A Global Ecosystem to Support School Leaders

In a recent Learning Report, the Education Commission recommends the development of a global education ecosystem that allows for learning to be shared across border to strengthen capacity within countries. Working on training school leaders in the Global South, we strongly feel the need for a global ecosystem and second the Education Commission’s call. We further emphasize the need to ensure that the voice and leadership of the Global South be included equally in this ecosystem.

In a recent article, Wendy Kopp, Founder of Teach for All, and Dzingai Mutumbaka, Chair of the Association for Education Development in Africa, offer a vision for such an ecosystem:

“A global education ecosystem would comprise new partnerships among bilateral and multilateral donors, the philanthropic community, and global nonprofit organizations. This dynamic network would work with local actors to support leadership development and innovation, while creating efficient new channels for those leaders to share knowledge, experiences, and solutions across communities and countries.”

There is a pressing need for an ecosystem for school leadership that brings together resources and knowledge across the Global North and South. Today, there is a considerable body of research on school leadership in issue-leading countries like Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States. However, many more organizations, particularly from the Global South, need to be included in the conversation on improving school leadership.

Two recently released reports highlight valuable resources for a school leadership ecosystem, but also reinforce the need to expand learning beyond a small set of countries:

· The Washington-DC based National Center on Education and The Economy (NCEE) released a report recently on learning from school leadership development from high-performing education systems. The report highlights work done in Hong Kong, Ontario, Shanghai, and Singapore and stresses the need for a focus on school leaders as they are key to driving learning outcomes for students.

· The WISE report released by Agile Schools calls for school systems to invest in supporting and training principals to be “leaders of learning”. It gives recommendations for how leadership pipeline should be nurtured, what competencies should be required for leaders to master, and the design of a leadership support system.

Despite the lack of a supportive ecosystem, many Global South countries are taking steps to develop school leadership.

· In Malaysia, the Institute Aminudin Baki is running pre-service training programs for school leaders and the government has created a leadership qualification framework.

· In countries like Rwanda and Jordan, the governments have introduced large scale in-service training programs for their principals.

· In South Africa, the government has created a school leadership qualification framework and we are seeing programs like the Instructional Leadership Institute and Partners for Possibility training principals.

· In India, the National Centre for School Leadership has launched an online program for school leadership and management. Additionally, a number of philanthropies including the Advaith Foundation, the EkStep Foundation and the Central Square Foundation, are creating an online collection of school leader training materials.

Beyond these specific examples, we believe there are many issues that cut across countries as they begin to invest in school leadership. Some of these issues include:

· Can we create a global standard for competencies for school leaders?

· How do we create effective pipelines for improving the talent becoming school leaders?

· How do we use technology effectively to train and support school leaders?

· How can we increase the representation of women in school leadership roles?

A global ecosystem would enable us to document, research, and foster collaborations among various initiatives. Countries in the Global South that are looking for ideas and examples would benefit greatly from such an ecosystem, and countries in the Global North would also benefit from programs that are created with lower cost and larger scale in mind. Existing networks like the Asia Leadership Roundtable, focused on academic research in school leadership, and the PAL Network, focused on citizen-led student learning assessment, can serve as building blocks for a global ecosystem.

Establishing a school leader ecosystem would allow for cross-border collaboration and amplify the voices of those in the Global South. Similar networks in all areas of school education would increase the effectiveness of programs that today operate in relative isolation and help us take a significant step toward achieving quality education for all.