The preparation of Fijian school leaders: a framework for principal preparation in a South Pacific context

Year: 2018

Author: Devi, Mohini, Fernandes, Venesser

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Various observers, researchers and commentators of education in the South Pacific region have highlighted the vital need for professionally competent Fijian school leaders in the education system (Chandra, 2004; Bacchus, 2000; Umaedi, 2000, Sharma, 2005, Lingam, 2010).The performance of schools in Fiji is greatly determined by the quality of its leadership. International research studies also highlight the important role school leadership plays in school improvement and its impact on student learning outcomes (Fernandes, 2016;Leithwood, 1994; Mulford, 2008).  Within a Fijian context, policy-makers and researchers have emphasized that in order to improve student learning outcomes, school leaders need to be prepared for their roles through a systematic approach to leadership development that works towardsgenerating consistent and optimum results (Education Commission Report, 2000; Lingam, 2014). At the ground level, there are still under-performing schools even though their leadership has changed a number of times over the years. This then leads to certain key questions: I. Is adequate pre-service training provided to aspirants who want to become principals so that they can lead school reform within their leadership roles? II. What kind ofprincipal selection criterion should be considered that assists in the transformation of Fijian school education? III. What kinds of initial and ongoing professional development supports should be provided to Fijian principals? Fijian school leaders require relevant knowledge, skills and competencies to enable them to address the challenges of their school and offer better service to the learners, teachers and communities that they lead (Lingam & Lingam, 2016). This study has taken a global versus local approach (Fernandes, in press) to examine local and national educational leadership development policy as well as national, regional and global educational trends affecting Fiji and analyze it against current educational leadership development practice taking placethrough post-graduate courses offered in Fijian universities.Through a thematic analysis, this study is currently analyzing areas of strength as well as identifying key strategies and actions required in educational leadership development that will strengthen this area of school improvement and reform in Fiji. One of the emerging findings from this study is the significant need for developing a Fijian leadership preparation approach that adopts a ‘continuous learning perspective’ (Hall, 2002) towards school leaders so that those who are aspiring principals as well as those who are in the job at early, middle and late career stages are continuously developed within their leadership roles.