Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trends and Issues: Roles of School Heads as Instructional Leader, Administrator and Manager

By:  Gilbert M. Forbes

As the Philippine Public Educational System draws near 2015 which is the deadline of meeting Education for All goals (EFA),  it is also marching towards the most demanding ages of the 21st century- ‘behooving all educational leaders to reflect, analyze, plan and take action in order to cope with multifaceted changes in the border-less marketplace’ (Delagoza 1996).  This is regardless of the challenges, threats and internal problems and issues that the educational system is experiencing, and the common orientation that school managers’ position currently implies.

  For this matter, effective school managers are expected to be academically goal oriented and supervise instructional and co-curricular practices accordingly. They motivate and support the teachers, encourage the community and other school stakeholders to be involved in the educational program, and encourage participatory decision making.  They are also faced with the complex task of creating a school wide vision, being an instructional leader- planning for effective professional development, guiding teachers, handling discipline, attending important events and needs, and all the other minute details that come with supervising and managing a school (Richard 2000).  The job of a school principal if not more demanding and difficult than an ordinary teacher, is expected to be equal, hence “the quality of school principals as school managers is a factor in improving the quality of education” (EDCOM 1992).

    Various studies support the idea that ‘it is the leadership of the school that makes a difference between mediocrity and excellence (Hugghes 1991).  One can always point to the principal’s leadership as the key to success of a school that is vibrant and has a reputation of excellence in teaching.  Indeed, the school manager is the keystone in the building of effective schools.  (Licuanan 1994) found that the nine positive outliner schools or outstandingly effective schools in the country do have similarly effective principals.  There is a positively significant correlation between effective principals and effective schools.

    (Clemente 1996) emphasized the need to identify and develop education managers fit to pilot schools into the 21st Century. In this light he gives the characteristics that school managers should possess. The first characteristic is the capacity to contribute to the academic performance, second the capacity to promote culture in a given academic year, third, the capacity to promote sports, fourth, the capacity to manage limited resources and the last, the capacity for innovation in academics, culture, sports and resource management.

Leaders as Learners

    Even when schools are not actively in reform projects, principals and district administrators find themselves confronting issues for which they have not been trained.  This may include demographic shifts, more rigorous academic standards, various teacher’s behaviors, integration of special-needs students into regular classrooms, gang and fraternal trouble, and even sexual harassment and molestation of students.

    But no area better illustrates the challenges of unfamiliar ground than technology.  They find themselves being called to decide complex human and technical issues (Andrew Trotter 1997).  For this matter, they are increasingly defining themselves as learners, not just doers, constantly scanning the environment for new ideas, tools, and solutions.  To do so, they must overcome numerous barriers: lack of time, insufficient rewards, fear that visibly engaging in learning is an admission of imperfection, and negative attitudes from previously poorly conceived professional development activities (Roland Barth 1977).  School systems can help overcome these obstacles by creating learning opportunities that are reflective, collegial, unconventional, and principal centered.

    At the same time, the complexities of change require learning that is more than a solo activity aimed at individual mastery.  Instead, leaders must work to create “learning communities” in which the entire school works together to solve the problems confronting it (Shirley Hord 1997).  Leaders create and sustain learning by sharing decisions, nurturing a common vision, and providing support for staff learning.  They operate colegially, “leading from the center,” placing themselves physically and psychologically among the teachers, stimulating discussion of teaching and learning at every opportunity.

Manager as a Moral Leader

    Leaders require followers, and some observers see signs that school leadership is slowly losing its following.  Administrators seem to get less respect than before.  Due possibly to certain factors as political intervention, leadership styles and practice, level of intelligence and communication abilities, and the rumors on how and where he is able to finish his graduate degree.  In this way, lesser respect and at the outset no more respect plus political attacks are becoming more common.  Moreover, some thoughtful critics argue that traditional public support is eroding, and that the public is “halfway out the schoolhouse door” (David Mathews 1996).  Whereas school leaders of long ago inherited moral authority, today they have to earn it.

    In part, moral authority comes from adherence to basic ethical principles such as honesty, fairness, hard- work and compassion.  For example, periodic reports or rumors of “irregularities” in conducting district and division assessment tests or even national tests such as NEAT and NSAT, corruption and even elicit affairs have raised questions about administrative ethics (Bess Keller 1998); even when unproved, the allegations undermine public faith in education.  While there is no evidence that school leaders are less ethical than other professionals, there is also no reason for complacency.  In a survey of superintendents in the U.S., William Fenstermaker (1996) found that when given an ethical dilemma with a number of proposed solutions, over half chose a response that would be considered unethical by their code of ethics.  Fenstermaker concluded that many administrators were either unaware of the ethical issues involved or did not care.  The same could also be true in the Philipppine setting although there’s no available data or research yet that may disclose this possibility.

