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Time to Introspect School Leaders?

This is one of those Monday morning motivational quotes by Leadership First that happened to coincide with the new training initiative by us at the Agarkar Centre of Excellence (ACE) – Empowering School Leaders that got me thinking about the National Education Policy 2020 and how everyone is talking about implementation, and simply not enough in my opinion about the responsibilities that school leaders will shoulder in the months to come. Are they ready?

There has been plenty of discussion already about the appreciation of the NEP2020 by the Centre after 34 years, but we all know when different States start adopting their own machinery, it can get a bit tricky. A simple case of inter-district or inter-state travel does not have the necessary clarity that one desires as we move towards un-lock down phase number – ?! (sorry, I have lost track of these phases now). Approved in Cabinet, educators are awaiting what each State puts out as a set of protocols to be followed by schools. News is out that Karnataka is all set to be the first state that will lead by example and eagerly awaited are the set of procedures presented by an appointed Committee. So far, there’s speed in thinking about implementation by some States, when many worried that the process would take forever! That part we must be grateful for. Agree?

On that note, while protocols are shared, the schools as units will orient themselves with structures; this new reality with the pandemic means that the leadership at the helm will play a critical part in execution – more than ever, as some senior educators have pointed out given the uncertainty of times. The ambiguity is a certain, the facts will evolve constantly is another certainty and therefore, the driver of this machinery – the school leader must be up to the task to embrace this decade with all its developments and create the next in line ready for the transition. I have often shared this during our mentoring and training programmes with Principals that as an industry, we must learn from counterparts in other industries. As a service industry, we must know that there are market forces, intense competition, and some old traditional systems must make way for a new age of learning, and for that, Principals of schools need to start thinking like Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). The yesteryear expectation of delivering on “academics” has already made way for a “broader” role with the competition intensifying in the past decade or so in India. From a supervisory role, the need to move into a more “driving” role that is futuristic with a pulse on changing variables, the ability to innovate and make quick decisions, and the sheer confidence to take some risks will define the leaders that take their schools to the legacies they envisioned. It simply cannot be about infrastructure but its optimisation to create opportunities to learn, it simply cannot be about academic achievements, but about creating those extra ordinary experiences for each and every student while achieving the “performance” targets that make thinkers out of the children who can step into the real world with the confidence of a master, and yet continue to learn and be open minded.

The leaders of tomorrow must invest deeply in research & development and understand competitive trends, find academic & administrative solutions efficiently and with speed and build communities. These leaders will encounter challenging decisions and changes in organisational structure to manage complexity, and the need to make it a seamless process. Many lessons to be learnt from the corporate world and the companies that have re-engineered?

I think so. Often, we tend to be restricted to the thought process that we have built w ithin our own industries, and if school leaders truly believe in creating impact, they will have to un-learn, relearn and keep at it for some time and then start the process all over again – kind of what many CEOs will share as part of their journey. Design thinking is simply not restricted to the way we teach our children but the way we engineer strategies in the way we manage our teams to deliver.

The leader must be a complete people person with ready, customised solutions for the faculty for if the implementation must succeed, their ability to motivate and direct, empower and support will play a crucial part in the way teachers respond and each one may need a different kind of handling. For me, the school leader must be the compassionate educator who understands both sides of the coin and will balance policies with realities by communicating with deeper understanding with both the Management and the parent body. Communication is non-negotiable and leaders will have to think like start-up entrepreneurs if they must ride the storm in the next few years and any entrepreneur will validate that communication is King.

Recognising the power of technology and communication internally and externally and creating experiences for the children that are deeply personal requires tremendous effort, and that’s when some personal introspection is important. Are we ready as leaders, do we know enough about systems and processes that are changing, are we reading enough, are we delegating wisely, so that we have enough time to think ahead, do we have the energy and the ability to put in hard hours, and most importantly is our vision aligning with that of the organisation? Have we “checked” this? Can this be nurtured?

Before we begin implementation of the NEP2020 we must as leaders take stock of our existing reality, and this gap analysis will help define roles and responsibilities in a manner that the processes that follow for the children we nurture are seamless and bring in more dynamism and relevance to what and how they are learning.

As we move into the school resumption phase, and the new look NEP2020, we know only some facts. The rest is the VUCA world disrupted largely by technology one would have said a few conferences ago, and one that has been honestly disrupted by this pandemic. To build further, and plug the damages, and continue to think ahead of the curve will require a different kind of approach and mindset.

There’s a need to start thinking about that now.

ACE Education customises mentoring programs for school leaders. For more details write to us on info@acesportsedu.com


Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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