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Education Leadership and Management

Concept and Significance

Educational leadership has a critical role in the transformation of society, and for change to happen, effective leaders are key. Along with the widespread belief that the quality of leadership makes a significant difference to school and student outcomes, there is also increasing recognition that effective school leaders and managers have to be developed if they are to provide the best possible education for their learners. 

Azim Premji Foundation strongly believes that education management has to be strengthened by enhancing leadership and management skills of functionaries within the public education system if quality universal education is to be achieved. Thus, building expertise in the area of Educational Leadership and Management (ELM) has been a priority. 

Our systematic engagement in educational leadership and management involves education functionaries and managers at various levels of the block, cluster, district and state.

Working within the Foundation’s vision of an education that facilitates a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society, ELM seeks to explore an understanding of quality education and the critical challenges to it in the Indian context, and how education leadership and management can contribute to improving the quality of government schools in India. 

The ELM domain arises from synthesis on the ground of education perspectives, leadership and management perspectives, Government education system perspectives, and educational change perspectives. It attempts to address the issues of systemic change, quality education and the Government school in India through its stated missions of building a valuable body of knowledge in the Education Leadership and Management space, creating robust principles, frameworks, systems and processes for developing education leaders, managers and institutions, building the capabilities of education leaders and managers in the education system, creating a pool of individual talent and institutional capability for development of Educational Leadership and Management, advocating its centrality as a significant contributor to quality education, and evolving as a credible body for suggesting policy reforms.

Our highly collaborative efforts in Karnataka have been formalized into a unit – the Policy Planning Unit (PPU) – which is a part of Department of Education. PPU is staffed by people from Government of Karnataka and Azim Premji Foundation. The Unit was set up in March 2003 and is currently located in the office of Commissioner of Public Instructions. Its stated objective is “contributing to developing education policy and planning at macro and micro levels”. Its mandate was to “strengthen academic and management policies and practices in institution-building of academic, administrative & community institutions for effective service delivery towards achieving quality universal school education in Karnataka.”

ELM has initiated several long-term engagements with the government education department and its functionaries at various levels, through efforts such as the Management Development Program, the School Leadership Development Program and the Institutional Capacity Development program. 

Management Development Program (MDP)

MDP is an attempt to work with individual Education Leadership and Management capacities in the Department of Public Instruction, Government of Karnataka. The program has been facilitated by the PPU, Azim Premji Foundation and our partnering resource institution C-LAMPS in collaboration with Sarva Siksha Abhiyan (SSA). MDP has completed three years.
The broad objectives of the Management Development Program were to:
  • Build managerial skills to enable officers of the department to respond proactively to the environment both at the functional and unit levels to achieve the goals of the department
  • Strengthen individual and organizational effectiveness by building managerial competence to achieve the goals of the department including quality universal education
  • To help officers to look at the education sector from a managerial perspective
These objectives were detailed at both the strategic and operational levels.

The process of developing Management Development Facilitators (MDFs) through the program began in 2006-2007 with reaching out to approximately 800 prospective candidates, of whom 75 were finally certified as Management Development Facilitators.

In 2008-2009, MDP began at the district level for Cluster Resource Persons (CRPs) and Block Resource Persons (BRPs) with support from Azim Premji Foundation, SSA and UNICEF. The program was designed for CRPs and BRPs to implement a Quality Improvement Project (QIP) within their role and circle of influence, providing them with opportunities to apply the inputs that they would receive in the classroom sessions. Envisaged as a part of a Training–Application–Coaching approach, the QIP provides the CRPs and BRPs with opportunities to apply the perspectives, ideas, concepts, tools that they explored theoretically in the classroom training. 

During 2008-2009, 989 CRPs and 279 BRPs in 16 districts carried out QIPs. 

Division District
Mysore Udupi, Hassan, Mandya, Mysore, Kodagu
Gulbarga Raichur, Bellary
Belgaum Uttara Kannada, Belgaum, Bagalkote and Bijapur
Bangalore Bangalore Urban, Chitradurga, Shimoga, Bangalore Rural and Kolar.

In 2009-2010, 15 districts did QIP while 16 did a Second Quality Improvement Project (SQIP), with Bangalore (U), Chikmagalur, Tumkur and Uttara Kannada having two batches each.

