Interview. Andreea Nistor (Association for Values in Education): We want Romanian school directors trained like in an MBA

Georgiana Bendre 24/11/2017 | 14:54

Currently Romania is on the 21st place out of 22 in the educational systems evaluated in Europe, according to the Economist. Last week the Association for Values in Education launched the first leadership program in Romania for schools’ directors, the Academy of Leadership and School Management, aiming to improve the schools’ results, based on a customized development process of leadership skills for 30 school directors in Romania. They will benefit from 530 training hours with international specialists in education and 720 mentoring hours, 1-on-1, offered by approximately 40 business professionals. BR talked exclusively to Andreea Nistor, the executive director of the Association, to find out more about this initiative.

How did the idea of the project come up?

Last year the Association for Values in Education worked together with the Education Ministry to update the methodology of schools’ directors selection in Romania. The idea was to do something similar to the procedure in private sector, a selection based on competences and management skills. This is how we figured out that we can help the schools’ directors, who are teachers, to develop more management skills necessary for the director position. We made a research and we found out that all the big foreign countries that have results in educational system require a management specialization for teachers in order to become school directors. Therefore we came up with a kind of executive MBA type of program, Leadership Academy Program, searching outside Romania models of training for teachers.

How are the schools’ directors selected? How do you avoid the political implications behind the director position?

For 11 year Romania hasn’t had at all a recruitment process for schools’ directors and the appointments were made by the Inspectorate. Last year, with the occasion of the updated methodology process that we also worked on, there were two rounds of the competition for the director position. Thus, we are currently recruiting the directors that have already passed that selection. A team of HR directors will select the school’s directors based on their previous interest in developing projects from their own resources and start initiatives within the school they manage and based on their leadership skills. For this program, those eligible are directors of high schools, vocational schools, secondary schools and kindergartens, both from rural and urban areas.

How much are the costs for this program?

The overall cost of the program is approximately EUR 300,000 for the 30 schools’ directors. The costs cover the costs for the international experts’ team, the school and directors’ evaluation instruments, that evaluate the teaching quality, the organizational culture of the school and the logistics costs for the participants at country level. The cost per participant is EUR 10,000/year split in two elements: an element paid by the directors in two installments, worth EUR 600, and a private scholarships from business companies.

Do you plan to attract more funds for the program?

This program is made only through the financing from private sector and this means the commitment of a concrete role of the business companies which want to improve the Romanian schools’ management through their business expertise, contributing with financial resources and know-how of some top managers, but also the strategic partnership with Lidl, which contributed with EUR 100,000, but we are still searching for one or two strategic partners for this year.

Do you plan to expand the program? How many requests do you expect from the directors for the next years?

Last week, we had the international conference of leadership for the school’ directors , the first event of a kind in Romania, where we had 500 applicants for the program, which was surprising as we expected for less. We’ll launch in December the applications for the Leadership Academy for which we expect 800 people interested in the entire country, out of which we’ll select 30. And the next year we’ll have a new cohort of at least 30 participants, thus approximately 60 directors in the first two years.

Steven Edwards, former consultant at the White House, with extraordinary results in the innovation and improvement of educational results of pupils in USA, Nigeria, Kenya, Oman, India, UK, Germany and Denmark, was also present at the international conference of leadership for the school directors.

We are considering organizing similar international conference of leadership in other cities in Romania; in the third year of the project we want to scale the training model and the Leadership Academy in the regional cities.

What targets do you have regarding the illiteracy drop, and the school abandon reduction?

After the training we want the teachers to come back in schools and change the manner they work in schools, to raise the quality of educational process, we look for indicators such as illiteracy drop, and the school drop-out reduction and the exams’ passing rate; we didn’t set percentages, but we know that our partners, Edwards Educational Services, already implemented similar leadership  programs in USA, Nigeria, Kenya, Oman, India, UK, Germany and Denmark and they reduced the school drop-out by 50 percent in three years and in other places the pupils’ grades increased by 10 percent/year. This is what we expect also in Romania.

Currently, 42 percent of the 15 year-old students in Romania are functional illiterates, 1 in 10 children in preparatory grade are in risk of school abandon and 32 percent of the pupils don’t pass the Baccalaureate exam.

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