Friday, March 07, 2008

...literati after literati...hmmmm

Its Friday 15 minutes to 3 am. Have not been blogging since March 3. Been busy. No no not with the generall elections but busy writing my 3rd article for my regular column in BodyshopnewsAsia published in Sydney Australia once every two months. Fuh....what a relief, I emailed the article below, off to sydney yesterday at about 5pm local time. It will appear in the march/april 2008 issue..heheh. And oh ya busy finishing another keynote address. Thank gawd, thats also accomplished abt 2 hours ago heheh...
(bodyshopnewsAsia forthcoming march/april 2008 issue)
Experience and skills have always been greatly valued, from ancient times and through the ages, both in war and in business. Luck and timing however, also seem to play a role so it was said, though the precise nature of this role has also been somewhat fuzzy. The 16th century Indian poet Tulsidas could not have captured the essence of it any better when he wrote lyrically:

The same Arjuna with his arrows
Failed miserably this time,
Truly, luck and timing influence
Success in ways sublime,
This is an important lesson
To remember at all times.

The puzzle of what defines and what diminishes, leaders is as intriguing to the bodyshop industry as it was to a 16th century poet. There really never was any attempt by anyone, in the bodyshop industry, as far as I can see, to reveal the truths or secrets of success in management, especially as they relate to managing people within the bodyshop industry. It was purely cultural and in an unstructured manner observing individual and organizational behaviour and how leaders create conditions and perform in a way that leads to successful outcomes. If you recall in my inaugural article, I highlighted the changing scenario that emphasizes or recognizes the importance of human capital development especially the family-owned type, within the automotive - insurance – bodyshop industries in Malaysia.

Perhaps we could pick up a thing or two from Howard Gardner, the John and Elisabeth Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, from his latest book that went into one of the best business books 2007 list, entitled: Five Minds for the Future where he weaves the multiple intelligence threads from the looms of his mind, into a whole fabric. The five minds for the future according to Gardner, consists of three (3) cognitive minds (discipline, synthesizing and creating) and two (2) minds that concern our relations with other human beings (respectful and ethical). In our industry, all the five minds do put a strain on leadership especially the respectful and ethical bit which I guess in some markets, still leaves much to be desired. Like other industries, ours too, are being confronted with information age’s growing complexity and the need for a synthesizing mind to knit together into a coherent whole all the information that is available from different sources. Within the bodyshop industry, does successful teamwork depends more on the management skills than the technical expertise of their leaders? Or is it the other way round? The notion of ethics there again, would be like opening Pandora’s Box!

It has become fashionable to speak of human capital development (HCD) in a generic sense which I suspect may suggest a scenario of merely ‘rearranging old furniture in the same old room!’ The final perception one usually ends up with is that HCD is nothing more than mere training. Yes and no. It is much more than that. It is making sure of your succession plan or preparing your future leaders and to (the more consultant-type) high sounding term of ‘talent management’. HCD as a craft that transcend all industries, should be addressed by organizations, with sufficient regularity and assiduity. It has to move beyond mere rhetorics. Without doubt, the lack of which, I dread to think, what the long-term costs might be.

As usual, closer to home, I was recently invited to attend the launching of the new Malaysian Automotive Association (MAA) new office located at F-1-47, Block F, Jalan PJU 1A/3A, Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya which incidentally is close to my home and office. The guest of honour was International Trade & Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and among some of the things she highlighted was the increase in the imports of CBU cars, where Thailand, Japan and Korea were the main import sources with 85.2 % of the volume and that the major import categories for CBU cars comprised those with engine capacities between 1.8 and 2.0 litre and between 2.0 and 2.5 litre. The President of MAA, Datuk Aishah Ahmad, my contemporary during the mid- seventies at Mara Institute of Technology (now UiTM) during her welcome remarks, cited a positive car sales trend in the light of new model launches and improved consumer confidence. She is a fine example of the outcome of human capital development if you may, having gone through the mill herself, I remember when our roads, were lined up with selected American models, Volkswagon Beetle (the 70s version), Peugeot 404s ( I was driving one!), 504s, and the Volvos 200 series were buzzing around then. She was one of the few pioneer batch who was handpicked to undergo the Inchcape Automotive Management Training Programme at a time when the national make Proton, wasn’t even around yet.