A bird’s-eye view of the numbers:


District QIP Participants SQIP Participants # of Projects
Ramanagara 29 30 30
Bangalore Urban 71 0 35
Chitradurga 27 36 32
Kolar 0 30 15
Shimoga   30 15
Tumkur 53   27
Chikmagalur 52   26
Hassan 30 30 30
Kodagu   28 14
Mandya 26 30 28
Mysore   30 15
Udupi 25 30 28
Bagalakote 0 27 14
Belgaum 0 30 15
Chikkodi 30 0 15
Bijapur 30 28 29
Uttara Kannada 60 30 45
Bellary 24 21 23
Raichur   21 11
Total 457 431 447


MDP has aimed at delivering the following critical shifts, through appropriate capacity and perspective building:
  • Moving the focus from ‘inspection’ and ‘supervision/monitoring’ of schools/teachers to the facilitation of quality learning
  • Moving the focus from results alone (and blaming people for failures) to an analysis and identification of root causes of failures and generally through continuous improvement of processes and through people empowerment
  • From being highly driven by hierarchy to being driven by local and participatory initiatives – instilling the spirit of democracy in the working of the system, which was seen as an enabling context for children to imbibe democratic values in the classroom
  • From seeing things from a ‘departmental’ perspective alone to seeing things from a multi-stakeholder perspective, seeing department staff as trustees for other stakeholders, particularly marginalized groups. This multi-stakeholder perspective would also recognize a need to be aware of and to continuously negotiate across conflicting needs and priorities of different stakeholders.
  • From being reactive to being proactive by systematically reflecting individually and collectively on situations and experiences to find new solutions
  • From crisis management to developing and using abilities / propensities for continuous reflection, reading and self-learning
  • From only ‘complying with orders’ to being able to proactively identify support, including resource support from the government and other stakeholders

School Leadership Development Program (SLDP)

SLDP has come into existence on the back of MDP and out of a realization of the need to specialize MDP further. The program was launched on 23rd November 2009 and facilitated in partnership with the resource institution EFIL. It is being piloted in four districts of Karnataka - Kolar, Hasan, Shimoga and Coorg. 

The objective of SLDP is to help each school leader lead his/her school towards their vision for the school. The overarching goals of the SLDP were that each school leader by the end of the program would have an understanding of the factors and resources required for school development and their own role in the entire process and that they should also have developed the capabilities to implement quality improvement projects that contributed to the development of their own school. 
The shift from management development to school leadership development is a major shift that recognizes five important issues:
  • The closer education leadership and management programs are to the school, the more effective they will be for educational change
  • The school is the centre of educational change and operational strengthening of schools is critical to school development
  • Operational strengthening involves increasing the abilities of schools to diagnose and find their own solutions to the challenges they face
  • There is a specialized body of knowledge required to lead and manage schools, which is vastly different from general management skills
  • It is important to get school leadership development right because 80% of education leaders and managers in the country are heads of schools
To reach schools heads in large numbers, SLDP will need to be transacted by School Leadership Development Facilitators (SLDFs) developed from within the system. The idea has been to conduct a program for all the Block Resource Persons in 20 selected blocks in Karnataka and certify at least two per block as SLDFs.
The program consists of 4 stages:
  • A 10-day component called Embedding Leadership Excellence - conducted by a partner organization - that focuses on bringing alignment between vision and values, helping participants look inside themselves so as to improve their personal effectiveness
  • A 10-day component which forms the 1st part of School Leadership Development that helps them understand school development by acquiring some perspectives, knowledge and skills
  • A 6-day component which forms the 2nd part of School Leadership Development that helps them to customize their understanding of school development to the needs of a particular school
  • A 10-day component called Module Development that helps them design and transact the SLDP by customizing it to the needs of their participants
Underlying this design for developing school leadership are three principal notions: that reflective practice is critical for developing leadership and management abilities; that developing leadership and management abilities takes time, and that leadership and management development is a process, not a one-time event; and finally, that school leaders are best developed by facilitators from within the education department.

