Thursday, 13 February 2014

Leadership and Education

“Wherever leadership is ineffective and or lacking chaos reigns” (Wayne Campbell 2014).
The Jamaican society continues to suffer from ineffective leadership in all spheres.
Therefore we should not be surprised at the findings by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) that approximately fifty per cent (50%) of our primary and secondary schools have leadership classified as unsatisfactory. 
Notwithstanding that there is an abundance of public opinion which argues that the state of the Jamaican education system would have been better had the government used the funds that went towards the establishment of the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) to provide critical support to those " weaker" schools within the education system. Why do we have education officers? Do you think it would have been more cost effective to have expanded the role and function of the education officer instead of creating a new entity? 
One reality which we refuse to admit to is the fact that there are some schools which urgently need the presence of police officers or army personnel to be stationed on the campus. Teachers are not trained to be correctional officers. There are many schools which are not coping and will not cope given the ineffective leadership which is widespread. Our refusal to act decisively on these matters put our students and teachers in harm’s way. Nothing less is required to ensure that teaching and learning takes place. Additionally there is an urgent need for psychologists and social workers to be employed in many of our schools. Not all children can learn nor will they learn in the present structure we now have. Research has shown that mental retardation is around one percent of any given population. There are many students in the mainstream education system that requires specialized care. However, due to a lack of schools for special needs students such students continue to be in a system which cannot address their needs. This is an unconscionable act and indeed a human rights issue which requires urgent action. This failure on the part of the state speaks to the systemic failures within the education system.
Another disturbing revelation from the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report states that a significant number of school principals are not sufficiently focused. The root of the problem has its genesis mainly in the political interference in the selection process of some of our principals.
This political intrusion in the affairs of our schools has opened the way for meddling of differing persuasion especially of a religious nature more so for church based schools. This too should be a cause for concern for all well thinking Jamaicans. In a significant number of instances the candidate who is most capable and competent is overlooked for the candidate who has the support of the church or politician. We need to remove education outside the realm of politics if we are serious about transforming Jamaica's education system.  
We need to create a culture of meritocracy where people are judged based on their worth and work and not their political and or social connections. As result of not adhering to this ethical principle the society continues to suffer since many competent and qualified individuals have refrained from putting themselves forward for positions of leadership.
We need to build and foster a culture of transparency and accountability across all sectors of the Jamaican society or else we are doomed to fail. This NEI revelation of uninspired and unsatisfactory school leadership in our schools is very disturbing and does not offer us much hope in the short and medium term. This is more distressing since it was reported that a significant number of school principals are non compliant in completing critical components of the Effective Leadership Programme at the National College for Education Leadership (NCEL). One way of addressing the lack of focus by our principals is by employing them on a contractual basis.
Interestingly there is a co relation between those principals who are non compliant and under performing schools. The failure of some principals is an indictment on their leadership skills or lack thereof. We continue to practice the culture of entitlement to the peril of the education system and the society in general. 
Another area of grave concern is that of the appointment of school boards. Too many of those who sit of school boards should not be there period! Moreover many of our school boards are just an extension of the office of the principal. The Education Ministry should examine the possibility of providing training for those who sit of school boards. Board members should be made to go through a rigorous selection process a part of which should include some form of written and oral examination. Maybe we should go the way of having a cluster system involving chairmen of school boards. Why not have one competent chairperson serving three or four schools in a cluster?
The final area of concern is that of the appointment or I prefer the term selection of senior teachers in the education system. The Ministry of Education needs to revise how senior teachers are selected. For the most part senior teachers are hand picked by principals as a reward for their loyalty and devotion to the individual principal. This is sore point for most schools and serves to create divisions in the school system which ultimately affects the teaching/learning process.
We need to remove the selection of senior teachers from the domain of principals and have a central body appoint senior teachers.
If we are truly serious about transforming Jamaica’s education system we should look at all the stake holders involved and put measures in place to address the weaknesses and deficiencies which are abound. Finally why not open the National College for Education Leadership (NCEL) to teachers who may be desirous to be trained as principals. We are not very serious about educational transformation in this society. Given Jamaica’s economic predicament investment in quality education is the only hope to lift us out and up of our economic stagnation. We are now at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. It’s now time for us to critically examine alternatives models to not only improve test scores of our students, but to provide our students with the necessary skills for them to become productive citizens in the technological driven era.

Wayne Campbell