As I write this article the global oil price had already busted the US100 a barrel mark. How this will affect our industry is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what the likely outcome will be. In an era where the theory of diminishing returns are for real, and where sustainability concerns run high, the only way forward for any level-headed industry or nation for that matter, is to focus on their brainpower, the human capital and its development. In the ICT sector, the theory of increasing returns as propagated by Paul Romer seems to be taking a somewhat backseat. But the interesting debate within academia, I suspect, has not lost its fervour. We, at Motordata Research Consortium (MRC) both a subsidiary of HeiTech Padu Berhad ( a global homegrown IT powerhouse in Malaysia) and Malaysian Re, continues to play a role in promoting human capital development in the Malaysian bodyshop, related and ancillary industries both at the strategic and operational levels.
Khaeruddin Sudharmin, Managing Director & Chief Executive of Motordata Research Consortium Malaysia was a keynote speaker at IBIS2006, Montreux, Switzerland
Below is the other paper I was talking about...heheh..
Keynote Address 3rd International Conference on Principalship
and School Management
At Institut KePengetuaan, Universiti Malaya, March 10, 2008

Distinguished guests,
Ladies & gentlemen

The beginning of the 21st century saw an upsurge of interest in educational reform focused on school improvement as a total school effort, among world educational scholars. Much of educational debates of the reform process are centered not only the role, function and effectiveness of school in responding to societal needs but also on whether school improvement policies, programs and strategies have brought about clear improvement in the quality of schooling towards making the school a total learning organization. This 3rd International Conference on Principalship and School Management, organized by the Institute of Principalship Studies, University of Malaya I have been told, aims to discuss theoretical, empirical and practical issues related to school improvement efforts and educational reforms. With the presence of such a distinguished and august audience like yourselves, I hope the aims of this conference in bringing together national and international scholars to share experience and discuss perspectives and experiences with local policy makers and practitioners, educational administrators and teachers have begun.
Ladies & gentlemen,
Every time there is a debate or a discussion on educational management, principalship and school management, the key word here is leadership and management. How do we address the subject area in its generic sense withoust losing sight of the link to education per se. In 1976, the Open University (UK) third level course, offered the first unit: Management in education –Dissimilar or Congruence? The central question being, whether theories and principles derived from the day-to-day administration of industrial or economic organizations had any relevance to what went on in an educational institution and it was generally agreed that educational management benefited substantially from management conducted in another context. I like to take this opportunity to revisit or caution, if you may, our worldview on leadership and management and to not take it in a simplistic manner, to juxtapose or perhaps in a more recent common reference to it as a cut-and-paste job!

Time and again we are being reminded that it has become fashionable to speak of successful performance in the principals’ role largely in terms of management and administrative competence. Parallels are drawn between the role of the principal/headmaster and that of the managing director of a commercial of a private sector business organization. Such parallels, we are being told, consistently, do have a number of defects and dangers. First, they fail to bring out the real and essential differences between educational considerations and market considerations. This is not to say that there is nothing in common between running a commercial enterprise and running a school. Problems of control and delegation, of communication and departmental autonomy, of bureaucracy and budget determination are common to many kinds of complex organization. But to push the analogy too far is dangerous, for it fails to take account of certain characteristics of the values inherent in a market structure as compared to those characteristics of educational structures. The points could not have been captured better by Jules Henry, when he said that ‘one should not confuse the so called business ethics based on laws of contract, the stability of the currency, and the retention of the market – a satisfied market – with moral principles that govern the relations between human beings. They may resemble each other, but the similarity is purely coincidental and largely illusory. Between human beings one activates the ideas of protection and suffering, because one feels it is human to enhance the well-being that is involved. In the market the anchorage of value is always on the self; the anchorage in human relations is always on the other.

A second objection is that the business analogy encourages us to think of the relations between staff and pupils or students as similar to those between management and labour – them and us. There may be some senses in which it is helpful to conceptualize the relationship in such terms; events in post-secondary education have made such a point of view seem more realistic than the sometimes sentimentalized image of the academic community. But to over-stress the gulf that lies between pupil and student values and those of principals/ heads and staff provides a poor basis for building the kind of relationships that sustain educational efforts.

