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Corruption is a problem that rears it’s ugly head every once a while. I have 2 stories to re-count abut corruption at schools and colleges that I have experienced first hand:

Bribing for Marks

One day, as I just left the examination hall after appearing for a rather challenging paper in Economics, a friend accosted me. I had seen him slip out nonchalantly half-way through the paper. He had obviously not bothered to either study for or to attempt the paper.

Over a steaming cup of coffee in the canteen I was informed about the secret underground Marks Mafia. I also got to see a top secret ‘Rate Card’.

The Mafia worked through a few administrators and staff-members. The process was simple. There were 2 categories.

Category A: Increasing Marks (mainly towards Distinctions) – Mildly Popular

Category B: Converting Fail to Pass – Hugely Popular

The path of an answer script, once you gave the exam was like this: Paper Reaches Examing Teacher, Paper corrected by Examining Teacher, Marks and Paper sent to Office clerk for entry onto the college computer, Marks and Paper sent to Overall Examinations Coordinator and Finally, Marks sent to Principal.

The further along this assembly line your paper was, the more you paid. The mafia has clear logic: It was easier to ‘manage’ the clerk who took the papers to the Examining Teacher than it was to ‘manage’ the Examining Teacher herself; & so on…

Bribing for Admissions

Bribing for admissions is more common than it seems. Just one week ago, I heard a proud parent declaring how he had infiltrated the admissions office of a old and respected residential school in the country.

In India, at several colleges, even where there is a centralized admissions process regulated by a university, there are some seats reserved under “management quota” – it means that the administrators have a discretionary authority over who to admit. Quite obviously, there is a quasi bidding-war for places under the management quota (illegal of course) and the bids (bribes or donations, depending on whose view you take) can be larger than the annual fees of the institutions by a factor of 5, 10 or even 50.

If one were to believe (I Do) Transparency International, a global watchdog, it would seem that in this country this pattern repeats itself in all walks of life. India is at the top of the Global Bribery Index where they are regularly joined by the Chinese and Russians. People like you and me pay upto $5 billion a year in bribes for public services.

If you are a righteous parent accosted by a school or college administrator (or even a motorist stopped by a policeman wanting a little grease), here’s a cool way to send a message.

 

Presenting the Zero Rupee Note

 

zero-rupee.png

I just learnt about this through Ramesh’s blog.

The 5th Pillar (please visit their website!), a Chennai based non-profit has released these notes. The organisation believes that we, the people are the 5th Pillar (after the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the Press) and is focussed on mobilising everyone of us to make a difference.

They distribute these notes that can be handed to the next official who asks for a bribe (I have already written for a pack to distribute amongst students). The note is reproduced exactly like the original on the obverse, with changes that reflect intent.

Above the Reserve Bank Governor’s Signature, it carries the claim “I promise not to accept or pay Bribe” – a take on “I promise to pay the bearer a sum of 50 rupees” that can be found on the mint notes.

The reverse carries information about the 5th Pillar concept and an appeal to empower every citizen to eliminate corruption.

Does it work? Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Times, London.

 

Vijay Anand, the president of 5th Pillar, said: “People have already started using them and it is working. One autorick-shaw driver was pulled over by a policeman in the middle of the night who said he could go if he was ‘taken care of’. The driver gave him the note instead. The policeman was shocked but smiled and let him go. The purpose of this is to instill confidence in people to say no to bribery. It is just a representation.”

It’s a clever idea, but one that could potentially back-fire if you run across a petulant policeman (school administrator?).

The 5th Pillar will always do its best, but it is really up to the 1st 2 pillars (The Executive and Legislature) to take steps (wielding the carrot and the stick) to get corruption and the country in order.

In any event, it’s still a cool idea that’ll have me ‘bribing’ regularly!

 

As Aside: You have got to read this

Keeping with the admissions bribery examples above, I thought I’d write about a very strange, even comical, line of business finds its genesis in school and college admission season.

Outside many schools and colleges, at the start of the admissions season, touts proliferate (even if the institution in question has no history of underhand dealings). They are not your everyday petty criminals, but can be smart, even suave dealers. Some even go by the moniker ‘Sir‘. They have a clear proposition.

