By Dr Carlton Mills
The main purpose of this paper is to show that globalization is having minimum impact on educational leadership in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I will also argue that in order to better equip head teachers to meet the new challenges a collective vision involving all important stakeholders in education is essential. In order to ascertain the views of head teachers a qualitative survey using questionnaires was undertaken which addressed the following research questions:
• How do you as head teachers perceive your leadership style?
• What are some of the specific tasks that you as leaders have to perform?
• What are some of the strategies that you are employing to ensure that these tasks are being met?
• What are some of the challenges that you envisage may threaten the implementation of your new strategies?
• How has globalization changed or enhanced the way you as head teachers perceive your leadership role?
Dr Carlton Mills is a graduate of Excelsior Community College and the University of the West Indies where he pursued his training in teacher education and Bachelors in History respectively. He is also a graduate of the University of London, Bristol and Sheffield where he pursued his Master’s and Doctorate in Education respectively. Dr Mills was appointed as Minister of Education in 2007 where he served until February 2009. Following the suspension of the TCI Constitution, he was invited by the governor to serve on the Advisory Council. He served for six months before resigning. Dr Mills is currently the chairman of the board of Governors of the TCI Community College. He is also the main editor of the recently published book “The History of the Turks and Caicos Islands”. He has written several articles for journals and chapters in other books and presented papers at various conferences in the region and in the UK.
The paper sets out by giving a brief overview of the concept of globalization. A brief description of the economic, political and education sectors are also presented. This is followed by an overview of leadership practices in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The paper ends by suggesting a way forward through the formation of a collective vision.
What is globalization?
Giddens (1997) sees globalization as the general term that is used for the increasing interdependence of world society. In his view, this process is brought about by the social, political and economic connections which cut across borders between countries and decisively affecting those in their path. This process has created an easy transfer of skills and knowledge from one territory to another. This can lead to competition in the work place.
Since the 1980s, the TCI have experienced unprecedented levels of economic growth as a result of expansion in tourism, offshore banking, construction and fishing. This situation has resulted in a demand for more highly skilled labour (Hamilton 1998). In order to effectively meet the labour requirements, numbers of expatriates are being recruited. These expatriates bring along their families which almost always include children of school age. Little consideration has been given to the implications that this population increase can have on our schools. Consequently, head teachers now find themselves facing new challenges.
Overview of Leadership Practices
There are issues from yesteryear that are useful in order for one to gain a clear understanding of the leadership practices in the TCI. One such factor has been the legacy of our colonial heritage. According to Newton (1997), this situation has resulted in far reaching social, economic, psychological and multiple consequences.
The education system in the Turks & Caicos can be described as elitist, selective, unchanged and unchallenged. The Education Ordinance (1998) entrusts head teachers with the responsibility for the day to day management of their schools. This includes:
• The supervision of the physical safety of pupils
• The suitable application of the syllabus in conformity with the needs of the pupils of the school and the administration of the school’s programme;
• The allocation and supervision of the duties and responsibilities of members of their staff;
• The discipline of the school;
• The proper use of school equipment and stock;
• The keeping of proper records;
• The making of financial reports, through the Education Officer to the Director of Education containing a statement of accounts in the form approved as well as such information as is required by the Director of Education;
• The furnishing of such returns as may be prescribed or required at any time by the Directors of Education;
• Ensuring the observance of the provision of the Ordinance and any Regulations made there under in their respective schools.
Several observations can be made from the Ordinance. Little provision is made for head teachers to exercise administrative responsibilities. Such powers rest with the Ministry and the Department of Education officials.
Secondly, it is clear from the Ordinance that head teachers perform routine tasks thus making it extremely difficult for collaborative decision making and vision building.
Questionnaires were the only research instrument used to ascertain relevant data in this qualitative survey. When writing about questionnaires, Johnson (1994) notes that the essence of a questionnaire as a research tool is that it is in the hands of the respondents and is completed by him or her.
Prior to the administration of the questionnaires, a pilot was undertaken with like professionals in mind. Undertaking a pilot is critical to a research project. Additionally, Johnson (1994) suggests that the population for the pilot should have the same characteristics as the population to be approached. This was essential since based on the initial feed back some adjustments to wording and the structure of the questionnaires were made before the actual questionnaire was disseminated.
The questionnaires along with a covering letter were faxed to thirteen (13) head teachers (with the exception of one who received it by hand). Five secondary heads and eight primary heads were involved. They were also asked to return their responses by fax to a fax number provided. Three of the five secondary heads responded (60%) while eight of the nine (89%) primary heads responded.
