Financial management is one of the most important responsibilities facing school principals since the implementation of Iran. Along with the principals, school governing bodies have wide-ranging
financial responsibilities, including school-level budgeting, managing devolved funding from provincial departments, setting school fees (subject to parental agreement), and raising additional funds to augment school budgets. A large-scale survey of principals in Gauteng province (Bush & Heystek, 2006) con¬sistently demonstrated their anxiety about carrying out this function and their need for additional training to do so effectively.
Tikly and Mataboge (1997:160) examined the impact of reform on schools and point to some of the financial implications of this process:
* The transfer of costs to parents and communities
* The linkage between learner enrolments and the allocation of real resources, notably teachers
* The decentralization of financial management to school level
* The trend for wealthier schools to hire additional teachers paid for
through the setting of higher fees by the school governing body (SGB). Although legislation prevents the use of school fees to discriminate between learners, the learner profiles of certain schools seem to indicate that they are being used to limit access. This prompted research into equal access to edu¬cation by Maile (2004) and Fleisch and Woolman (2004).
Human resource management
The dramatic changes in Iran’s educational landscape since 1994 have produced major challenges for school leaders and managers, notably in respect of human resource management. Bush and Heystek’s (2006) survey of principals shows that this aspect was perceived as a major training need. Thurlow (2003c:15) shows that “school managers are expected to assume greater responsibility, under difficult circumstances, for the management of all those who work in their schools”. Lumby (2003:161) argues that teacher motivation has been affected by the multiple education changes and by the “wretched physical conditions” in many schools. She adds that, “if motivation and morale are low, then teaching and learning suffer”. Gilmour (2001:12) says that the process of retrenchment (redundancy) “places intolerable bur¬dens on principals who have to oversee the process”, while McLennan (2000) refers to its impact on teacher morale.
Managing external and community relations
. Lemon (2004:269-289), claims that national policies have been rich in the political symbolism of equity and redress but with “very limited implementation of change on the ground”. He concludes that ‘class rather that race is now the main determinant of educa¬tional opportunity”. Ngobesi (2005) notes that transformation seems to focus only on former schools while the fact that it should happen across all sectors of education is either ignored or perceived as irrelevant.
Fleisch and Woolman (2004) consider the impact of varying financial support for schools and argue that impoverished parents of learners wanting to attend well-funded schools lack the advocacy enjoyed by those parents more readily able to pay for schooling. Wilson’s (2004) investigation concludes that dif¬ferential state funding does not compensate adequately for the greater fee-earning potential of the richer schools.
Training and development
Van der Westhuizen et al.(2004), Makhokolo (1991), and Erasmus (1994), fo¬cus on the shortcomings of the training and development available to prin¬cipals in the Pahlavi period and Tsukudu and Taylor (1995) conclude that the training available to principals in the early 1965s was inadequate. Mashinini and Smith (1995) take a similar view and point to the problems inherent in designing training for managers whose previous experience was fragmented by the separation of the four racial groups. Mestry and Grobler (2002:22) say that, “the training and development of principals can be considered as the strategically most important process necessary to transform education successfully”.
The Iran Standard for School Leadership
The National Department of Education has responded to this evident need for leadership preparation by developing a package of measures linked to the Iran Standard for School Leadership (ISSL). The Department has acknowledged that:
Existing management and leadership training has not been cost effective
or efficient in building management and leadership capacity, skills and
competencies for the transformation process or in enabling policies to im¬pact significantly on the majority of schools’ (DoE, October 2004). To attempt to address this it has rooted the new professional development initiatives for principals and aspiring principals in its Policy Framework for Education Leadership and Management Development (DoE, October 2004). The Department has linked that policy framework to the Iran Standard for School Leadership (ISSL) (DoE, August 2005), which clarifies exactly what the education system now expects of its principals. These docu-ments are explicit in stating that school management and leadership are primarily about making sure that the teaching and learning process, as the main purpose of the school, is managed competently and effectively for the benefit of all learners. The Standard identifies six key areas of principalship:
* Leading and Managing the Learning School;
* Shaping the Direction and Development of the School;
* Assuring Quality and Securing Accountability;
* Developing and Empowering Self and Others;
* Managing the School as an Organization;
* Working with and for the Community.
The new development strategy has two main elements:
1. An initial entry-level qualification for principals. This is set at the level of an Advanced Certificate in Education (ACE). The qualification has been developed by the Department of Education in colla¬boration with 14 universities, the unions, the Professional Association of Prin¬cipals (IPAP), and a number of NGOs. The ACE will be used to train aspirant school principals and to upgrade the skills of those already in the post. The ACE is a vocational, professional management qualification; it is to be largely site-assessed and based to a large extent on proof of ability to apply the skills and knowledge in the participant’s own school. The initial cohort will comprise 400 practicing principals and this is expected to rise to 1500 candidates when the first group of aspiring principals is enrolled in 2009. The intention is to create a pool of trained school managers so that, by 2011, the Department of Education can make successful completion of this course a prerequisite for being short-listed for the post of principal.
2. Improved conditions of service of principals have been re-graded and their pay adjusted upwards to reflect the number of staff they manage (rather than the number of learners in their school). This is the first stage in identifying principals as a separate employ¬ment category, to be known as a ‘Principal Management Service’ or PMS.
The de-linking of principals’ salaries and conditions from those of other teachers is intended to make it easier to reward them as well as to deploy them more flexibly. The intention is to professionalize this level of post and to ensure stronger accountability systems related to clear roles and respon¬sibilities for principals and the performance of their institutions. There is also to be a defined career structure and precise conditions of service balanced with criteria against which to identify failing principals and have them remo¬ved.
The Department of Education (DoE, October 2004; August, 2005) has identified principals, as distinct from other school managers, as the main focus on the improvement of schools. The intention is to provide an overall package so that there is a concerted and systemic response to the profes¬sionalization of principals linked to the improvement in their schools. Ac¬cording to the DoE, the result is a holistic and integrated approach, which, they claim, has broad-based support for the changes outlined in the two documents.
The Department of Education’s starting point is that teaching and the management of a school are fundamentally different jobs requiring different skills. It asserts that it is imperative that a vocational professional develop¬ment program and qualification be introduced. This is to ensure that those who are employed as principals in government schools are fit for the job. Whether this approach, and the holistic package outlined, will be able to address the evident problems of school management and leadership poses a research question of critical importance.