The BRPs and CRPs who underwent MDP and did QIPs at the school level came up with the learning that leadership capabilities of Head Teachers are crucial for the success of quality interventions at the school level. Hey are the fulcrum around which the levers of school developmental forces rotate. Hence the ELM function of the foundation launched SLDP as one more prong in its multi-directional drive to enable educational management. The concept is to empower a critical mass of educational functionaries at the grassroots level (the school head teachers and BRPs/CRPs) for intense, democratic and sustainable engagement with all stakeholders towards emergence of a supportive network for school development. 

The principles of adult learning are the cornerstones on which the entire SLDP is designed and implemented. The participants reflect upon their experiences, discuss and learn with peers and arrive at a contextualized understanding of concepts. Activities designed to understand one’s belief constitution and the convictions for moving towards verifying one’s alignment / non alignment between vision and values was at the core of the first phase of training, and opportunities for the participants to reflect upon current beliefs and perspectives in relation new learning that is happening (through short spanned reflective slots) - is included as a self inquiry process. In the third phase participants are exposed to the extensive and multiple support that SLDP will be getting from different levels of the system while cascading it. While cascading the program, five CRPs and 20 head teachers are expected to participate in each batch in a 10-day contact program and subsequently take up school development initiatives for field results of the SLDP to be seen. 

Institutional Capacity Development (ICD)

Institutional Capacity Development (“Samsthika Samarthya Abhivrudhi”) has been conceived as a project with the overarching goal of bringing about systemic change that improved school performance by working at the level of the school as well as at the level of other supporting institutions (academic, administrative and community). 

The need for institutional strengthening, the development of individual capabilities, the issue of non-alignment of processes and practices with the vision, strategies, structure and policies of an institution are behind the development of institutional capacity. 

The team has been operational since April 2009 and ICD is being implemented in Mandya block, Mysore district. Eight types of institutions have been identified for the intervention:
  • Schools, the final unit responsible for delivery of teaching-learning
  • 3 academic institutions (at District, Block, Cluster levels), responsible for teacher preparation, research & development and academic support
  • 3 administrative institutions (at District, Block, Cluster levels) responsible for oversight and logistics support
  • State Councils of Education Research & Training (SCERTs) responsible for curriculum, norms for classroom practices, education technology and research, training & development.

The specific goals of the project are to: 
  • Significantly enhance individual and institutional capacities to continuously improve the quality of education
  • Improve the quality of support provided by the identified academic institutions to the schools they serve
  • Improve the quality of support provided by the identified administrative institutions to the schools they serve
  • Improve the quality of education in the identified government schools
  • Create structures and processes for continuously improving the alignment within and across the 8 types of institutions
  • To arrive at a proven model for effective Institutional Capacity Development for the 8 types of institutions
  • To evolve effective Education Management Development modules to develop the specific knowledge, skills, insights and experiences of officials of the department and relevant Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) functionaries.

After an initial preparatory phase of five months, the project is being implemented phase-wise:
  1. The Study Phase (6 months) - Review of literature, developing frameworks and tools to understand the situation of the eight identified institutions; drafting a process map and outcome indicators for the pilot project in each institution.
  2. The Implementation Phase (36 months)-Workshops for each institution to align their processes and practices with their vision, strategies, structure and policies.
  3. The Post-Implementation Phase (6 months) - Impact assessment; creating structures and processing for sustaining and scaling up the processes; creation of ICD specialists within the Education Department.

ELM and Quality Education

Underlying all the efforts of the Educational Leadership and Management function is a vision of quality education. Our attempts in the Foundation are to enhance the quality of education through various interventions that are not programmatic but operational-strengthening in nature. Our focus is on people development; our attempt is to change their perspectives, attitudes and values which help them set their own goals for improving the system. 

In the space of Educational Management and Leadership, our first attempt in the understanding and study of quality education has been the construction of a Quality Education Model (QEM) for the public education system in India, using a systems approach with input, process, outcomes and context. The objective is to gain a perspective and understanding of the education system and intervene through various developmental programs (such as SLDP) to enhance its quality. The model is a first step in this direction.

Operational strengthening programs through the Foundation are expected to give impetus to this goal of achieving quality education through various levels of interventions in the education system across the country during the years ahead.