Jnana Yaana: Leadership Forum
Head Teachers and teachers, at the bottom layer of educational leadership, are the anchors of classroom teaching-learning and hence, directly responsible for school transformation and development. At the same time, the senior functionaries at the top leadership level are responsible for providing leadership and management of the education delivery process. Between these two leadership layers comes the ‘second layer’ of leaders, comprising the BEO, CRP, BRP, and other similar cadres in different states. The top departmental functionaries could only provide high-level strategic policy and directional leadership in this regard. The responsibility to provide actual ‘on-ground operational leadership’ rests with the functionaries at the second layer. We often see gaps in communication, hierarchy, and the departmental boundaries between the top and the bottom layers. This brings us to think about how immense the role of the second layer is in getting alignment between the top and the bottom layers of leadership to plug the gaps, if there are any, to achieve a common goal.
The role of the ‘second-layer’ of educational leaders
Research has provided evidence on the impact of school leadership on school organization, culture, conditions, the quality of teaching and learning, and student achievement (Leithwood & Jantzi, 1999a, 1999b; Day et al., 2009; Gu & Johansson, 2013). This evidence supports widespread interest in improving leadership to implement large-scale reform successfully. Most of the research studies where poorly performing schools have been turned around categorically emphasize the intervention of an influential leader (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson & Wahlstrom,2004). Educational leaders function in an ‘open system’ that includes the school, the community, the institutional system, and social culture. Hence, it requires that all layers of leadership, from top to bottom, work in synchronization to meet the ends of the ‘open system.’ Leadership must be shaped to respond to the constraints and opportunities inherent in the school organization and its environment (Bossert et al., 1982; Leithwood et al., 2010; Mulford & Silins, 2009). Robinson et al. (2008) meta-analysis provides information on where the ‘second layer’ of leaders should focus on developing their schools' capacity to impact student learning positively. The research reveals the leadership dimensions, functions, and their impact on student learning. The leadership dimensions mentioned by the research study as significant are:
(a). Establishing Goals and Expectations: The ‘second layer’ leader must set, communicate, and monitor learning goals, standards, and expectations; involve the head teacher and teacher in the process, so there is goal clarity and consensus.
(b). Strategic Resourcing: The ‘second layer’ leaders must align resource selection and allocation to priority teaching goals and ensure sufficient teachers are in the school.
(c). Planning, Coordinating and Evaluating Teaching and the Curriculum: The ‘second layer’ leaders must be directly involved in the support and evaluation of teaching through regular classroom visits and teacher feedback.
(d). Promoting and taking part in Teacher Learning: Promotes and participates with teachers in formal or informal professional learning and capacity building.
(e). Ensuring an orderly and supportive environment: Protects time for learning by reducing administrative interruptions; establishes an orderly and supportive environment.
Why Leadership Forum: Jnana Yaana?
In one of our recent ‘need assessments’ at Anekal Block, Bangalore, the Block Resource Person talked about the lack of motivation and a common platform for the Cluster Resource Person. In the need assessment, school leaders also expressed insufficient support from the CRPs for academic improvement. This indicates the lack of clarity on the roles and responsibilities of CRPs. There are untold challenges that CRPs face in order to practice their roles effectively. A leadership forum creates a fostering environment for leaders to share their learnings and challenges with their peers and other education leaders. It creates an explorative space where leaders experience and understand the importance of their roles and responsibilities as a leader and set visions in order to achieve cluster development. Last but not least, when the thoughts are shared, they feel light which would help motivate the leaders.
What is Leadership Forum: Jnana Yaana?
"Jnana Yaana" creates a platform for CRPs to come together to discuss their challenges in their respective clusters and how the exchange of ideas can lead to solutions. We are glad to share that this year's leadership forum, "Jnana Yaana - 2.0," happened on the 14th and 15th of September, 2022, at Kanakapura, Bengaluru. The key objective of this year's leadership forumwas to enrich and enable the CRPs to understand their role better and work towards the vision of achieving universal FLN standards. Active participation was seen from the CRPs during the forum in ideation for both school and cluster development.
The way forward:
Jnana Yaana was instrumental in inspiring the CRPs to give academic support to the schools in their cluster and work towards the revival of the Cluster Resource Center. A session on how CRCs can be revived with zero budget was also held during the leadership forum to inspire the CRPs to take small steps towards developing the CRC.
The idea is to have a leadership forum every year to enable the CRPs to create a vision and mission plan for school transformation in their cluster. Going forward, Mantra will support the CRPs in writing proposals for various local donors to gather financial support and resources for school transformation.
School transformation is a systematic and multifaceted process. Addressing the contextual barriers that lead to children's poor learning experiences is something we constantly try to work on. With leadership forums such as, Jnana Yaana, we are leveraging the ‘second-layer’ of educational leaders to contribute to school transformation.