Eleven of the thirteen head teachers (85%) responded to the questionnaires. In relation to age, one head teacher was between the ages of 30 – 35 years, two were between the ages of 36 – 39 years, four were between 40 – 45 years one was between 46 – 49 years and three were over 50. It is clear that most head teachers are fairly young. This tends to suggest that there is some degree of stability and continuity in the schools. Five head teachers had between 0 – 5 years administrative experience, one between 6 – 10 years experience, one between 11 – 15 years, and four with over 15 years experience.
With respect to their academic backgrounds, six head teachers possessed Trained Teachers’ Diplomas, two held first degrees in Education Administration, while three of them held Master Degrees in Education.
When asked about leadership styles, it was noted that no head teacher indicated using the authoritative method. Eight indicated that they used the democratic approach. Three used a method of consensus building.
It was strikingly noticeable that all primary head teachers were females. All three head teachers in the secondary schools by contrast were males. This situation can have implications for the lack of male role models for boys attending primary school.
Head teachers were also asked to identify some of the tasks they had to perform. Their responses were categorized under five headings, namely:
• Management and Administration
• Human resource management and management of school resources
• Parent, school and community relations
• Student learning and assessment
• Private and public sector involvement
Management and Administration
Head teachers in the Turks and Caicos Islands perform multiple management and administrative functions. One of the primary functions that was noted in the primary schools is the monitoring of lesson plans. Other functions that were listed included conducting staff meetings, ensuring that the administrative team operates within the framework laid down by the Ministry of Education, overseeing the day to day operations of their schools and supervising staff and students. Primary head teachers claimed that they have to sign student report cards. All head teachers indicated that they are inundated with daily record keeping which Education Officers tend to scrutinize on their visits to schools.
Only three head teachers see their role as keeping teachers abreast of new initiatives and changes in the system. All head teachers have to prepare annual reports and development plans for the Department of Education. Additionally, they are responsible for conducting Parent Teachers Association Meetings, preparing a calendar of event for each school term and the delegation of duties to teachers.
Several of the duties as outlined by head teachers seemed to be more about record keeping rather than school improvement. Little mention was made of how new technology can be utilized to further enhance teaching and learning. There is a need for head teachers to develop a clear vision for their schools. This is why Foreman (1998) argues that leaders should possess personal visions of a brighter future for themselves and their organizations. He also contends that without vision, there can be no clear direction, no corporate way forward and no commitment.
Management of Human and School Resources
Some head teachers also see themselves as human resource managers. In this role, they see themselves as mainly making provisions for teachers to have the necessary resources to support teaching and learning. The provision of resources they claim helps to motivate both staff and students to achieve their maximum potential. Again it may be pointed out that the management of the ‘human’ resource is given little attention by head teachers.
It was also noted that one head teacher completed a Masters Degree in Education and two others are pursing studies in this areas. It is necessary that head teachers continue their professional development in order to be able to compete effectively in the market for high quality educators. Higher studies provide individuals with the skills training and knowledge to assist in the transformation process of the school system through the creation of modern schools and modern school systems. Pittman (1992) points out just how important the role of head teachers is in promoting academic leadership.
Parents, School and Community Relations
The general consensus among head teachers is that parents need to become more involved in the education of their children. They believed that this can be accomplished through a pro-active Parent Teachers Associations and parent conferences. There were head teaches who saw the need to get the business community more involved in school activities. This can have several positive benefits. First, the schools can solicit financial support from businesses. Secondly, these businesses can provide advice on their employment needs to students and also use their expertise to mentor and counsel them when making their career choices. Furthermore, businesses can provide opportunities for students to gain needed work experience in order to set the stage for them when they enter the global work place. This view is also supported by Newton (1997). This is why Bush (1997) argues that preparation for the world of work is a powerful imperative for curriculum change.
Student Learning and Assessment
Head teachers did not have very much to say about this particular issue. In their discourse, however, they mentioned four things which they do in relation to student learning. These are:
• Encourage/foster high standards of learning
• Keep staff and student attendance, personal records including grades (marking).
• Monitor student performance and attendance
• Supervise students’ academic and disciplinary development
Student learning and achievement is critical to the success of schools. Pressure is mounting on small developing economies like the Turks & Caicos to become more competitive in this global environment. This is why Dearing (1996:5), cited by Bush (1997), believes that a skilled workforce depends largely on the achievement and outputs of schools.
Head teachers also suggested several strategies that they have implemented to meet the challenges of globalization. One such challenge has to deal with weak students. Several of them indicated that they are undertaking more workshops to assist classroom teachers to develop the appropriate skills to manage their classes more effectively.
Two head teachers noted that they visit classes where they provide support for teachers. They also assist with time management, class control techniques and preparation of teaching aids. Another stated that he encourages team work, mentoring programmes and seek parental assistance where necessary.
Two head teachers indicated that they share responsibilities by delegating tasks among senior teachers. This strategy can help to prepare these teachers for future leadership roles. In one case, a head teacher sets aside time every term so that her staff members can socialize. This strategy is use to build stronger social and professional relationships and the sharing of ideas among them.
