Making a door : a case study of the leadership and change practices of a principal in Bangladesh.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates and reports the leadership practices of a creative and innovative principal in a Bangladeshi secondary school. In particular it examines the ways this leader has shared leadership with his teachers, has involved parents and the wider community in student learning and how he has taken students into the community to strengthen their learning of curriculum content through experiential learning. It also examines strategies the principal has used to gain the collaboration of his community and of the external committee that manages the school, and the organisational changes he has made. His innovations are significant because they offer a model of shared responsibility for engagement with teachers, students and community in the Bangladeshi context where authoritarian leadership is the more common practice. This case study offers a contribution to educational change that is drawn from working within the local context rather than being based on outside, and possibly alien, international models. The primary data collection tool for examining initiatives and actions is an extended sequence of professional dialogues with the principal. In addition, observation, interviews and school documents as well as a reflective journal provide further data. A narrative form has been used to present his practices and intentions because the research emphasis is on the principal’s perceptions and understandings. The thesis has identified the personal traits, qualities, skills and creativity that have enabled the principal to reconnoitre and strategically overcome barriers in order to improve learning outcomes and community well-being. In the words of the Bengali writer Thakur, he does transform apparent walls into doors. While there is a large body of international literature about theory and practices of school leadership, there is little that comes from and is based in Bangladesh. However context is important; this study shows education in Bangladesh takes place under different conditions and has different needs from those that give rise to much of the literature. This contextualised study is therefore significant for policy and further practice within Bangladesh. This thesis offers an example of how an entrepreneurial and inspiring principal involved his teachers, students and parents in re-positioning the school and community in tackling and surmounting the overt obstacles to school improvement and significantly overcoming the gap between vision and outcomes. The detailed investigation and report show that, even in a highly centralised and seemingly restrictive system, real differences can be made and can be effective, although time has yet to tell whether they can be sustained in the long term. This study demonstrates that while there is still a lot to do in improving education in Bangladesh, it is not always necessary to look outside for effective models for change: some are being developed within the country. This thesis highlights the importance and complex components of school leadership that have been little researched in Bangladesh. While action in one school in itself cannot make a large impact on education in the country as a whole, it can be taken as a model for inspiration and critical reflection for guiding the professional development of principals and teachers. It provides a working model that could be used and for informing policy about the selection of principals and strategic resourcing of schools. It offers a platform for further research and reflection in Bangladesh as well as informing other contexts internationally.