We have contacts in the system and can get your child into this institute in return for a few thousand/hundred thousand rupees. If that doesn’t happen, your money back.

Anxious fathers and jittery mothers pay up (these operations work on an upfront-deposit- you pay before they take up the noble cause of getting your child an education).

Here is the Tricky (fun!) part: These egregious Sirs and Ma’ams have no contacts in the schools at all.

They work on the simple law of probability. Out of the 100 students they accost, twenty may get admission on their own accord. The touts claim these as their ‘victories’ and pocket the money. The other parents are informed about the effort that was made and the palms that were greased for their child’s admission. There money is returned (some may keep a small processing fee).

A nifty little game!

 

 

Further Reading

Here’s an excerpt from the Mumbai Mirror

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Data from India. Source: The Telegraph

Think of it another way. If you have two kids, it is highly probable that one of them will be beaten while at school.

I don’t know whether the numbers looked at all strata of society and whether the percentage represents number of school going children beaten every school-year or number of children beaten over the course of their school going years.

I don’t think I care. These numbers are terrible in either event.

Further reading:

#1. School children electrocuted in Hyderabad as punishment

 

#2. Factbook on Corporal Education in India (snippet from Delhi School Education Rules, 1973: Rules for caning in schools in the Delhi area of India – if a cane is used, it is supposed to be applied to the palm of the hand, max. 10 strokes)

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This one is a rant.

If you had a student who missed one-third of the classes, arrived late for 20 sessions, turned in half the required homework assignments, failed 11 of 14 tests and quizzes, and never took the final exam, what would you do?

I would have probably:

a) Checked with the administrative department on news from home the first time she skipped class.

b) The second time it happened, I would call home.

c) The third time, I would write and inform the Principal.

I wonder if any of these steps were taken by Austin Lampros, Mathematics Teacher in Manhattan when his student Indira Fernandez careened of-course at the Arts & Technology High School.

If he did, what did the school authorities do about it?

Truancy Superhero

Whatever the case may be, I was shocked to read in the New York Times article this morning that the student in question, who had been failed by Mr. Lampros was given perimission to take the exam separately after being coached by another maths teacher for 2 days. After her aggregate score still fell below the pass mark, Mr. Lampros decision was over-ruled and the student promoted by the Principal. Apparently the school has a poliy that all students who turn up for even one class in the term get a minimum of 45 marks (of 100) when 65 are needed to pass.

Mr. Lampros quit.

What it worth it?

I don’t know. The student still graduated. The school still goes on unaffected. Hopefully he will find employment in native Michigan, but knowing the rather conservative administration of schools, I don’t see many jumping enthusiastically to have him working on their team.

Was it the appropriate thing to do?

Maybe. If he had indeed done Steps 1, 2 and 3 I mention above and has reason to believe that Ms. Fernandez’s absences were better categorized under truancy than illness, I can see why he was disillusioned.

Would I do it?

I would have probably brought the walls down if someone skipped 11 of the 14 tests I gave. Matters probably would not have come to head. But assuming Mr. Lampros did create his share of noise and the student was passed only to keep graduation rates soaring, I’d have to side with him. It would probably be the honourable and loyal thing to stick with the school and try and change things from the inside but lets be realists. As rookie teachers, none of us would have had the clout that early in our careers.

Frankly, I could not have worked under a head who I felt had compromised on the reasons for which we become teachers.

If change is what was important, I’d say Mr. Lampros has made a useful first step by talking to the press.

What’s my view on the action taken by the Principal?

This one action has probably seriously jeopardized the culture of the school, plunged the respects students had for her, made the other teachers feel a little distanced from their jobs and seriously undermined the confidence and the will-power of Ms. Fernandez who may never learn to take responsibility for her actions.

If the Principal may be in duress (low graduation rates may mean less money or no job) – the policy makers and boards deserve a swift kick in the pants.

If the Principal did this to cover her own inadequacies in not having discovered Miss Fernansez’s prolonged absences earlier, she is the one who should have quit.

