The Role of Leaders in Transforming Education in the 21st Century

Can an educational leader transform the face of education?

A leader is an intellectual magnet who keeps the team together; giving a sense of direction, promoting the development of the institution and concepts that define the entire organization. They can design appropriate frameworks to ensure that the knowledge imparted is congruent with the standards required to meet the valued ends. Let’s forgo the illusions, transformation is hard work, the cynical might argue that transformation is hope and aspiration rather than a viable strategy. Education systems are not transformed; rather they emerge incrementally, often in a disjointed way. This disjointed incrementalism then, better describes more educational policy making than any other concept.

Transformation is a particularly persistent and evocative concept. It is one of those words that is almost impossible to raise objections to. We seem to like the idea of transforming ourselves and the organizations that we work in, but transformation can be grueling since individuals are not blank slates. The complex process of learning, unlearning, and relearning is quintessential to facilitate any change, and reconfigure the mindscape of how an organization or an educational system works.

One of the keys to bring effective change is recognizing that people have existing maps with fixed notions that have worked for them will continue to work for them. Hence, to transform an organization one needs to transform himself/herself first.

Personal transformation is a process that involves realignment of self and redrawing one's mental maps which can be profound and challenging. Once such an implicit understanding is set, the world out there is open for anyone. Self-awareness here acts as a foundation to understand the context one inhibits, making it easier to navigate from one situation to another. Abandoning existing mindscapes and adapting to new ones will thereby, act as a catalyst to activate the desired transformation.

An unmitigated paradigm shift is, therefore, sporadically necessary.

Let me explain this with a simile- earlier the zoo was a place where animals were caged, and humans visited them freely but now, it is the animals who are set free living in their natural habitat, and humans are encaged as they go and see them via elaborate safaris. Similarly, the situation at school and the learning perceptive needs to change. Organizations need to transform from a teacher-centric approach to a student-centric approach. Students should be empowered with skills and competencies, emphasizing the importance of the process rather than the product. The leaders need to introspect and be the harbingers of change after careful introspection.

Vibha Khosla

Shri Ram Global School