UM’s Institute of Principal Studies aims to nurture teachers to become effective heads of schools.
By SIMRIT KAUR
THE IDEA of having a special training programme for heads of schools was realised with the introduction of the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) by the Education Ministry.
The one-year diploma course is aimed at equipping teachers with the right skills so that they may lead schools effectively.
PROF RAHIMAH: Our programme is very school-based.
Eventually, holders of the NPQH are supposed to form a pool of trained personnel from which vacancies for the post of school heads would be filled.
Upon completion of the NPQH, selected graduates of the programme at Institut Aminuddin Baki (IAB) will pursue the Master of Principalship Studies at the Institute of Principal Studies (IPS) in Universiti Malaya (UM), established in 2000.
Explains IPS’s founding director, Prof Datin Dr Rahimah Ahmad: “Then education director-general Datuk Dr Shukor Abdullah approached us with the idea of setting up an institute solely to train school leaders.
“He wanted principals of the future to have academic training in the field, at least a master degree. UM was chosen to house the institute.”
The master students do 42 credit hours and study 14 subjects, including completing a research project.
As part of the course, students organise and run several activities, including national seminars.
The students are selected by the Education Ministry and are teachers on full-pay leave. In addition, they receive a RM500 monthly allowance.
Prof Rahimah says IPS has two main objectives – to complement the NPQH offered by IAB and to play a role as a centre for developing and nurturing good principals.
PROF TOWNSEND: Principals must develop their staff.
On what makes the IPS master degree different from similar programmes offered by other public universities, Prof Rahimah says: “Other programmes may focus on educational leadership but ours is very school-based.
“It is a training programme, not just an academic qualification.”
About 300 students have already graduated with a master from IPS. A further 17 candidates are currently undergoing their PhDs there.
Three years ago, IPS opened enrolment for the master’s programme to the general public as well as overseas students.
It is currently running a part-time course with classes held over weekends.
Termed the executive master’s, it is modular in nature and takes two years to complete. Currently, about 10 students are pursuing it.
IPS Assoc Prof Dr Tie Fatt Hee says that IPS is currently exploring international partnerships in research and training with the Hong Kong Centre for the Development of Educational Leadership, Chinese University of Hong Kong; National College for School Leadership in Nottingham University, Britain; and Harvard University Principals' Centre in the United States.
It recently signed agreements with two universities in the United States – the University of Dayton and Florida Atlantic University.
“We are now conducting joint research with both institutions.
“IPS hopes to draw upon the best practices in the world to become more effective in developing educational leaders and principals in Malaysia,” adds Dr Tie.
Visiting professor to IPS Prof Dr Tony Townsend, who holds the Chair in Educational Leadership at Florida Atlantic University, recently gave a workshop-cum-seminar at IPS entitled Leading the Learning in Malaysian Schools: What School Effectiveness and School Improvement Research Can Tell Us.
Commenting on the Education Ministry’s plan to empower 300 heads of cluster schools, Prof Townsend said that many school heads might find it difficult to cope with the autonomy given to them.
“The ministry is very forward thinking but principals might find it difficult to keep up.
“There has always been a hierarchical structure here and principals are used to accepting decisions made by people at the top.
“When you tell them it is their responsibility to do things and make a decision, their response tends to be: ‘What do you want me to do?’”
Prof Townsend added that school leadership training programmes must change according to the new realities.
“They must develop their staff or look at what is known as capacity building.
“A much broader leadership role is required of principals today.”
Principals must also look at succession planning to ensure that capable people are trained to take over when they leave, said Prof Townsend.