Chivalry notwithstanding, maybe even received the aforementioned kick in the pants.

This is the kind of thing that gets my goat. What do you think? Let me know by writing in the comments section. Thanks.

See our latest EduPosts here.

 

(Image courtesy: Comics Reporter)

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Aside: (Don’t forget to read our post on Sexual Harassment in Schools here)

In July 2005, I was to travel to the UK. Then day before I was to leave the London blasts happened.

A few days ago, the day Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister, blasts rattled London yet again.

Security was raised to ‘Critical’ status and again reams of newsprint were devoted to finer intelligence gathering, national security and a consequence of this, a loss of privacy. Fingerprinting of citizens has been debated around the world since 9/11 happened six years ago, and to date remains unimplementable because of the huge public outcry against it.

I was surprised then to know that in the UK, increased security, lower ID costs and quicker queues in libraries and canteens have been driving a nation-wide finger-printing exercise at schools, in many cases, withour parental consent. Schools have been implementing this, led by governmental mandate and subsidy carrots.

 

big brother is watching you

I want to point you to a post on this by Jonathan Calder who writes:

 

“Schools maintain databases (mirrored on government servers) store 300 bytes of data that form a map of each child’s fingerprint. So you can see the danger that children’s data will be stolen or haunt them years later.”

and

 

“… they are silent on parental consent. Many of the 3,500 schools took prints without consent. Children as young as five have had their dabs taken on the pretext of a game of spies.”

 

Two different worlds in the same country. Weird.

Further Reading: Have a look at “Leave the Kids Alone” – a UK website against government fingerprinting in schools. They present comprehensive data, though, quite obviously it has a strong anti-fingerprinting bias.

They rally against fingerprinting for the common reasons: irreversible identity theft and children losing value of their ‘identity’.

A YouTube video on their site calls Fingerprinting a Social Control Experiment- very Orwellian, very 1984. A little grave for my taste, but worth a watch.

 

 

As far as I am concerned, I wonder why fingerprinting is necessary at all- at least for cutting queues and issuing library books. Why can’t the school just use plain smart cards? Provide incentive for keeping the cards safe (and lowering re-issue hassle) by tagging a high cost for a duplicate card.

However, if fingerprinting were to come to ID and some men in robes turned up to ID my kids, i’d probably say yes. After all, the next time they travel to the Unites States, Uncle Sam will ID them anyway. Better our government then theirs.

(image courtesy: rit.edu)

 

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child cowering down

This article seeks to present an overview and provide tips of sexual harassment in schools in the US, in India and look at some measures taken around the world. It also provide resources for further reading.

I have 2 nieces. Since they were born, the male domestic help has been replaced by ladies who come to help out.

I notice how sensitive my sister-in-law is about the events the girls will attend, about who will accompany her and how late they will be allowed to stay out.

In most schools I’ve worked in, there are rules to make sure that no girls are sent on errands alone and if there is training for the girls-team after school, a senior lady teacher is always at hand.

How real a problem is sexual harassment? Does it affect only girls? What about the boys?

This post is not intended to be an opinion or experience piece. Thankfully, outside of reading about the subject, I have no direct experience of this phenomenon. This post will be used to point you to resources that you may want to look up if this subject interests you.

A. How real a problem is sexual harassment at schools?

Lets start by defining sexual harassment. It includes intercourse but goes much beyond it to include: Sexual jokes and cartoons, slurs, repeated meeting requests, invitations for intercourse, sexual remarks, insults or innuendoes, attempted kissing, unequal facilities (lesser or no restrooms for girls or shared restrooms), nude or suggestive pictures and posters. Another important consideration is: Would the Behavior be different if the victim were the opposite sex?

I pulled up Google News on my browser. I search for “sex offences in schools”. I got 4 separate news items in the last 20 hours. When I broadened my search to include the wider definition discussed above, the results jumped to over 20 unique results.

Two days ago a leading daily in India screamed about a boy being sodomised for 3 months by 3 male teachers.

