by Usman Mujtaba
Every morning, before the first rays of dawn break through the horizon, a group of women across Pakistan set out of their homes to educate children and consequently empower the most marginalised communities across Pakistan. These women are none other than our determined principals, whose role in the TCF system transcends the ordinary; not just limited to administrative and/or supervisory functions, our principals are change makers who remain at the forefront across our 1,441 school units. Here, more than anything else, they motivate our teachers to ignite the curiosity of our students, hone their potential and shape their development into socially aware and responsible adults. Indeed, it is our principals who occupy the frontline in our global movement of social change.
We at TCF are driven by the belief that a great principal leads to a great school. And while the role can be immensely rewarding, there is no denying that it requires extraordinary commitment, passion and of course the right skill set. Consequently, we have devised elaborate hiring, training and quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that every single principal taken on board aligns perfectly with the ethos and goals of the organisation.
Our multi-layered principal quality assurance process gets under way with an extensive CV screening exercise held at our Area and Regional offices. Here, a CV screening grid is used to shortlist candidates for a 2-hour ‘Induction Test’ which assesses the academic knowledge and skills of shortlisted candidates. Following this, candidates scoring 50% or above qualify to proceed to an elaborate ‘Assessment Centre’, which is a new layer of assessment added to the hiring process this year. This is essentially a day long exercise where qualifying candidates go through problem solving activities, observation tests, group discussions and eventually, a structured interview. Each participant is then evaluated on the CARP (Capacity, Achievement, Relationship & Passion) model and is scored on a scale from 1-100, with 48 being the minimum benchmark score. Scoring rubrics are used to lay down consistent criteria for grading and to ensure uniformity and transparency across all regions. The Assessment Centre would be an essential feature of the hiring process from this year on.
No matter how thorough, a streamlined hiring process alone may not assure consistent quality once a principal is placed in her respective school. The ‘Principals Quality Index’ (PQI) project provides a standardized mechanism for quality control and acts as the lead activity to assess principal performance throughout the year. Quality Assurance staff from the Head Office accompanied by the relevant Area Education Manager visit the respective school every year to conduct a 5-hour school audit 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’ rankings and appraisals within the system. It also guides and sets the theme for the ‘Principals’ Academy’ (PA), our annual training exercise for the principals.
Each principal in the TCF system undergoes a 6-day training which delineates her responsibilities and refines her role. The PA is an additional on-going yearly exercise, which brings together all our principals and incorporates key learnings from the multiple PQI sessions conducted that year into a comprehensive training to address any challenges and shortcomings identified therein. 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 SIP which demonstrates how effectively they have internalized their learnings.
Quality, transparency and passion for change are some of the key values driving all initiatives of TCF and assume an enhanced relevance when it comes to hiring principals and evaluating their performance year upon year. After all, as custodians of their respective schools, our principals are a prized asset: they are the leaders who act, inspire and ensure that each school within the TCF system remains a beacon of hope and light, never to be extinguished.