Ensuring a generation of leaders with vision


  • Nation
  • Friday, 12 Aug 2016

Remain effective: Dr Zainal says the uplifting of professionalism and competency is carried out to ensure school leaders can execute the transformation effectively.

INSTITUT Aminuddin Baki’s role in uplifting the country’s education standard is thrust into the limelight under the Malaysia Education Blueprint 2013-2025.

In the Fifth Shift of the Blueprint, Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB) is responsible for ensuring that leaders exhibiting high performance will be placed in each school. Under the First Wave of the Blueprint (2013-2015), emphasis is given to improvements to the system via changing programme implementation methods.

In this period, a key focus is increasing the quality of leadership in schools, in line with one of the initiatives to improve the quality of national education through leadership and management upskilling.

“This initiative is a huge responsibility for IAB,” said Dr Zainal Aalam Hassan, IAB’s newly minted director.

In an interview after his third month into the job, Dr Zainal said with the completion of the First Wave, IAB is now focused on delivering things that will make the Second Wave (2016-2020) of the Blueprint a success.

Dr Zainal outlines five challenges that school leaders will face when they try to usher in changes under the Second Wave.

The first would the optimisation of resources in the drive to embrace innovations and creativity in educational technology.

Paying heed: At IAB’s wall hangs a plaque with Fred Hechinger’s words, complete with translation into Malay.
Paying heed: At IAB’s wall hangs a plaque with Fred Hechinger’s words, complete with translation into Malay.  

“The government has put in a solid foundation through the Blueprint so that our education can be on par with developed countries. In the Second Wave, the challenges for school leaders have become tougher. They need to have a competitive mindset, and work to increase their knowledge and skills, especially in information and communications technology (ICT). Great school leaders are those that dare to step out of their comfort zones to master new skills, especially communications. The explosion in the ICT sector has changed the leadership landscape,” said Dr Zainal.

The second challenge will be on expanding the level and diversity of community involvement in supporting the learning ecosystem.

“The Ninth Shift of the Blueprint stipulates that the involvement of parents, community and the private sector needs to be expanded, and their respective roles strengthened. The learning ecosystem of the 21st century has changed the concept of education from one that is school-based to one that is much more broader based. In recent learning ecosystem, learning can take place anywhere and anytime. “Research by the Centre for Social Organisation of Schools in the United States found schools that involve community groups reap various benefits, include reduction in truancy, higher rates of homework completion, and better grades. In this regard, the ministry is working towards enlarging the net so that the level of parental and community involvement can be heightened. At the moment, there is an imbalance in the level of involvement between the community and the private sector,” said Dr Zainal, who is firmly convinced that societal involvement can bring wonders to a school’s environment.

“Without support, it will be quite hard, if not impossible, to improve a school. Take for example, the school at Taman Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur, my child’s former school. The level of community involvement there is good, and the school was able to make good progress. This holds true even in rural schools. I just came back from visiting the school at Long Pasia, in the Sipitang district of Sabah, where I saw the same result as a result of the great community there,” said Dr Zainal, who added that IAB will emphasise a school leader’s ability to communicate well with stakeholders.

Thus far, IAB has prepared a batch of pioneer leaders to take on this heavy burden of developing leadership at schools through the National Professional Qualification for Educational Leaders (NPQEL). These leaders undergo a five-month training that involves face-to-face as well as integrated e-learning modules.

“We need leaders who can interact well with the community, especially the parent-teacher associations (PTAs). And I hope that PTAs can use whatever means at their disposal to bring schools towards success.”

The third challenge for leaders will be the fostering of unity in this multiracial and multibelief society.

“Unity is the key to national success, and various effort, policies, strategies and ideologies has been introduced, especially from government, to uphold the spirit of unity among the people. Creating a climate of unity in a multiracial country is a huge challenge and becomes the responsibility of all. Schools, teacher training institutes and leadership institutes are the ideal place to inject the seeds of unity among the young, teachers and school leaders. As such educational institutes needs to create an environment that is conducive for interaction between the various groups in order to realise national unity.”

The fourth challenge will be found in the maturation process of distributed leadership (kepimpinan teragih) in organisational development.

“The Second Wave will emphasise increasing the level of professionalism in school leadership. The increase in professionalism can be hastened by the shift towards distributed or co-leadership through building up the capabilities of the senior assistant and subject heads (ketua bidang). Through this, an effective school leadership can be built up.

“The preparations to face future challenges is important so that the Malaysian education system will remain effective and relevant in producing the desired outcomes in students. In this regard, the uplifting of professionalism and competency in educational management and leadership is carried out with the hope that school leaders can execute the transformation effectively.”

The fifth challenge has to do with fostering a future-centered vision and thought leadership. In a rapidly globalising world, IAB’s role is crucial one as the country grapples with the challenge of identifying or training educational leaders that have the skills, knowledge as well as commitment to integrity to cope with rapid and complex changes.

Expectations heaped upon a modern principal are vastly different compared to two or three decades ago. Now, principals can no longer function simply as building managers, who concern themselves with merely following district education office rules, or just staying cautious to avoid “making mistakes”.

Dr Zainal said this emphasis on cultivating good all-round leadership has now taken on an increased sense of urgency.

“Leaders and managers at various levels of the organisation should get ready to face challenges such as a knowledge-based economy, an environment dominated by technology, and dominance of creative and innovative approaches.

“They should also have the community’s support in the education of their children as the support of various stakeholders is critical in realising the goals of the Blueprint.

“For me, the few attributes that school leaders should have are the desire to continuously improve themselves, as what is desired of schools leaders. They should be proficient in explaining ideas, imparting information, and giving constructive criticism.

“We desire school leaders that have the ability to think strategically, and can conceptualise ideas and programmes in creative and innovative ways in accordance with the priorities of the day.

“They should be leaders who have foresight about current and emerging developments, and are able to inspire hope, work with bravery, to face emerging challenges from globalisation in order to realise the vision.”

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