Lets look at some data from the US. This information is primarily from Hostile Hallways (published by the AAUW) and Sexual Harassment in Schools (published by the NASBE)

  • Students most often experience sexual harassment for the first time during sixth or ninth grade … but some instances ccur before third grade. — Hostile Hallways (AAUW Educational Foundation, 2001)

  • 91.5 percent of LGBT students report hearing homophobic remarks frequentlyor often at school—but 82.9 percent report that faculty never or only sometimes intervene when they overhear such remarks being made. — J.G. Kosciw, The GLSEN 2003 National School Climate

  • Boys are nearly as likely as girls to have experienced some form of sexual harassment: 76% of boys said that they have experienced sexual harassment, compared with 85% of girls. However, girls were more likely than boys to report that they had “often” experienced sexual harassment at school (31% for girls, compared with 18% for boys), and girls were more likely to report that sexual harassment had a negative impact on their education.

  • Nearly one-third (32%) of all students who have been harassed first experienced harassment before 7th grade.

  • Perpetrators of sexual harassment in schools are far more likely to be fellow students than adults. Of students who were harassed in school, 18% said they had been targeted by a school employee, while 79% said they had been harassed by a current or former student at school.

  • Students who have been sexually harassed are most likely to talk to friends about such incidents (63% report that they have done so). Roughly a quarter have talked to parents or other family members and another quarter have told no one. Only 7% said that they had reported being sexually harassed to a teacher.

– All 4 statistics above from the NASBE report

What is the scenario in India?

I could not find hard data on schools and sexual harassment. There are cases reported in the press (read one here) and the frequent report about Goa as a pedophile paradise but nothing concrete in terms of data about schools and sex offences has come to my notice.

 

  • Almost one in two children is sexually abused.
  • 70% of the children never reported the abuse.
  • Compared to those in the age group 13-18, younger children (5-12 years) faced higher levels of abuse (not that more children in the lower age group are affected, but that an affected person in that age group would have a greater order of atrocities committed against him)

  • The highest percentage of abusers were known people — friends and family

 

 

(graphic from Indian Express Article)

Given this situation what is disturbing is the debate around what is possibly the most important step in the control of sexual offences is often debated in India- Sex Education. Lets look into that here.

 

There is a strange situation in India: kids are learning about sex earlier and earlier- a survey in Mumbai showed that the age of access to pornography has dropped from 16 to 12 for boys and I posit that the same is true of connected communities over the world. At the same time schools and the government are becoming increasingly prudish about sex education.

Some months ago Madhya Pradesh banned sex education in schools (aimed at classes 9 and higher) because “illustrations in an the texts intended for teachers to instruct from were found obscene!” The obscenity in question? Diagrams of human bodies.

Other news reports indicate that: Maharastra has banned sex education (Mumbai, the city noted earlier is its capital!- BBC News, April 2007), so has Karnataka, there are appeals by the BJP for it to be banned in Delhi as it this could lead to schools becoming sex spots and compel a large number of girl students to drop out (Yahoo news , July 2007) and only ten days ago our honourable ex-Chief Minister of Bihar and sitting Minister for Railways said that Sex Education was a blot on Indian Culture and should be banned (DNA, July 2007)

It seems that most of the religious, social and political voices who discourage sex education have misunderstood it. Sex education is not about teaching kids “how to do it” it is about making them aware of themselves and their sexuality so they are more prudent, discretionary and alert in their sexual behaviour to response to that of others. If implemented thoughtfully, sex education can control or avoid sexual offences, increase hygiene, check unwanted pregnancies and HIV and clear many a confused adolescent mind.

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B. What can be done? Sexual harassment can be a torment. Apart from the huge emotional stress it results in, Targets of bullying and harassment experience anxiety, distress, confusion, loss of self-esteem, depression, and loss of concentration on schoolwork. Severe consequences may include psychosomatic symptoms, avoiding school, and committing suicide.

It is clear from the data presented that both genders are susceptible and that smaller children are more susceptible to sexual assault involving intercourse while older chidlren may be more at risk for harassment including abuse while the numbers of sexual assult may dip.

It exists in both, rural area and in cities and shockingly, your near ones may the one you need to be most careful of.

