A Good Principal Makes a Great School

by Usman Mujtaba

Every morning, as the first rays of dawn break through the horizon, a group of women across Pakistan set out of their homes to educate and empower children belonging to some of the most economically challenged communities across Pakistan. These are TCF’s determined school principals. As educators, managers and mentors, their role is to lead the remarkable process of change triggered by the establishment of a TCF school in a community.

One of the key pillars in TCF’s framework for delivering high quality education, is the belief that a good principal leads to a great school. While the role can be immensely rewarding, it does require an extraordinary combination of knowledge, management and leadership skills, emotional intelligence and commitment to the cause. It is only natural, therefore, for the organization to invest considerable time, effort and care in the selection, training and management of its principals.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 2.35.10 PM-2 copyThe multi-layered principal selection process gets under way with an extensive screening of applications and CVs received at our Area and Regional offices. A CV screening grid is used to shortlist candidates for a 2-hour ‘Induction Test’ which assesses the knowledge and skills of shortlisted candidates. Following this, candidates meeting a pre-defined score threshold qualify to proceed to an elaborate ‘Assessment Centre’, modeled on the best-in-class managerial assessment and talent screening processes used by the corporate sector. The Assessment Centre is essentially a day-long exercise where candidates go through problem solving activities, observation tests, group discussions and eventually, a structured interview with senior managers. Each participant is then evaluated according to a formal framework with scoring guidelines defined to provide consistent criteria for grading and ensure uniformity and transparency across all regions.

Building on the thorough hiring process, TCF takes great care in assessing the performance of its principals. The ‘Principals Quality Index’ (PQI) provides a standardized mechanism for performance assessment and improvement throughout the year. Senior staff from the Quality Assurance and Education departments in the Head Office accompanied by the relevant Assistant Education Manager visit each school every year to conduct a 5-hour review structured around every principal’s unique School Improvement Plan (SIP). This document highlights areas for improvement and maps performance on academics, discipline, attendance and other key indicators. Eventually, the PQI exercise feeds into the principals’ performance ratings and appraisals within the system. It also guides and sets the theme for the ‘Principals’ Academy’ (PA), our annual training exercise for the principals.

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Each principal in the TCF system undergoes a 6-day training every year aimed at improving her understanding of the role and performance in the school. The Principals’ Academy brings together all our principals and incorporates key learnings from the multiple Principals Quality Index sessions conducted that year into a comprehensive training to address any challenges and shortcomings identified. A detailed training needs analysis, derived from PQI learnings, guides the content of the PA every year. In addition, best practices and models of excellence from the world over are also featured to assist principals in drawing their roadmap for their schools. To conclude the proceedings, each principal drafts their individual School Improvement Plan which demonstrates how effectively they have internalized their learnings.

In line with its core value of ‘Continuous Improvement’, TCF’s efforts to improve the quality and capability of its school principals is at the heart of our movement to provide quality education to the less privileged.

As stewards and leaders of their respective schools, our principals ensure that each school within the TCF system remains a beacon of hope and empowerment for the entire community for generations to come.

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