Adapting the GSL School Leadership Program to address the cultural nuances of a country
The School Leadership Program is designed to evolve through the two years in a way that balances theory and practice and is relevant to the context of each school.In 2017 the Indonesian education system had in place a set of guidelines to assist in the continuous professional development of school leaders. It was during this time when we were invited to Indonesia to present our research and learning on the impact of effective school leadership on student learning outcomes, at a conference.
The research revealed that school leaders needed extended support that focused on various aspects of instructional leadership. In Indonesia, what seemed to be the more pressing problem was the implementation of set guidelines and practices. The implementation was limited by cultural nuances that impacted the execution of these practices. To address this primary challenge we decided to set up operations in Indonesia, by raising funds for and establishing a local organization called Inspirasi, to deepen understanding of these factors and design lasting solutions.
Designing a contextualized program for Indonesia
Inspirasi, our partner organisation in Indonesia was set up to run a continuous professional development program for school leaders and leadership teams of poorly performing schools. Our partnership with Inspirasi included extensive program support, equipping the organisation with the right tools and practices in order to effectively train school leaders in Indonesia. In 2019, we selected a pilot group consisting of 25 principals and their vice-principals of low performing schools in Karawang, Indonesia.
As we began work with this pilot group, the nuances of the Indonesian education system were magnified. With 80% of the schools run by the Ministry of Education and Culture and 20% of the schools run by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the need to understand and find a way to work with both schooling systems was critical. Establishing a presence and gaining the trust of school leaders and other key stakeholders required a deep understanding of the region and its cultural nuances. This meant that GSL had to, along with INSPIRASI, target its program to the pressing needs of the school leaders. This was done to meet the unique and diverse needs across these two education systems as well as regions that were spread out geographical and had differing work cultures.
Working in Partnership with School Leaders
Keeping these variables in mind, we identified two core challenges within the government education system in Indonesia and designed our program around them. The first one was to motivate school leaders to focus on why student learning is crucial to school development. The second one was to help school leaders understand and build familiarity with processes that could drastically improve outcomes for them. Both these challenges were explored in partnership with the school leaders themselves, to ensure they felt a deep connection and investment in the entire process.
Creating lasting relationships
As a result of these efforts, there has been a noted progression in the understanding and administration of the program. The implementation of the program grew from just 25 schools in year one to 90 schools in year two. While a large part of our program focuses on continuous professional development, the crux of it is based on ensuring that school leaders understand and appreciate the processes and structures designed to help them achieve their specific goals.
A key component of our approach in the establishment of Inspirasi was driven by the need to adapt based on a deeper understanding of the subtleties of the culture of the region. Building meaningful, authentic relationships is at the core of how we work and that began for us by acknowledging the context school leaders operated in. Our involvement in Indonesia thus stemmed from in-depth research and grew into the development of an impactful program for our partner organisation, Inspirasi.