    However, moral authority requires more than individual ethical excellence.  Leaders must create a consensus on purpose and practice that serves as the moral standard for everyone in the school (Thomas Sergiovanni 1996) aside from the code of ethics being implemented to all.  By continually raising questions and purpose, institutionalizing shared values, and motivating others by example, school leader establish a “moral voice” that infuses the school community.  Sergiovanni argues that principals go astray when they treat their schools as formal organizations rather than as living communities.  Research by Susan Moore Johnson (1998) similarly suggests that educational leadership be built on virtues such as honesty and respect.  She found that new superintendents established their credibility by initially listening and learning before making judgments or imposing solutions.

Responding to Challenges and other Issues

    So far, school leaders in the first world and in the newly industrialized countries seem to be responding to the new challenges by simply working harder.  Principals in these countries become enslaved to the job’s daily demands, responding to each crisis as it occurs, kept off balance by “the constant bombardment of new tasks and the continual interruptions” (Michael Fullan 1998). As a result, there was a big turn- over.  A study of elementary and middle school principals conducted by the National Association of School Principals in the U.S. in 1998 found that 42 percent turnover that has existed during the last ten years is likely to continue into the next decade (Doud and Keller 1998).  They point to many factors that make the principalship highly stressful: long hours of work- for most, a 60 to 80- hour work a week, workload and complexity of job, supervision of evening activities “unending,” minimal pay difference between the top teacher and administrator, feeling overwhelmed with very high expectations, state and district mandates that require “mountains” of paperwork, and increasingly complex society and social problems.  The increasing demands of the position can cause many principals to feel the stress is not worth it.

    The situation in the Philippines is quite different.  While it is expected that majority of the school principals at present are about to leave their positions, it isn’t because of the stress as a result of increasing demands in their positions as instructional leader and manager but because they are retiring.  At present being a school administrator is still seen as the easiest way out for teachers especially the master teachers to escape the demands and stress of being a classroom teacher even when it will mean a decrease on their monthly pay.  Not to include here is the honor and prestige that goes with being a school leader as well as the unstressful nature of the job as they might think it to be. This is thereby seen as the motivating factor of the relatively higher number of graduate students taking up graduate education in school management and administration.  The 1994- 95 data on graduate enrollment shows that 43.8% of the total enrollment was in teacher education.  The doctoral level is far higher having a share of 62.6% (Garcia 1996). Thus, it is predicted to increase further encouraging the proliferation of ‘diploma mill’ type of institutions and unqualified graduates.  From this vantage, it appears that their ability to respond to new challenges is questionable; hence, “it is preposterous to think of a bureaucracy manned by full-fledged MA’s and Ph.D’s who know little about their disciplines”(Angel Alcala 1996).  Given the fact that the kind of school management being employed by our school managers is far beyond compare with those in progressive countries, it is not surprising that there is still much to be desired when it comes to quality.

    In so doing, DepEd has implemented the merit system for those who will be moving to the administrative and leadership ladder.  However, still quiet a big weight is given to graduate educational qualifications.  But at least, it has equalized the opportunity particularly for those performing school managers viz their not so much performing counterparts who have already completed their graduate studies.

    Along the way there are many efficient leaders who seem to be searching for the right balance between managing and leading. Cascadden found that, these principals recognized and accepted both functions as essential but reported that the reform movement was squeezing them between contradictory demands.  On the one hand, restructuring has pushed more management decisions to the school site; on the other hand, the current management theories emphasized the importance of empowering leadership.  This creates an obvious time crunch, as well as the challenge of being both efficient and collaborative- in a system that retains a top-down orientation.  In the country however, the situations mentioned already support the reason why top-down orientation still remains and quite slow to transform itself on the new principles of leadership and management through empowerment.  But then, it is also good to review and reform the management functions of the present and future breed of school managers to make them more productive, dynamic and efficient like their counterparts in various part of the world.  They should be made ready to meet the challenges of this constantly changing world particularly now in the face of the effective implementation of School Based Management (SBM).

(Mr. Gilbert M. Forbes had his Bachelors Degree and MA in Educational Management (CAR) from the Philippine Normal University.  A campus paper adviser and trainer for 13 years.  Currently, he is a school principal in one of the central schools in the Division of Quezon.)


Barsaga, Eligio B., “Assessment of the Multigrade Program in the Philippine Education (MPPE), The Philippine Journal of Education, Vol. LXXIVIII, No., 1998

Clemente, Alejandro W., “Philippine Education into the 21st Century,” Joer Printing Services, Quezon City 1996

Delagoza, Rolando S., “Educational Leadership in Times of Change and Transition,” The Philippine Journal of Education, Vol. LXXIVIII

Forbes, Gilbert M., “The School Management/Administration,” An Unpublished Reaction Paper for the Course Educational Environment at the Graduate College, Philippine Normal University, Manila 1999

Garcia, Ester A., “General Directions for Graduate Education: The CHED Viewpoint,” Sangguni Vol.IX No. 1, Philippine Normal University, Manila 1997

Hertling Elisabeth, “Retaining Principals,” College of Education, University of Oregon U.S.A., Eric Digest 2001

“Modernizing Philippine Education,” Master Plan for Basic Education (1996-2005), Department of Education Culture and Sports, Manila, Philippines

“Trends and Issues: Role of the School Leader,” Clearinghouse on Educational Management, College of Education, University of Oregon, ERIC/CEM 2001

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