers have to “hit the ground running” as the saying goes after they are appointed. And they must take the entire staff along on this journey. Let’s now pick apart all these environments that will impact the school manager’s performance on the job. First, the school managers need to develop an understanding of the local environments in which their schools are l…

Devising “pie in the sky” interventions to solve problems of poor performance in the education system

Recently, I walked by a primary school. On its walls painted in bright colours were numerals and letters of the alphabet. There were also a number of pithy sayings. One of these sayings was the motto of the Ministry of Education.,“Every child can learn: Every child must learn,” which stood out in sharp relief. Teachers, students, parents and the wider community – its stakeholders – were constantly being reminded of the core aim of the school. That is, to do everything possible to foster learning in every child. However, while I was admiring the works of art, the pithy sayings, the general environment of the school, I wondered about the extent to which any or all of the stakeholders were committed to this vision which the school was championing and the extent to which they were resourced to make this vision a reality.

It is no secret that there are many children who enter the education system at the pre-primary level, continue their schooling up to the end of the secondary level from wh…

Performativity in the education system: Teachers

The discourses of the New Public Management (NPM) in Jamaica are bound up with those of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in terms of the need for fiscal responsibility in government. Jamaica’s dire financial straits have sent it to the IMF once again. With the financial assistance offered by the IMF comes advice, advice which it believes if followed, will yield much benefit to the recipient country.

The advice that the IMF is proffering to the government at this time is that it needs to urgently reduce the size of the public service. The public service, it says, absorbs too much of government’s scarce resources. The government does not have the political will to do this at this time by ridding the service of some of its personnel. What it has been doing instead as regards the advice of the IMF is trying to reduce costs in the public service by identifying areas from which resources may be saved. How are teachers being impacted? Many teachers are disheartened by the pronouncement…

Performativity in the education system: school leaders

If we think of [public sector] performativity as a process that works on us through the discourses of the New Public Management (NPM), discourses that, at the end of their work on us, leave us wanting to be more productive than we have been before then we only have to examine public sector organisations to find out the extent to which the concept of performativity is a useful explanatory tool for the work ethic that is evident in these organisations. Let us do so, then, by focusing on the school. Within this organisation, principals are caught between two major forces – traditionalism and change. The extent to which principals grab hold of either force will determine how they perform their jobs in the current education system. What do I mean by traditionalism? This is the status quo. That is, the way things have always been done before. This is behaviour that has been learnt, practised and passed on for centuries to successive groups of workers who pass through the doors of government…

Performativity and Administrators/Managers in the Ministry of Education

I imagine that the Ministry of Education has periodic reviews where, as a team, it assesses its achievements over the period under review and charts the way forward for the next period.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario:
The permanent secretary convenes a meeting with Heads of Departments. The Minister may also be invited to the meeting. If the Minister is a part of the meeting, protocol demands that he gets the first chance to put something substantive on the table. The permanent secretary being the manager of the entire ministry is the chairperson of this meeting. She gets through the preliminaries and invites the Minister to make a few comments. The Minister thanks them for having him there then launches into outlining some of the issues that’s been on his mind. He reminds the attendees at this meeting about the dire economic strait that the country is in, a state that is being exacerbated by the global economic crisis. He draws their attention to the need to reduce costs …