Development of school leadership for innovative learning designs in the post-pandemic era has been stressed in a recent report, highlighting a Qatari example of forming a private public partnership.
The report ‘Post-pandemic National Educational Investments: School Leadership Development through Innovative Learning Designs’ is prepared by Shelby Cosner, professor and director, University of Illinois, Chicago, Centre for Urban Educational Leadership and Asmaa Alfadala, director, Research & Content Development, World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE).
The researchers have made two striking observations: focused attention to strengthening student learning and the increased role of school principals at the centre of efforts within schools to develop, guide, and accelerate student learning. For this, they have highlighted the partnership formed in Qatar, between the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and WISE, a, Qatar Foundation initiative.
According to the report, over the last seven years, this public-private collaboration in Qatar has supported the design, implementation, and ongoing refinement of a school leadership development programme for school leadership teams.
Each year this programme provided development to an identified group of Qatari school leaders. The report describes the educational context of Qatar and discusses the programme’s formation and evolution over a multi-year period. It also shares key roles within both organisations that have been engaged in this work, key contributions to this work from both organisations as well as other factors.
“The partnership focused on the design and deployment of a more intensive, year-long leadership development programme for targeted groups of school leaders; a programme that would complement and extend existing developmental opportunities provided by the Ministry of Education. The partnership has largely proven durable, even as the pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to the education sector,” said the report.
Highlighting the Qatari example, the report points to the growing significance of school principals in driving efforts to develop, guide, and accelerate student learning. Extensive research, particularly in the United States, has demonstrated the substantial impact of principals on student learning, approaching the effects of individual teachers.
Furthermore, evidence from diverse global contexts emphasises that principals indirectly influence student achievement and other valued schooling outcomes by shaping school policies, cultures, and organisational conditions that support the learning environment. Through their mediating role, principals have a wide-ranging impact on teacher and instructional outcomes, enhancing teaching quality, job satisfaction, and retention while fostering high expectations for students.
According to the report, urgent action is needed to address this issue as there is a lack of highly skilled individuals in this role. “Countries that have historically overlooked or inadequately invested in school leadership development are likely to face challenges in supporting and accelerating student learning as they emerge from the long shadow of the pandemic,” the report cautions.
It also stresses that central to educational recovery strategies is the need for investment strategies that target both teacher learning and instructional improvement. ”Principals play a vital role in promoting teacher learning and instructional improvement across an entire school, making their development a crucial component of any comprehensive recovery plan. Research suggests that investing in school leader development is likely to yield higher returns than other types of educational improvement investments, making it a key priority for education ministries,” the researchers say.
The report suggests that education ministries must foster public-private partnerships that support such initiatives to successfully advance multifaceted recovery strategies that include leadership development programmes. “Partnerships have proven valuable in supporting various educational aims and can generate additional investment funds, particularly in the wake of the financial pressures caused by the pandemic. By pooling strengths and expertise across multiple organisations, public-private partnerships offer a promising avenue for advancing educational improvement efforts,” conclude the researchers.