It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Michael Amakyi, Ph.D. a lecturer in Educational Statistics, Financial Administration in Education, and Economics of Education at the Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA), University of Cape Coast, Ghana. Michael holds a Ph.D. in Educational Administration from the University of Dayton, Dayton, OH, a Master’s in Business Administration from the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration in Accra, Ghana, and a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. His major research interest is in school leadership preparation and school improvement.
After my undergraduate studies, I launched my career in education by teaching mathematics at the high school level. A renowned and experienced mathematics teacher at the school became my mentor, guiding me in post-class reflections and supporting my lesson planning. This relationship made me think more about how to implement best practices to improve students’ learning. As I sought answers and visited other schools, I began working with mathematics department heads and school administrators. Soon after, I was tasked with analyzing our students’ performance on the national standardized examinations, and started to analyze the role of school leadership in improving a school’s results. My interest in doing research on educational leadership heightened during my graduate studies when it became obvious to me that working with school heads was key. My background in mathematics gave me a firm foundation in analyzing data, especially using statistical tools and facilitating my reliance on facts and evidence in decision making.
In Ghana, the expectations for school heads are laid out in two sections of the Ghana Education Service (2010) Head Teachers’ Handbook, “Managing your School” and “Improving the Quality of Learning”. The “Managing your School” section highlights four proficiencies needed to effectively manage people: 1) managing instructional time, 2) managing co-curricular activities, 3) managing learning resources, and 4) managing financial matters. The “Improving the Quality of Learning” section also has four proficiencies for increasing school intake and attendance: 1) assessing pupil performance, 2) assessing teacher performance, 3) staff development, and 4) improving relations between school and community. Taken together, these skills enable school heads to assume roles that have direct influence on improved student learning and the establishment of a school climate of success for all learners. In this sense, school heads serve as instructional leaders and facilitators.
However, the key skills of communication and collaboration often receive less attention in the school leadership research. These two skills are particularly important as school heads are expected to acquire the relevant resources for the school, manage them effectively, as well as to create a conducive teaching and learning environment to deliver quality education to learners.
School heads in Ghana must have a minimum of 15 years of teaching experience, but they are not required to complete a professional standardized training programme in educational administration or educational leadership. School heads are usually selected from the ranks of teachers; however, teaching experience does not ensure that a person has the adequate technical, analytical, and human relations skills required for administrators. As a result, leadership functions critical to school effectiveness and improvement are often ignored or deemphasized. Since the current requirements for becoming a school head are broad and do not include training, it makes it harder for leaders to address challenges such as student low achievement, high dropout rates, facilities in urgent need of repair, inadequate funding, and dysfunctional operational systems. The findings from my research on profiles of school heads and readiness to address problems of practice showed that regardless of academic background, high school heads exhibit similar readiness in addressing management-related problems of practice. These are generally problems that are addressed using existing structures and established protocols. On the other hand, school heads who have taken graduate level courses in educational administration indicated readiness to address leadership-related and political problems than their counterparts who have not taken graduate level courses in educational administration. The study findings suggest that exposure to graduate level courses in educational administration equips school heads with the knowledge and skills to develop clear vision for their school and articulate expectations for student learning while utilizing change opportunities to attain the vision.
School heads need to be supported with professional programmes that teach them to communicate a vision of success for all students and inspire all stakeholders to work towards achieving that vision. These programmes, if designed as a series of workshops and seminars, will provide a framework within which the knowledge, skills, and competences acquired by school heads will be reinforced through the integration of theoretical knowledge and artistry or experience on the job. Additionally, school heads may benefit from mentorship programmes that assign school heads of successful schools as mentors to school heads with poorer results. The mentoring relationship should be shaped by intentional collaborative learning, the adoption of best operating practices to improve student outcomes, and a focus on key performance indicators for the mentee school head.
Overall, I recommend that Ghana rethink its requirements for school heads. School heads could benefit from graduate level coursework in educational administration or leadership that prepares them to be both instructional leaders and agents of change. Ghana has access to a UNESCO Category II Centre of Excellence in Educational Leadership and Planning at the University of Cape Coast, that is, the Institute for Educational Planning and Administration (IEPA) which runs programmes in school leadership, management, and planning and conducts workshops and seminars on effective school administration practices. The IEPA conducts training and capacity building of educational leaders, managers and planners through regular post graduate programmes, short courses, and seminars and workshops. The training and capacity building sessions are aimed at developing instructional leaders who are equipped with the competencies to support teacher and school community actions that have the greatest impact on student outcomes. The IEPA also engages in research activities to inform policy planning, development, and implementation and provides technical assistance and policy advice on issues related to educational leadership, management and planning. Through the research activities, the IEPA is positioned to support the Ministry of Education (MoE) and other educational entities, both public and private, with relevant research-based evidence for educational planning and administration policy development. Additionally, the IEPA provides monitoring and evaluation consultancy services to support MoE/GES to build the capacity of its staff in the area of data collection and data management for managing performance, tracking of activity, and identification of results.
We thank Dr. Amakyi for sharing his experiences and insight regarding the importance of school leader preparation. To learn more about his work with the IEPA please visit: https://iepa.ucc.edu.gh/.
Thanks for reading!
Paula and Maxie