“The most important rule of educational leadership is to always remember that people, not policies or program, are what highly drive effective schools”. — PJ Caposey
Educational leadership refers to the social and psychological settings where groups of people are led in terms of ideologies and philosophical concepts. Educational leadership is much of influential leadership than managerial because academic departments are communities that have exclusive practices and beliefs. It is also different from political leadership as Pakistani academic leaders are answerable to the government, board of governors or Higher Education Commission (HEC), not to the general public. The academic leadership also represents the functions and responsibilities of top managers, deans, chancellors, principals, school heads and others who are responsible for decision-making at different levels.
However, the department chair as the leader of this community plays a critical leadership role in transmitting academic values and effects achievements of the objectives and well-being of the employees and the organization that can bring a significant difference to educational institutions.
But academic leadership anywhere in the world is a challenge, particularly in the third world countries like Pakistan, where it is a whole new ball game for several reasons. Some of them are as old as this country.
Limited budgets are allocated to the education sector and political interference has always been present in the field of education to achieve the best political ends.
Education is not a priority in Pakistan. The budget is so low that even universities cannot afford permanent competent teachers. They are unable to build their capacity through training. Due to a lack of full-time faculty members, universities are left with no option but to hire contractual teachers to run classes on regular basis. These teachers usually leave universities to avail better opportunities at private institutions. Thus financial crunches affect the academic leadership to enhance the quality of education in institutions.
Changes in teaching practices are often challenged and hindered by the limited knowledge and lack of commitment on part of parents, school heads, principals and teachers because education plus the quality of education has never been a priority in this country.
The concept that academic leadership is all about guiding, supporting and handholding does not exist in Pakistan. It is usually taken as “middleman management.” Because of this, academic leaders’ actions frequently prevent universities or other institutions of higher learning from developing.
The school leadership and their capacity building have also remained ignored in public sectors educational institutions. There is a lack of academic leadership to teach the learners according to the demands and requisites of education in 21 century because of less awareness about modern development, latest teaching techniques and methods.
Further, changes in teaching practices are often challenged and hindered by the limited knowledge and lack of commitment on part of parents, school heads, principals and teachers because education plus the quality of education has never been a priority in this country. It has also been observed that most of the teachers’ coordinators also lack essential leadership skills as they are selected based entirely on their years of teaching experience. Hence mostly they are unable to bring a difference in learners’ life — because of lack of awareness, training and interest on part of management and teachers.
On the contrary, the present century has posed even more challenging demands on the educational system of Pakistan. It should be reformed and renovated to fulfil the requirements of well-informed young individuals living in the digitalized world. The old methods, absolute obedience and not developing a questioning mind has created a slavish mentality among our youth. Critical thinking, problem-solving skills, effective communication, knowing how to collaborate with others and creativity are much-needed tools to learn and teach in the education sector. This is the only way to solve the socio-political problems of modern-day Pakistan.
In Pakistan, higher education institutions are like high schools. Prof Baqai says, “The culture of research and the culture of knowledge creation is still new and things have to be incorporated into university teaching.”
It is important to understand that academic leadership is different from corporate leadership. As Prof. Dr Huma Baqai says, “Taking the faculty forward or making the faculty to do things that you want them to do is like herding cats… People with independent minds do more, and there should be academic freedom, but at the same time a lot needs to be done there as well.”
Prof Baqai believes that international exposure is extremely critical. In Pakistan, higher education institutions are like high schools. She says, “The culture of research and the culture of knowledge creation is still new and things have to be incorporated into university teaching.”
According to her it is critical that there is a bottom-up approach as well as a top-down approach to bring us at par with international standards.
Sadly, none of the universities in Pakistan are ranked internationally. To improve our standard, we need to understand the research culture, university teaching methods, and conception of university and school beyond the classroom.