The data presented effectively kills any misplaces notion of “this happens only in poor families” or this happens only when “parents don’t care.” It can happen anywhere, anytime but thankfully there are several small initiatives that can go a long way:

1. Establish and Follow a Sexual Harassment Policy: A good policy should give a clear message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. There may be be two policies, one for students and one for staff. In any event, the policy statement should be comprehensive enough to include student-to-student, student-to-staff, staff-to-student, staff-to-staff, and supervisors-to-staff harassment. It should define sexual harassment and give some examples of unacceptable behavior. It should have a clearly explained complaint procedure and make it easy for the victim to contact responsible authorities. The policy should be posted in a conspicuous place in theschool, included in the student handbook, and an effort should be made to ensure that all concerned students, staff, and parents — are aware of and understand the policy.

Survey a sample of your students periodically to find out attitudes about sex, information about harassment at school, school culture and information about school policies etc.

 

2. Start Young: Most people balk at sex education for little kids. This is because the labelling of the term is incorrect. I would call it self-awareness, where the child is made understand his body and what kind of touch is clearly inappropriate. For example, being touched anywhere under your clothes is wrong. If it happens, what should be done? This is the kind of simple information that can be given to kids.

Sex Education then should be introduced systematically. In addition, students should be encouraged to speak to parents and counselors (as opposed to peers) in the event of an incident taking place.

It is important to communicate that anyone engaging in improper touching or fondling should be discussed with the parent. In schools, especially in hierarchical societies, in India actions of family elders and teachers are not questioned openly as children are told to ‘obey elders’ and going against any of their actions is usually poor manners.

 

3. Start Conversations: Conversations can be started by talking to parents- making them aware of model parental behaviour (not laughing at lewd jokes, for example), encouraging them to discussing information about peers and schooldays with children etc. Information should be made available to students clearly and explicitly through special workshops and through integrated curricular elements.

In school and in homes, encourage open discussion. Repression will lead to ‘experiments’ with the body, urge to access (unsafe) materials or adults for enlightenment on this subject.

 

4. Run background checks: This is obvious, yet many of us, in our hurry to recruit candidates skip this step as it takes time. Research has shown that most crimes or cases of harassment at school take place through older students or employees. While one can’t predict how recruits will turn out, one can surely restrict past offenders from working on campuses that we serve.

 

5. Control access through online pornography: This one is extreme- yet is it is a rising data point in sexual harassment scorecards worldwide. Research has established that on-line Pornography plays an accessory role in negative social issues such as child abuse, violence against women, rape, inequality, relationship and family breakdown, youth crime, promiscuity and sexually transmitted diseases. Access should be controlled until children have been talked to about the birds and the bees and is easily made possible by browser settings and specialised software like NetNanny. Online pornography can easily lead to access to other forms of sexual content on the net, including chat and video- putting a child at risk.

But these tips are just me. To know what the experts think about this, do read some interesting (some with ready-to-use tips) here.

 

Further Reading

1. Hostile Hallways: The seminal work from the AAUW. Read their report here and access a complete guide for students, schools & parents here. It has sample surveys, questionnaires and guidelines for policy-setting and following.

2. STOP Project: Chad Harms at the Iowa State University has done some interesting work on identifying sexual predators on the internet. His articles delineate strategies they employ and what parents/schools/counselors need to be aware of. Access his useful website Stop and Help, here.

3. New York Times: On How you can Distinguish a Budding Pedophile from a Kid with Boundary Problems. An involved, but very readable article.

4. Global Measures against sex offenders and their employment in school: A BBC report on what the UK, US and France have done in this regard. Also read about the Vishaka guidelines, the lame effort by the judiciary in India to control sexual harassment here.

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I think a lot about ‘customer satisfaction’ and how to achieve it. ‘Customers’ is sometimes seen as an ugly word in Education, so let me put in this caveat: In this article I am going to mean Parent every time I write Customer.

Why is Customer Satisfaction important?

Apart from the obvious benefits, parent satisfaction leads to engaged parents. Engaged parents allow, among other things, ease of implementing innovative practices (less resistance), lowers costs (parent volunteers replace part-time hired help) and improves student learning (interest in schoolwork and showing up at PTAs) and

How can Parent Satisfaction be increased? Here are 10 Tips from experience.

