Thoughts on International Education
Some musings on Japanese and Ryukyu Budo
Coming as I did from a grounding in the Ontario Public education system, I was quite surprised to see the variety of models of leadership employed at International schools. Specifically, I was initially taken aback at the explicit criticism often directed at Principals/Heads of School by the faculty. Indeed the questioning of decisions even after they had become policy and their belief in an ongoing agency to negotiate such policy was new to me. It made me rethink my accepted models of leadership. What follows in the coming weeks will be parts of an essay I wrote for Mike Fertig at the University of Bath as a few years back. As it is rather long, I shall post in segments. The first instalment sets the field with an academic overview of what do we mean by educational leadership?
As we prepare to enter the third decade of the the twenty-first century, many new agents are at play, creating a need to rethink traditional paradigms. Aging populations in first world nations progressively scrutinized public spending and especially publicly funded organizations. Increasingly, free markets economies through the forces of globalisation, have not only increased global trade but also increased the number of transient workers. Unprecedented access to information that the Internet has permitted has aided in the democratization of knowledge. Not surprisingly, as such forces interact, societies look to secure their future and, in particular, the future of their children. Education has become a central concern for nations and citizens as they seek to make sense of the global changes. New curricula, standards based assessment, and efficiency of spending has begun to enter the lexicon of educational debate. Arguably, no area has received greater interest than the field of educational leadership. After all, it is these very leaders who are to ensure children are prepared to become effective participants in the new global paradigm. Or are they? Are traditional educational leadership models outdated and no-longer effective in dealing with new forces and expectations at play within schools? Or are these traditional models tested and true and thus guarantee past success will continue? The central question thus is: what constitutes effective school leadership? While an exploration of all literature within this field is impossible, a healthy sampling reveals the existence of two main schools of thought in educational leadership: principle-centred and leadership-team centred. Through an exploration of the major tenets within each of these schools of thought, and an assessment of how these theories compared to actual practice, what emerges is they offer viable insights into the dilemmas and challenges leaders must address in serving and leading educational communities.
Before we begin, it is necessary to identify some key terms. Those who are assigned the role of leading schools are known by various titles within private, public and international school sectors. For our purposes we shall call this central person the principal. Additionally confounding, is the idea of leadership. Again for our purposes, leadership entails those administrative, leadership and vision activities that enable schools to create effective learning environments. Lastly, the notion of ‘effective’ varies from society to society as well as between and within schools. What needs to be explored are those leadership attitudes, practices and formats that best suit the context of the school and lead to effective decisions and actions being undertaken. Thus, herein effective means effectiveness of leadership format. Finally while there are no actual educational schools of thought that define themselves as principal-centred and leadership team-centred, these are terms we shall use to embrace a wide spectrum of theories that share commonalities. Principal-centred theories are those that perceive the principal as the central agent leading a school towards increased effectiveness; team-centred theories are those that suggest the school is most effectively guided by the work and co-operation of teams with a shared agency and responsibility.
What follows is part of an abstract I wrote back in 2010 for work I was undertaking as part of my EdD studies at the University of Bath, under the guidance of Professor Hugh Lauder. I share it here to help ground what I see as a confusion in intentional schools between what constitutes policy and what constitutes practice. From my experience most of these schools confuse or interchangeably uses these terms. This is most likely a result of their situated ness outride of local educational bodies. I do hope this post proves thought provoking. I have included citations to help with identifying key ideas and thinkers within the field.
“Access”, “Meritocracy”, “Parental Choice”, “Market Economy” are sampling of the catch phrases which abound within education policy over the past four decades as calls for, and encouragement of education democratisation formed the bulk of education reform (Brown, 1990). Ironically coinciding with these calls has been recognition of a growing gap in access to quality education– a gap that is evident both intra and inter national (CfBT Trust 2007), the ‘McKinsey report’, 2007., Lauder et.al. 2011., Lauder and Brown 2001., Tooley 2009., Hirsch 1977 and Collins 1977). Indeed a whole new industry, such as that spearheaded by PISA, has developed which seeks to support stakeholders insure that their young are educated on par with their global counterparts.
Adding complexity to this educational are a new global transient workforce whose skills and knowledge are in such demand that they often live abroad for a protracted period of time only to find that when they return to their host country it may no longer meet their or their children’s needs. Partially in response to these global transients international schools have also shown dramatic growth rates since the 1960’s. While a concise definition of what constitutes an international school is still emergent (Lauder, 2007; Hayden and Thompson, 2000; Gellar, 2002) what is clear is firstly that their on-going growth appears to show little sign of abating as globalisation itself continues to expand and secondly that many of these school operate beyond the educational authority of their host countries. However, such schools have been little explored in relation to their access. While most of these schools claim to promote such universal values as peace (Thomas, 1998), global-mindedness (Allen, 2000; Thompson 1998) and capitalism (Cambridge, 2002) only one study, Wilkinson (1998), explicitly studies access to and concluded they were “very much… the privilege of the rich ” (Wilkinson, 1998, p. 234).
Bourdieu (1984), Foucault (1975), Freire (2005), Brown and Lauder (1998), Weiner (1994), Kumar (1995) and Codd (1988) are but a few of the notable names questioning the traditional rational technocratic/empiricist approach to policy analysis and understanding. While drawing upon various disciplines and epistemes, critics note that policies are rooted in the language, discursive spaces and time/space continuum in which they are constructed and as such are not normatively neutral. Therefore, to understand policy is necessary to not only explore what is said, but how it is understood and enacted; to broaden the discursive lens so it includes statement to praxis in an effort to create a coherent sense-making event.
Policy is the result of a determination which is open to input and will change depending on the time/space in which it is created, in other words policy is more than its stated content, it is a living entity (Codd, 1988; Lasswell, 1955; Gordon et al. 1977; Bourdieu and Passerson, 1977; Popkewitz, 1997; Brown and Lauder 200) and as such carries both explicit and implicit assumptions and aims. Policy therefore has at its core etic and emic actualisations wherein power relations are created and those assigned the policy enactment roles serve as gatekeepers not only to implementation but also to a membership. It is this power-relation enactment and sense making attempts of gatekeepers that the present study is grounded
Karate: A nice video by Iain Abernethy who has some wonderful, progressive ideas on the interpretations of kata!
So I will share thoughts, reflections and research under the following headings:
KoRyu Budo (Iaido, Shuriken, Jojitsu)
Arts (mostly written)
That way will help keep items organized and easy to read until I learn to use the blog more effectively. Most of the research I will share will be sure to include citations as a core goal of this blog is to inform but also to point the way for further investigation. This is particularly of importance under the above as too often discussions slip into personal opinion or unsubstantiated claims presented uncritically. Hopefully, the blog will serve as a springboard for those interested to read, think, research and discuss pertinent issues more deeply. Questions always welcome. Life is a mixture of art and discursive space.
Welcome to my blog. Here is space where I delve into items that matter to me - especially around notions of education, intercultural competencies and 'global-mindedness'. Often I will chat about these items based on research, but at other times, I will also use the vehicle of Japanese martial arts to share ideas and insights. Two-roads crossing. As 'Uncle' Walt Whitman stated 'if I contradict myself, I contradict myself for I am immense'. Anyway, let's see how this blogging lark goes!
James M. Hatch
International Educator who happens to be passionate about Chito Ryu Karate. Born in Ireland, educated in Canada, matured in Japan