A number of head teachers acknowledge that they set standards and guidelines for staff members. In the secondary schools, head teachers noted that this is done by Head of Departments. Schools are on the brink of a new knowledge era. As a result, school leaders have to embark on the resocialization and the construction of new roles and relationships for their staff.
Head teachers believe that there are numerous challenges that may impede the implementation of their strategies. The most prominent one was overcrowded classrooms. Several head teachers accused the Department of Education of creating this problem by insisting that they increase their student enrollment when classrooms are already overcrowded. These educators view this situation as having a negative impact on teaching and learning. Additionally, they argued that the Department of Education has failed to provide the necessary staff to assist when their student numbers increase. Accusations were also levied against some staff members by some head teachers particularly in the primary schools. These head teachers believe that many of their classroom teachers were incompetent particularly in areas such as lesson planning and classroom management. Hess (2003) sees this level of incompetence as a drawback to building modern schools and school systems.
Some head teachers also saw the general apathy of their staff as hindering the schools’ growth. These leaders criticized their staff for their lack of cooperation when implementing strategies learnt at workshops. Two of them also criticized their staff for not taking the initiative to attend workshops. Several of them expressed concern about the lack of collaborative support from teachers to develop a vision for their schools.
Two head teachers expressed their concern about the poor quality of the physical infrastructure of their schools. Again, the blame was laid directly at the feet of the Department of Education for failing to provide the necessary resources to upgrade the infrastructure. They believe that this inadequate infrastructure prohibits their students from developing to their full potential.
Several head teachers stated that many students are not interested in school work. It was also noted that some have developed a sense of low self-esteem, which tends to affect their ability to work to their maximum potential.
Perception of globalization on school leadership
The researcher was keen to find out how head teachers perceived globalization as impacting on their leadership capabilities. Most head teachers felt that globalization is making them more aware that there is no one set way of exercising their leadership roles. One head teacher noted that as a result, she has become more opened to the views and cultural experiences of others. Others see globalization as contributing to the diversity in the teaching and learning environment as students and teachers from various cultures interact in the same classrooms. Globalization was also credited for bringing about a good mix of skills and qualifications among their staff. This is believed to have brought about a deeper understanding of the different cultures and disciplines.
Two head teachers in the secondary schools shared the view that globalization has created a greater network of educators. This has emerged through their associating with head teachers from other countries by attending conferences. They claimed that this exposure has helped to broaden their experiences, resource ideas, information and knowledge to advance their schools. As one head teacher puts it:
‘It has allowed me to gain insights into how other leaders handle similar tasks that I am faced with.’
Several head teachers also shared the view that they have to prepare their students to be better able to survive in this global era. This is being done by making them more aware of world events and how these events directly affect their lives. These educators see the need to share ideas and incorporate new strategies in their day to day actions. This ongoing exposure to external influences can serve to help improve their intellectual capacity so that they will be able to make more informed decisions.
Finally, the researcher wanted to find out how head teachers were preparing to manage in this global environment. In response to this question, a secondary head teacher indicated that he encouraged his staff to move away from the traditional ‘talk and chalk’ approach to teaching and learning and, to incorporate more use of technology and hands-on-approaches instead in their classrooms. Another promoted a paradigm shift in teaching and classroom management through collaborative sharing of information. There was also consensus on encouraging staff to attend workshops, to keep abreast with new developments in their respective disciplines, to engage in research and further academic upgrading. In respect to computer technology, only one head teacher took such an initiative.
The way forward
From the qualitative survey that was conducted, it was unequivocally clear that what head teachers now need is a new culture of leadership. Within this new culture of leadership, there needs to be a collective vision. This collective vision has to involve head teachers, The Department of Education, the business community and parents. Students should be the central players in when constructing this vision. Additionally, when this vision is being constructed, the development goals of the country should be incorporated into the planning process.
One of the advantages of this model is that the business community will have a pool of talented individuals from which they can sustain their labour force. Schools will also obtain a better sense of the needs of the industry through this initiative.
THE COLLECTIVE VISION MODEL
Schools Students Business Sector
Department of Education
In order to realize this vision, head teachers need to be given more autonomy. This includes giving them the autonomy for recruitment, employment and termination of staff. This will ultimately place them in a better position to determine the type of skills and qualities that they are looking for in their staff to support the vision of the school.
This paper has attempted to highlight some of the issues and challenges that head teachers in the Turks and Caicos Islands are experiencing. These issues and challenges are believed to be as a direct consequence of the impact of globalization on the changing landscape of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Despite this, the writer believes that through what he proposes as a ‘collective vision’, the islands can meet the new challenges ahead and emerge with an education system that is second to none.