School Leadership in Pre-University Albanian Education System (1995-2012): Politics, Issues and Trends
Author Dr. Valbona Nathanaili / September 2015
Journal of Educational and Social Research / MCSER Publishing, Rome-Italy
Vol. 5 No.3 September 2015 / ISSN 2239-978X ISSN 2240-0524
The job of the school leader is becoming very difficult. During a working day, he has to face a variety of challenges and to find solutions for many problems of all kinds. The concerns and interests of parents, teachers and district administration do not always coincide. (Johnson, 1976: 80). On the other hand, public schools do not select the pupils who will attend. (Ibid) The children community in school is growing diverse due to their family origins which have different and unique structures, and to demographic movements. A diverse community represents diverse demands. The school leader shall be the manager and the teacher, the planner and the implementer, the school advocate and its critique, so as to be committed and able to perform its responsibilities (Pierce & Stapleton, 2002), comply with the requirements of DAR and MAS and find the right balance between different stakeholders. There are many complex roles a leader shall take which means assuming many accountability, however, not always justified by the salary. But, our main concern is to save the public schools, and in order to be able to compile such a mission, we need a new kind of leadership, visionary, able to understand what will happen to school at 5 to 10 years following, to identify problems and to know how to respond the needs in change of the community (Pierce & Stapleton, 2002). This essay is a review of key issues, trends and current policy in Albanian school leadership at pre-university education system during 1995-2012.
Doi:10.5901/jesr.2015.v5n3p201/ Keywords: school leadership, policy, practice, criteria.
Reforms in education doesn’t last more than the mandate of policymaker (Elmore, 2004). The political influence in the Albanian education system has been present and ongoing for a long time, affecting therefore the formal and informal concept of a school leadership.
After the ‘90s, it should be noted how much efforts has been made to change schools. An increasing number of undertaken reforms are relating with educational practices in response of new demands for accountability and quality, teacher professional development, curricula, textbooks, technological innovations and their use in classes, the performance of students and the skills required to challenge job market, etc.
The following is a brief summary of the mission and duties appointed on the leading authorities in the field of education by the law no. 7952, dated 21.06.1995 “On pre-university education system” in Albania. This Law was in force until 2012.
2. Leading Educational Authorities in Albania, the Pyramid (Until 2012). A Brief Summary Based on Legislation
At the national level: The Council of Ministers, Ministry of Education and Science (MASH).
The Council of Ministers designs the general national policies, approves the national strategy of pre-university education and sets criteria for including children in need in financial assistance schemes.
Ministry of Education and Science (MASH) is the highest administrative public authority in the field of education. MASH is in charge, through others, to design the national strategy of pre-university education system, compile and elaborate teaching plans and curricula for the development of education through its specialists and its subsidiary institutions in conformity with international trends and national, regional, social-economic and demographic peculiarities of Albania, etc.
At the local level: The basic unit on the local government, Regional Educational Directory (DAR) or Educational Office (ZA).
The basic uniton the local government duties relate to the provision of public educational educational infrastructure, and support with funding for: extra salary, financial aid for students in need, awards for gifted students, training of educational institutions staff and curriculum development by choice.
Regional Educational Directory (DAR) or Educational Office (ZA), whose director is appointed or dismissed by a decision of the Minister of Education and Science, under the procedures established by legal acts issued by it (see below).
At the school level: School Leadership, Deputy Director, School Board, Pedagogical council, Subject team and Student Government.
External exceptions for school leadership
The mission of school leadership is to guide the activities of the institution, in order to continuously improve the quality of education service for all students, to ensure implementation of the law at school level, to respect standards leadership, to guide the design and implementation of semester and annual institution plan in cooperation with the school board, faculty council, parents, local educational unit (DAR/AZ) and the local government unit, to provide periodical assessment of student achievement and school self-evaluation, to guide pedagogical council, and to encourage and provide professional development to school; to perform annual assessment work for all school employees.
The school director is appointed by the Regional Education Directorate (DAR) based on competition. Leadership directs, at school, the learning, administrative and financial processes.
The translation of external expectations into internal meaning (from school inside)
The central figure of the school is its leader, known as the principal. The leader is considered the highest authority in the school to resolve any conflict; he must possess a range of skills, categorized as technical, personal and managerial. With regards to the leadership at school level, there are many other organizational structures designed to support the work of the leader and to successfully achieve the school’s mission, but the engagement’s quantity and quality of these actors is mostly a product of the leadership style that the school leader has chosen to apply.
Not only does it vary from area to area, but also, often, within the same area. The success of a certain style comes as a result of personal leadership initiatives, disregarding the guidelines of the system, which in fact are missing to a great extent.