The Key to the 10 Tips: The over-arching insight is this- most parents are emotionally involved with their children and take their schooling (if not their school) very seriously. Respond to parents and their queries/feedback/suggestions humanely, patiently, emotionally without diluting the professional requirements of your role as an Educator.

1. Know Thyself: Who am I ?

For Principals and Administrators looking to create Wow! in their schools, the first step is to define clearly “what the school is” and “what the school wants to be.”

This means understanding the DNA of your school (private/public, residential/day, progressive/traditional, academe-focussed/big on curriculars etc), its current culture and then what the vision for this school is.

This will then lead an understanding of how resources can be utilised and provide directionality to your actions that make you customer focussed.

The second step is to Know the Customer. During my first 2 months as Principal, we did a small survey (10 questions with mostly demographic and economic data) and were surprised by our results. We had been sending out circulars in English to parents- the data revealed that 93% spoke Hindi or Punjabi at home. This meant that most had greater familiarity with another language, and in all probability several were not comfortable with English.

Talk about a wake up call! We also discovered that most of our children came from joint families (where grandparents stayed with parents). We had been doing little to involve the grandparent (who held considerable authority) in the decision making and was an important ‘customer.’ Our orientation quickly changed.

If you are setting up a new school, you may choose to set-up a school looking at the population you will be serving. If you have a school up-and-running, this will tell you whether you need to educate your existing customers on your ‘philosophy’ or ‘brand’ of education or else it will signal that you are riding the wrong horse and you need to look at a different customer profile in the future when you admit new students.

2. Explain what Customer Service means: Once you have determined who your customer is and what your school wants to be, make sure that your team is geared to deliver. You have to tell them what great customer service means, let them know that customer service starts the moment the parent enters the school (and even outside) and encompasses both the classroom and everything outside it (in equal measure), provide them with examples of exceptional service.

Most teachers and staff-members at the school I headed, had not experienced WOW! as Customers. We took a team of teachers ,administrators and support staff (including gardeners, cleaners and a security-guard) to the Radisson. We paid attention to how the hotel greeted its guests, how the floor shone with wax, the manicured hedges, the clear signage and the alacrity of purpose in restaurant employees. Later, when the staff enjoyed their Rs. 120 (US$ 3) coffees and balked at the prices (compared to the monthly tuition fee of Rs. 800 (US$ 20), they were shown the co-relation between great customer service and the ability of an establishment to command a premium. This was connected to our school and the possibility of heightened innovation and resources at our disposal if we similarly wowed our guests.

3. Focus on the Small Things: During the administrative formalities in the days before I took over as head of school, I encountered long hold times when I called the school and on some ocassions, had to call a couple of times before someone answered the phone. One of the first things I did after I took over implementing a 3-ring policy. The School telephone had to be answered within 3 rings. If it wasn’t, it would be diverted to a voice mailbox (that was checked every half hour during school hours). I was maniacal about this. I know I have been hopping mad if I have been put on hold by call-centre manned telecom companies- it would be criminal to keep an anxious parent checking in on his child on hold for so long. This policy ensured that every individual calling the school received prompt service at his first touchpoint with the school.

There are several “small things” that go a long way- sending a small note to check on an convalescent child, ensuring that refreshments and light reading is available to visitors, ensuring every visitor is met by a member of staff as he enters the school and is guided to his destination etc.

Talk about these at staff meetings. Make sure transgressions are pointed out. Make it a big deal.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Tipping Point, talks of the Broken Windows Theory. Robberies tend to be higher in streets where there are broken windows. These streets are perceived as ‘easy.’ I reckon that the same is true of schools- wrappers lying around, broken (even chipped) furniture signal an indisciplined school (and may even cause indiscipline) and may affect how a prospective parent views you.

4. Speak to your Staff constantly: Your staff-members are your listening posts. They speak to parents and the community in greater numbers than you do and probably enjoy a closer rapport with most parents as well. Use them to gain feedback, formal and informal about how the school could improve.