There is a third, more specific and perhaps even more unfortunate result of seeing the principal or the head’s role in management terms. It encourages us to think of him as deriving his authority from powers delegated by the governors, who in their turn derive their powers from the providing body. In a strictly legal sense this may be true. But the school or college is primarily and educative institution. Its activities are in the last analysis legitimated by its success in achieving whatever educational objectives it may set itself. All else – buildings, staff appointments, everything included in the day-to-day management of the institution – is secondary to this purpose, mere means to the larger end. A school can be superbly ‘managed’, the processes of consultation and decision-making be smooth and trouble free, the relationships between local authority, governing body, head and staff harmonious, the fabric and accounts meticulously maintained, and morale among staff and pupils high. Yet, unless the concept of management is extended to include kinds of educational objectives that are extremely difficult to operationalise and to evaluate, the work of that school still represent failure. If we accept that the primary purpose of the school is educative, then it follows that the initiation of action and the legitimation of authority within the school derive mainly from the work of those people who are appointed as professional competent to undertake the education of pupils, that is the principal and staff. The authority of the head is legitimated not by his skill as a manager, but by his stature as an educator. (Taylor, 1969:2-3)

Some Research Abstracts
I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, that you will be looking at a lot of new theories,research and findings relating to principalship and school management. These findings I believe will trigger a paradigm shift in the way we look at educational management. I like to share with you abstracts of some recent research that has relevance to principalship and school management elsewhere in the world.

1. In the US for example, at long last, scholars and policy makers have come to realize what most school administrators have known for years--that effective schools require both outstanding teachers and strong leaders. Although there is considerable research about the characteristics of effective school leaders and the strategies principals can use to help manage increasingly diverse roles, comparatively little is known about how to design programs that can develop and sustain effective leadership practices. In an effort to increase the knowledge about professional development programs, the Wallace Foundation recently commissioned a study of innovative principal professional development programs and the policy and funding mechanisms that support them. In fall 2003, a team of researchers from the Stanford School of Education was awarded a Wallace grant and proceeded to design and embark upon a nationwide study of both the pre- and in-service professional development of school principals. The study essentially discusses the findings about the qualities and impact of strong programs from a study of professional development for principals some of it perhaps have relevance to our own principals’ professional development.

2. Measures of cognitive intelligence such as Intelligence Quotient (IQ) have long been utilized as gatekeeper measures for leadership placement within organizations. Universities and Colleges have created leadership degree programs which are often almost exclusively measures of a student's cognitive ability. The degrees conferred are often the "gatekeeper" measures for entry into a leadership position within an organization. However, leaders with analogous educational and professional backgrounds may experience different levels of success even when facing quite similar situations. Why is this? The answer may be found within a fairly new field of study known as Emotional Intelligence (EI). The purpose of this study was to explore the degree of association between EI and school performance. The first question addressed within this study dealt the degree of association between a middle school principal's Total EI score and school success. Secondly, this study attempted to focus on the specific elements of a principal's EI (Area and Branch scores) and the degree of association that those elements might have with school success. This research project rendered valuable information which indicated that various components of a middle school principal's EI level is closely related to school success. With this information school systems and school personnel may begin to recruit and promote throughout the principal ranks those principals that demonstrate high levels of EI. Furthermore, training programs may be developed to enhance EI in public middle school principals in an effort to support higher levels of school success. Ultimately, this research indicated that the association between EI and school success could not be ignored and that additional study was strongly indicated.

3. Then there is this booklet, one in a series of "hot topics" reports produced twice a year by the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. These reports briefly address current educational concerns and issues as indicated by requests for information that come to the Laboratory from the Northwest region and beyond. Each booklet contains a discussion of research and literature pertinent to the issue, a sampling of how Northwest schools are addressing the issue, selected resources, and contact information. The By Request series is intended as the "first line" of intervention--used for widespread initial diffusion of information. It is not intended to change practice in and of itself, but rather to spark interest among readers who can then take the next step of examining changes in practice. One objective of the series is to foster a sense of community and connection among educators. Another is to increase awareness of current education-related themes and concerns. Each booklet give practitioners a glimpse of how fellow educators are addressing issues, overcoming obstacles, and attaining success in certain areas. The goal of the series is to give educators current, reliable, and useful information on topics that are important to them. The purpose of this issue of By Request is to provide K-12 principals an introduction to leadership practices that can effect change in their schools. The booklet focuses on concrete strategies for novice principals and principals in schools in need of improvement.