The leader may exercise control at class level and holds the right to make an annual assessment of the teacher’s performance which gives him a formal authority over the teaching staff. On the other hand, it is almost impossible for the leader to dismiss an incompetent teacher or such a mission requires extensive efforts and DAR proceedings, which often are forced to end up without an effective resolution.
This drawback can be compensated, however, by way of a good leadership and communication skills so as to create the necessary climate of cooperation and improvement (when necessary).
Generally, it has been noted a lack of ambition among old teachers to assume the role of the leader. Their participation in the qualifications offered by the government or the ones they personally select are of an academic background, usually in function of professional preparation and acquiring teaching materials. A career in the Albanian education system is very limited and doesn’t offer wide possibilities: it starts as a teacher and can end (or not) as a principal. This career perspective evidences the presence of two more negative sides of it: firstly, the leader is not dynamic and then its job falls into a normal working routine; secondly, considering that there are few leaders only in a large group of teachers, most teachers are hold back by such competition and do not aim at being in charge of the school, which translates in a lack of daily engagement to the success of the school as a whole and in the encouragement of the isolated-teacher model surrounded by the classroom walls only.
Furthermore, it is necessary to develop structures which will make the leadership role more attractive and flexible and, at the same time, it will set higher leadership standards.
In some cases, the leadership is a product of political circumstances. The missing key competences in such cases are technical, resulting in a disability to adapt the teaching programme to local needs and to engage in teacher monitoring, evaluation and professional development.
The legislation encourages the concept of distributed and collective leadership, as well as the cooperation with a great number of actors to successfully implement this concept, but it is limited only to definitions.
The culture of individual leadership and a lack in conceptualization of practices of distributed leadership are obstacles which have to be taken in consideration. In general, the interchange and influence range of the leadership is limited: it starts and ends usually at the school’s boundaries (as a building and social structure). The model of isolated teachers is mirrored in the model of isolated leadership. There is a lack in formal and informal networks of leadership. The success of a part rarely becomes the success of the whole, restricting in such way, the propagation and dissemination of successful initiatives or improvement at the large scale.
Because Albania is a Balkan country, there is a stereotypical perception of leadership concept: individual leadership, who has difficulty to share (especially when speaking about success) and large inertia in decisions (i.e. lack of flexibility). By taking forward this traditional concept, more sensitive features becomes visible to high schools and large schools with high number of students and teachers and less visible in primary schools and small schools (again in terms of number students and teachers).
Finally, social (informal) ties between school leader-teachers are generally weak. Often teachers do not feel comfortable in the presence of the school leader. Furthermore, in Albanian public schools, the teacher is free to leave the school immediately following the end of the class (until the end of 2010).
Responsibility is fragmented and centralized, meaning that teachers respond for their classes and leaders for the whole school. For these reasons, in order to achieve a collective leadership model, I think that still a long path awaits us ahead.
3. School Leaders/School Leadership: Recruitment
Based upon bylaws passed in accordance with law No. 7952, the Minister of Education and Science has the authority to hire or dismiss the Regional Educational Directory leader (DAR) or Educational Office leader (ZA’s). In the case of the school leaders, the policies for hiring or dismissing them vary on the applicable formally designed procedures and criteria.
So, with regards to public schools, DAR leaders have such power, whereas as per private school, the selective criteria and dismissing procedures are subject to the internal institution rules.
However, despite the established authority responsible for selecting the school leaders, there are some formal minimum requirements to be met for candidates which are almost identical in both types of institutions (public or private), such as: the candidate shall hold a university degree in the field of education and other qualifications and he should have teaching experience. But due to the competition between these two sectors of education, private schools, in order to gain popularity, tend to invest more resources in recruiting qualified leaders and embrace higher standards of quality. The following example is a school leader job vacancy advertisement at “Hermann Gmeiner”, an elementary school. The advert was published in the newspaper and it contained followed by the required criteria:
The school director of SOS Hermann Gmeiner directs and manages the daily activities of SOS school.
Degree in teaching in 8-year education cycle (preferably masters degree in the field of education/ management);
Have at least 5 years experience as a director and at least 15 years of teaching experience;
Knowledge on contemporary teaching methods and pedagogical work with children. ؞ Skills in managing human resources;
Good interpersonal skills of oral and written communication;
Ability to work under pressure;
Ability to work in groups and independently;
Ability to analyze and evaluate situations and to take actions for protecting the children;
Motivation, commitment, flexibility;
Good knowledge of English;
The following table (Table I) is a summary of key qualified requirements for school leadership compared with DAR leadership requirements. The selection criteria are based on Law No. 7952 on “Pre-university education system” and bylaws issued in accordance with it:
Table I. Summary of key qualified requirements for school leadership compared with DAR leadership requirem