If I was told I was allowed to speak to only one person in a school, I would speak to the receptionist (the lady who receives parents at schools and also their phone calls). If you don’t speak to your receptionist, I recommend you start doing the same. As someone who handles parents everyday, she probably knows of (even if she doesn’t understand) the many complaints, apprehensions and anxieties that they have.

5. Speak to your Customers: While I would be vary of allowing parents to have a say on every decision the school takes, I feel parent representation on school boards, PTAs and the like are great ways to listen to what parents have to say. Then we go further.

We started a Parent-School Partnership Dialogue where 10 Parent Representatives (from parents on one Yeargroup) met and discussed a pre-determined agenda once a month with me and two teachers who dealt with that yeargroup. This was a fantastic success- the parental cohort self-corrected its parental enthusiasm, shared their concerns and suggestions, listened to what the teachers had to say on matters ranging from trip planning and discipline to curriculum and parent-school communication. Parents were allowed to raise any issue they wanted, nothing was taboo (although the veto option was mine- never had to use it). The members understood that these meetings were for sharing ideas and brainstorming and that decisions would rest with the school. Minutes of these meetings were circulated to all parents.

These meetings helped build confidence in the school- we were a school that cared.

Make sure your parents have several ways of communicating with the school and that every parent knows of all possible ways. Research has shown that very few people want to complain/recommend/suggest improvement and you want to make sure you make it easy for those who want to.

All these are very important for the customer knows what he wants better than anyone else does.

Think about these tips and share some of your own! Also, do come back for the Final 5 Tips tomorrow!

 

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Most of my thinking happens at the cusp of Management and Education. Sometimes when I rue guidance counselling and wish that I’d not done an MBA or working as a business consultant, investing those years in learning about schools and education, I am quick to remind myself that most schools and their leaders today are increasingly influenced by Business Writing.

Today, while reading through Guy Kawasaki’s blog, I came across an interview with Jeffrey Pfeffer, Professor at Stanford and author of some of the finest books on Leadership –

Two questions and anwers made me smile. I’ve reproduced them here:

Question: What is the key to global competitiveness?

Answer: The data on this are clear—companies choose to locate their R & D facilities on the basis of the availability of talent. This is more important than tax abatements and certainly much more important than rates of pay. If location was determined by cost, Silicon Valley would be empty. The best way to build human capital is through education—both elementary and secondary as well as higher education that is truly world class. This costs money, but it is worth it.

Question: What is the proper role for a CEO?

Answer: To develop others and their talents and to create an environment in which people can do their best and want to. It is not to make all the decisions or, like some kind of “sun king,” absorb all the light and the attention.

In fact, sometimes, as the Grammy-award winning Orpheus Chamber orchestra shows, the best leadership is less leadership. No seed can grow if it is dug up and examined every week, and for people to innovate and get things done, sometimes they need some time and space and resources. In fact, sometimes, as the Grammy-award winning Orpheus Chamber orchestra shows, the best leadership is less leadership. No seed can grow if it is dug up and examined every week, and for people to innovate and get things done, sometimes they need some time and space and resources.

the sun kingMost schools are rather bottom-heavy pyramids- lots of teachers/staff at one level of the hierarchy, and relative to other organisations, too few administrators and Principals at the top. This is true of India certainly; I assume with the cash crunch in education around the world, it is likely to be true of other countries as well.

In addition, with teaching increasingly becoming a less preferred vocation and attrition soaring higher, Principals are more likely to find themselves leading a team that they find ill-equipped, relative to their own days as members of a teaching cohort.

Because of these two reasons, (what with hundreds of children quaking in their boots at the sight of the Principal) , many of us who’ve led or lead schools can find it very easy to be drawn into this Sun-King delusion.

The best Leadership is not really Leadership in its glorious, warrior sense, it is compassionate & motivational direction-giving, appreciation and monitoring. The Principal could do well by thinking about a school and a team that he shepherds rather than controls.

It is not as exciting or sexy as it looks from the outside, this style of leadership, but it’s effective and in the long run, satisfying.

Are you a Principal or desire to be one? What has your experience been?

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