4. Another related article I came across, draws on findings from a larger international study and the literature to examine successful principals of challenging high-poverty schools in the USA, England, and Australia. Specifically, this article reports case-study findings for 13 challenging schools, 4 each in the USA and Australia and 5 in England. Findings from this study indicate that successful principals used similar leadership practices and traits to make a difference and improve student performance in very challenging schools. These findings extend previous research conducted in single-nation contexts. The presentation of findings also considers differences in the role of the principal, the school context, and larger national policies. The article concludes with implications for leadership training and future research.

5. Accountability is a high priority in the U.S. education system, and principals play an important role in student achievement. The author examined the means by which superintendents focus on characteristics identified in the literature on effective principals and student achievement when hiring building administrators. The author questioned whether superintendents considered and assessed candidates for the 21 responsibilities of successful principals identified by T. Waters, R. Marzano, and B. McNulty (2004). Results indicated that although superintendents agreed on the key characteristics necessary for principals to succeed, they did not have a credible way to measure the characteristics in the hiring process. In addition, superintendents need to revise their hiring processes to assess those characteristics correlated in principal applicants to improved student achievement.

Urban school superintendents hold one of the most important and challenging jobs in America's education system. The Council of the Great City Schools (GCS) represents the majority of large urban school districts in the country. Though there are approximately 17 thousand school districts in the country, the Council's 65 districts serve approximately 7.4 million of America's 48.3 million K-12 students (15 percent), and some 30 percent of the nation's students of color, low-income, and English language learners. With vast numbers of students, including the nation's most vulnerable children, urban superintendents face a set of challenges that are systemically different from those in the rest of the nation's school districts. In this era of accountability and standards, superintendents are expected to make visible and rapid improvements in student achievement. As a result of the increased availability of achievement data to the public, superintendents are under more public scrutiny than ever: parents and teachers are able to closely monitor district progress. Urban district superintendents also face a variety of challenges that are often unrelated to teaching and learning: many report that political pressures and internal conflicts may be difficult to manage and detract from the time that could be spent working on improving student achievement. Superintendents are cognizant of being held uniquely accountable for meeting student achievement goals in their districts. Given this backdrop and the historically short tenures of most urban school superintendents, the Council of the Great City Schools has surveyed its member districts approximately every two years since 1997. This fifth report on urban superintendents, presents the results of the Council's 2006 survey. Results from past surveys are included for comparison. Several patterns, trends, and relationships relating to employment and demographics have emerged through the course of analysis. The demographics of urban superintendents have become more diverse. Tenure of CS superintendents has gradually increased: CS superintendents are staying in their districts for longer periods of time, although the length of tenure of the CS superintendents does not appear to be directly related to salary. Overall, salaries have been steadily rising since 1999. Superintendent salary does not appear to vary with tenure, but there does appear to be a relationship between superintendent salary and district enrollment: superintendents in larger districts tend to earn more money, suggesting that salary rewards for big-city superintendents vary according to the level of responsibility and magnitude of the job.

In 2007, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) completed an 18-month study of the costs of teacher turnover in five school districts. The selected districts varied in size, location, and demographics enabling exploration of how these variations affected costs. Costs of recruiting, hiring, processing, and training teachers at both the school and district levels were examined. Findings indicate that the cost of turnover varies from district to district, largely dependent upon the size of the district and the types of induction programs the district implements, but that in all cases, the cost of teacher turnover is substantial. One of the most important steps identified that school districts can take is to recognize that supply side solutions focused on recruiting more teachers will not reduce the high cost of teacher turnover. School districts must first recognize the importance of teacher retention and then develop a comprehensive and coherent human resource strategy to reduce teacher turnover. Citing the high cost of teacher turnover, the document recommends action at both federal and state levels, including: (1) Making retention of highly effective teachers a focus of No Child Left Behind (NCLB); (2) Amending NCLB to hold school leaders accountable for teacher turnover and its costs; (3) Supporting development of coherent school district human resource data systems; (4) Supporting up-front investment in well-designed teacher induction. At the district level, the document recommends: (1) Measuring teacher turnover and its costs; (2) Investing in coherent data-based management of the teacher workforce; (3) Hiring well-prepared teachers; and (4) Targeting implementation of high quality induction programs to at-risk schools. An appendix presents: Calculating the National Cost of Teacher Attrition.

