Managing a Progressive School

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G Balasubramanian
Former Director (Academics), CBSE

Progress is a process and not a destination! A progressive school, therefore, is on the path of continuous change. Managing a progressive school calls for focused and continuous responses to the changes that happen around and impact the educational edifice and environment. The leadership of the progressive schools requires to be a part of a learning community sensitive to the newer vistas of learning that arise consequent to the changes that happen around.

Managing speed of change

One of the emerging challenges to progress is the speed of change. Though change has been an eternal process from the time two pieces of agates were rubbed in to produce the fire, the last few decades have witnessed a mind-boggling speed in the process of change. It is claimed that the speed of production is almost double the speed of consumption. Hence newer thoughts, newer ideas, newer processes and newer skills haunt the learning space and the learning community is under stressful compulsion to learn and cope with these changes to stay current. It is increasingly becoming difficult to make choices from the spectrum of changes, as market forces have the unique capability of making each of these derivatives as a need-based product, thus necessitating a compulsive need. To add, the short life of some of these products and services, create a thirst for continuous upgrade, thus forcing the consumers to stay trapped in the web of consumption.

Making right choices

The emerging markets have thus impacted the erstwhile linearity of thinking processes prevalent in educational systems. Progressive schools, need to keep their eyes and ears wide open to scan the entire arena of ‘learning space’ to understand, select, choose and implement the changes needed. Oftentimes, the changes introduced by an educational institution is aimed at a better ‘branding’ and for greater ‘marketing’ of the institution to enlarge the scope of the clients. This, need not necessarily lead to progression or growth, but may be a method of staying relevant in the existing market.

Progressive schools need to make informed choices while they deal with change management. The changes, both procedural and material, have a direct impact on the human resources that operate and lead the school presently and for the future. They need not be accepting all changes as and when they happen, because frequency of changes in a given system is also likely to cause disruption and instability. It may also lead to frustration among the human operators, as they require time and space to settle with their comfort levels of knowledge and skill operations. It needs to be understood that changes do not have exclusive linear impacts. Oftentimes, their impacts are complex and multi-dimensional. School leadership, hence, should take a meaningful study of the impact of changes that are on the cards.

Managing learning curve

As progressive schools are a part of a learning community, they need to carefully articulate the learning curve of their stakeholders. The stakeholders include students, teachers, administrators, parents and the community. The progressive schools need to take an inclusive view of all their stakeholders and provide both parallel and complementing learning experiences to the entire learning population. No school, which discards any single file of learners in the spectrum, will face resistance either blind or ideological in due course. The nucleus of the ‘learning environment’ is the teacher.

Managing teacher empowerment

Teacher empowerment, thus, becomes the live-wire of a progressive school. Unfortunately, the objectives of induction, orientation, training, workshops and the process of empowerment are often confused in a school. Each of them has a different objective, different priority and calls for nurturing a different skill set. While, all of them lead to empowerment in one way or the other, the process of empowerment is more purposeful and directional, calling for a continuous follow up and feedback. It must enable identification of gap areas in learning and facilitate acquisition of knowledge and skill sets which are practical, usable and enriching.

Managing identity

Progressive schools do set their own goals and define their achievement levels. While they need to be conscious and sensitive to the response levels of their peers in the field, it is important that they keep their uniqueness and identify in terms of their philosophies, strategies and practices. They should work on their ‘branding’ in each of these areas. ‘Branding’ is not a commercial proposition and a commercial dimension, may be an off-shoot of an excellent branding. While participation in ‘educational marathons’ is a social necessity, these schools should display an excellent ‘fitness level’ so that the clients are conscious and appreciative of their ‘health consciousness’ both at the intellectual and social domains.

Managing excellence

Pursuit of excellence is one of the guiding principles of any progressive school. Many schools tend to obtain different levels of certification from national and international agencies to define their levels of excellence. Most often these certificates do reflect a set of records being maintained by them which are audited from time to time, rather than a continuous pursuit of a ‘mindset’ that triggers excellence. Excellence, is largely obtained through a ‘shared vision’ and hence calls for a sustained ‘teamwork’ from all the stakeholders. The results of a school are not the singular demonstration of pursuit of excellence, though it could be one factor. Progressive schools need to place ‘quality circles’ in action in the school so that the ideas are participative, self-supporting and is more a routine rather than a ‘parade’.

The emerging uncertainties in the social dynamics, professional gateways and lifestyles are indeed challenges for schools to define their long-term goals and processes. Possibly they have to incorporate ‘the challenges of change management’ as a part of their learning curve ‘both in knowledge and skill domains.

The leadership of the progressive schools have indeed exciting times and an adventurous road ahead!

G Balasubramanian is known for his innovations in curriculum development and interactive pedagogy. He has been instrumental to the introduction of several innovations in CBSE curriculum, which includes communicative approach to language teaching, IT, biotechnology, entrepreneurship, fashion studies, disaster management, among many others. He joined CBSE as joint secretary in 1984 and worked in several capacities in academics, examinations, confidential and administration branches of the board. He was elevated to the post of Director (Academic) in 1997 and served in the capacity till his retirement in 2007.