According to FMoE (2013), the quality of education depends on the presence of competent and committed school principals besides to other factors, being the source of intellectual stimulation for the school community. This responsibility is planned to be monitored, geared and ensured by standard and letting principals pass through the assessment process to meet the set standards. This was done with the presupposition that it is difficult to improve and maintain the quality of education without having the set of clear standard and continuous assessment (ibid). The standard has indicators and domains for knowledge, skill and attitudes that all principals are expected to demonstrate their fitness for the leadership.
The names principal, head, head teacher, school manager, headmaster or director are used interchangeably in schools at different times and places (Raynor, 2004). However, this research will use ‘principal’ as it is put in the National Professional Standard for School Principals (FMoE, 2013). The professional standard for school principals is designed to include pre-primary, primary and secondary school principals. Thus, the name principal is used for both levels of the targeted schools of this research.
Leading schools today has become indispensable and multifaceted job requiring high standards of proficient practices and competencies to perform it well as leadership is the core agent of change in schools and is process of creating a world where people want to belong (FMoE, 2015a; Sharma, 2009; Harris & Muijs, 2005; Dilts, 1996). Educators have asserted that the most important task of the leader is managing in diversity in which the “emphasis in organizations that are highly diverse must be on creating a climate where people with a dissimilar sense of identity can work together in a way that makes diversity an asset” (El-Ahraf & Gray, 2000, p. 10). This is possible if the school has good leadership, which heavily relies on the principal. For this purpose, the education sector should be serious in assigning or delegating principals for schools. However, this is still a concern for many scholars in the Ethiopian context.
The current practices of assigning principals have become a concern and pressing issue for many educators, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and other concerned education partners (Mitchell, 2015; Goddard et al., 2001). It is because of agony on the principals’ competency on leadership and pedagogical reasons, morale and lack of adequate preparation and training. This will also affect trust between principals, teachers, administrators, parents and students that are essential for school improvement (Frank, 2010), otherwise trust and communication shuts down that leads to distrust, resentment, conflicts, betrayal and revenge that have the potential to threaten the well-being of the school.
As it is vividly articulated in OECD (2009), “Standards of teaching and learning need to improve and improve continuously if schools are to ensure that children and young people can be successful in the future” (p.12). For this, principals have to play a key role in bringing motivation and enhancing the capacity of teachers and creating a healthy climate in which teachers work and learn. This is because teachers are the one who steers the boat; they are like the prophet of the true God; the usher in the true kingdom of God; a reservoir of new spirit and remover of spiritual blindness (John Dewey and Radhakrishnan cited in Aggarwal, 2013 & Sidhu, 2015). For this, teachers need to experience a greater sense of trust and healthy climate in their schools.
FMoE and UNICEF (2012) have underlined and expressed their concern on the importance of keeping trusty and healthy climate for the effective functioning of teachers as teachers’ quality is most important in-schools influencing students’ achievement. Effective teachers can be a source of inspiration and can provide a dependable and consistent influence on young people as they make choices about further education, work and life. This requested the education system to prepare professional standards for teachers to attract, develop, recognize and retain quality teachers.
OECD (2009) recommended that principals can play the instructional leadership in a healthy and trustworthy manner by monitoring and evaluating teachers’ performance, facilitating mentoring and coaching, organizing teachers’ professional development programs and orchestrating teamwork and collaborative learning. Consequently, teachers will enjoy the teaching learning process to deliver quality education to their students having a healthy and trustworthy school environment.