These are some of the continuing research being done elsewhere and I believe it contributes to not only academic accumulation of body of knowledge but it helps identify and cluster common denominators within the realm of principalship and school management no matter where in the world it is. Of course there are other mitigating factors and/or cultural influences but the universal concepts and precepts with regard to principalship and school management to my mind, remain fairly similar and applicable and transferable.

Reality- an anecdote…
Perhaps this narration of a real-life reflections of a Malaysian principal’s experience, motivations and aspirations crystallizes what ultimately a principal’s competency should be:
As a school principal the basic skills you need to have are the following:
a) making use of all resources, whether its human, materials, monetary, and community surrounding the school to get things done.
b) identifying the best practices in management and professional field – to act as guidelines.
c) my experiences at 2 schools proved that there is no specific formula for managing a school. In fact, there is no special formula to manage a school. Theories in management and leadership can help to some extent, but not all.
d) we have to study the environment – type of school, teachers, students, kind of infrastructure, amount of money, rapport with parents. Line of actions depend on your perception of the school environment. Therefore different schools are managed differently. Eg if the staff have inclination towards academic excellence, then we have to encourage them to think creatively; but if staff are the sort who work aimlessly, then the principal have to think of strategies to boost their morale. Using the same style of management to deal with schools of different nature is suicidal.
e) Life as a principal – everyday is not the same. Each day is unique. Each case being treated differently with care
f) As a principal – monitoring is important. Follow-up and follow-through. I will make sure that problems are really solved to the very end. Everyday I will monitor to see that particular problems are dealt with thoroughly.
g) Teamwork is very important. Weekly meetings with senior teachers.
h) To me, every issue is to be dealt with seriously. Though it may be small – it can cause a great impact later on. Example, teachers entering class late. I will say it loud during meetings to show how I abhor such acts. I will call teachers concerned and will even have several meetings with senior teachers to get ideas how to tackle such problems.
i) School achievements however small – I will make sure it is announced at the assembly, and little notes to teachers to say how I appreciate their good work.
j) I strongly feel that a good principal should master the generics of effective teaching and learning.”

There you are, the practical aspects of principalship and school management.

Perhaps we could pick up a thing or two from Howard Gardner, the John and Elisabeth Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, from his latest book entitled Five Minds for the Future where he weaves the multiple intelligence threads from the looms of his mind, into a whole fabric. The five minds for the future according to Gardner, consists of three (3) cognitive minds (discipline, synthesizing and creating) and two (2) minds that concern our relations with other human beings (respectful and ethical). Ethics relates to other persons, but in a more abstract way. In taking ethical stances, an individual tries to understand his or her role as a principal and his or her role as a citizen of a region, nation, and the planet. What are your obligations to your stakeholders (parents, teachers, pupils)? If you were on the other side of the table, if you occupied a different niche in society, what would you have the right to expect from those others who lead? And to take an even wider perspective, what kind of a world would you like to live in, if, to use John Rawls’s phrase, I were cloaked in a ‘veil of ignorance’ with respect to your ultimate position in the world? Every principal should be able to pose, if not answer, the same set of questions with respect to his or her occupational and civic niche.

If any cliché of recent years rings true, it is the acknowledgment that education must be lifelong. How prescient were the words of Winston Churchill: “The empires of the future will be the empires of the mind.” We must recognize what is called for in this new world – even as we hold on to certain perennial skills and values that may be at risk. Curricula developed fifty or a hundred years ago no longer suffice. But don’t toss out the exquisitely evolved infant with the sudsy bathwater of earlier eras. It is easy – but dangerous – to conclude that all education in the future should simply concentrate on mathematics, science, and technology. And it is equally easy - and equally dangerous – to conclude that the forces of globalization should change everything.

Finally, I do think that some of Gardner’s idea of the Five Minds For The Future has relevance in our preparation of future principals, principalship and school management. Thank you.

Ref: TSAA/3rdIntlConferencePrincipalshipUM10March2008/ks

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