The Role of Educational Leadership in Community Language Schools in Australia

Year: 2016

Author: Gindidis, Maria

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Victoria, Australia over 36,000 children, each weeknight or weekend, join a Community Language School class in one of 182 locations over Victoria, conducted by one of the 1,312 language teachers in one of 42 different languages. A parallel situation occurs in all other Australian states and territories (Cummins 1984; 1996; Clyne 1991, 2003; Bialystok 2007). Currently there is a paucity of research on the leadership of such schools. Leaders are not always educators, so how do school leaders in these schools view their leadership? This study is concerned with community language schools as sites where linguistic, cultural and identity issues are negotiated by first, second and even third generation communities whose home language is not English. This, negotiation is directly experienced by school leaders representing both their schools and respective ethnic communities. Maxwell (1996) argues that the challenges to community leaders seeking to maintain and enhance community languages can be insurmountable. Communities are currently facing overwhelming challenges to keep their schools going and attract, maintain and sustain future leaders. This paper presents data from principals of 24 schools representing 8 languages. Phenomenology is used to capture the voices and lived experiences of 24 school leaders in these community-based schools. Data reveals challenges that include raising public awareness, cultivating broad- based support, improving articulation with mainstream institutions, recruiting and developing effective teachers, and fostering support among parents and community elders. What emerges is an eclectic and culturally hybrid view of what leadership means in this context.