Around the world, there is need for dramatic improvement in the education systems, particularly for students from under-served communities. Less than 30% of students in sub-Saharan Africa can read at grade level and less than 50% of Indian students in grade 5 can read a grade 2 text. These systems together serve almost half a billion students and indicate the massive magnitude of the education gap.
School leaders can be a key lever in transforming education systems. After studying headmasters in India and abroad, Stanford University Professor Nick Bloom and his colleagues found that a one point increase on their scoring of school management practices is associated with a ten percent increase in student performance. McKinsey & Company’s global review cites that a school principal – just one person – accounts for twenty-five percent of the impact that schools have on student learning.
Yet most countries do not have strong systems to support principals. A 2015 UNESCO report states that school leadership development is lacking in the developing world leading to poor student outcomes. A 2015 OECD report on Indonesia states, “Student outcomes in Indonesia are still relatively poor, and evidence suggests that the quality of teaching and the quality of school leadership are the main reason for student’s low performance.” Research in Kenya, Ghana, and India has found that school leaders receive inadequate training for their role, as little as two days of support per year.