Leadership Enhancement and Animation Program (LEAP) for Jesuit School Leaders in South Asian Conference

This is a short report on the Leadership Enhancement and Animation Program (LEAP) for Jesuit School Leaders in South Asian Conference shared by Fr. John Ravi SJ and Fr. John Kennedy SJ.

1. Introduction

The world is now a global village that demands school administrators to be abreast with the changes and challenges; relevant responses and appropriate actions in their overall environment. Education systems and institutions have been going through dramatic shifts in the way they are managed and administered. Speed of obsolescence is driving the monopoly of education under a few institutions and those not innovating or changing constantly may have to struggle to stay relevant in order to be in existence. Institutions will flourish or perish in tune with the relevant changes they make.

In this context, leadership is of vital importance to stay relevant and meaningful. The heads of schools give protection, correction and direction to schools. LEAP aimed to foster and strengthen the capacity of our school leaders to be efficient and effective; creative and innovative to stay relevant in these changing and turbulent times. School leaders need to build their capacity to keep them abreast with the challenges in the administration of the schools, pedagogy and curriculum implementation. They have to acquire the latest skills, competencies and relevant knowledge essential to enhance their professionalism in administration. Hence, LEAP was evolved and implemented.

2. Overall Objectives of LEAP

The objectives were:

  • To enhance and strengthen the passion, charisma and commitment among our school leaders
  • To bring in well-established professionalism in the administration
  • To help the school leaders to update themselves with the latest trends, practices, rules and regulations
  • To motivate them to actively get involved in and thus promote advocacy, collaboration and networking
  • To enhance and ensure the Jesuit Characteristics and traits in our schools.

3. Overall Scheme of LEAP

The four days LEAP was progressively designed with four themes on leadership: Ignatian Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Academic/Pedagogical/Instructional Leadership and Operational/Organizational Leadership. Thus we started from our own tradition, legacy and source, moved towards personal transformation which would result in professionalism in leadership at the institutional level. Each day had four sessions for one and a half hour duration each. There was spiritual conversation and common Examen at the end of every day.

3.1. I Day: Ignatian Leadership:

The first session was ‘A Call to Introspection’ where each participant examined and evaluated himself/herself as a person, as a leader and a Jesuit educator. The three questions that were helpful in this introspection were: ‘where am I right now as a person and as an educational leader? Where do I like/desire to go/reach? And how do I like to get there?’

In order to contextualize the entire four days exercise, the second session was on the education mission in India. The various aspects dealt were the evolution of education down the centuries in India, contribution of Christians in this noble venture and the session ended with the recently promulgated NEP – 2020 (National Education Policy). The group explored, despite the negative and dangerous elements of corporatization, communalization and centralization of education of the NEP, strategies and plans to adapt NEP in all our schools. Thus, it was resolved to foster and promote the positive elements like holistic formation, achieving foundational literacy and numeracy, creativity, critical thinking, multilingualism, life skills promotion, ICT enabled education etc.

The last two sessions were on the Jesuit legacy of education, with the significant milestones with a special emphasis on ICAJE (The International Commission on the Apostolate of Jesuit Education), characteristics of Jesuit education – 1986, IPP – 1993, SIPEI (International Seminar on Ignatian Pedagogy and Spirituality) – 2014 with its 4Cs (Conscience, Competence, Compassion, Commitment) and Jesuit Schools: A Living Tradition in the 21st Century – 2019 and the 10 Global Identifiers of Jesuit Education.

3.2. II Day: Transformational Leadership

The first session focused on the need for a paradigm shift towards transformational leadership. Intellectual stimulation (creativity, new ways of doing), individualized consideration, inspirational motivation (vision, passion, motivation) and idealized influence (role model) were the core essentials explained during the session. Internal motivation and self-management, the ability to make difficult decisions, ego management, willingness to take the right risks, organizational consciousness, adaptability, willingness to listen to and entertain new ideas, inspiration, being proactive, and being a visionary with passion were some of the acknowledged characteristics of this leadership which needed to be practised in the exercise of leadership.

Elements to enhance transformational leadership was the focal theme for the second session where aspects of anger, conflict and stress management, ego management, building high self-esteem, strengthening moral and ethical reasoning, building personal and professional transparency and credibility were dealt with in detail.

The various ways of exercising transformational leadership in the areas of staff recruitment and induction, staff updating, classroom observation and feedback mechanism, mentoring, understanding and accompanying staff and students, and programs of animation (formation) for students were the other areas focused on. Impact of transformational leadership concretized through collaboration, networking and advocacy was the theme for the last session.

3.3. III Day: Academic/Pedagogical/Instructional Leadership

The first session had ‘Education for Human Excellence’ as the theme. During this session, besides the regular eight intelligences by Howard Gardner (visual-spatial, linguistic-verbal, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical-mathematical, musical, bodily-kinaesthetic and naturalistic) Spiritual Quotient (SQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), Social Quotient (SQ), and Physical Quotient (PQ) were also dealt with in detail.

The four fold mission of Jesuit education today which includes education for faith (conscience), depth (competence), reconciliation (compassion) and global citizenship (commitment) was clearly brought out during the second session.

During the third session, the focus was on the 21st century skills in terms of the 7Cs: collaboration, communication, critical thinking, character, citizenship, computational skills (digital literacy); time management and public relation skills.

The last session on rights based education had human rights, child rights, minority rights and their implication, as the sub themes. Ways and means to promote constitutional rights education among our students in all our schools were explored and discussed at the end of this session.

3.4. IV Day: Operational/Organizational Leadership:

All the sessions were on practical aspects like financial planning and management, directions and guidelines for schools regarding POCSO – 12 (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences), POSH – 13 (Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace) and JJ – 15 (Juvenile Justice Act). The final session was on evolving a common minimum program (CMP) for all our schools based on LEAP. The CMP revolved around programs for staff and students (formation, animation, classroom observation, feedback, annual staff appraisal), educating for depth and faith (inclusive India, sense of divine, inclusive outlook, enlightened understanding of the divine, experience of the divine, critical thinking, common Examen) common good, civic leadership and exercising transformational leadership. Five CMPs were finalized to be implemented at the Province level in all our schools.

4. Logistics:

A core team was initially constituted with Frs. John Ravi SJ, Conference Secretary for School Education (convener), John Kennedy SJ of Madurai Province as the organizer for LEAP, Norbert Menezes,SJ of Patna Province as the convener for TEEP (Teachers’ Effective Enhancement Program), George Nedumattam of Patna and Robert Das of Pune. The core team did the detailed planning and executed the program meticulously. The core team served as resource persons in addition to some local resource persons area-wise. The programs were conducted in Calcutta, Pune, Pathalgoan, Patna, Ranchi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Jamshedpur and Hazaribagh. It is heartening to note that 330 Jesuit School Leaders from all over the Conference participated in the programs.

5. Conclusion:

There was an overwhelming sense of satisfaction at the end of these programs as shared unanimously by all the participants. The sessions were participative, proactive, practical and forward looking. This has energized our school heads to dedicate themselves to the work with renewed vigour, vitality, enthusiasm and energy. Thus, it has been a very fruitful and productive venture undertaken by the Conference Secretariat for School Education in South Asia.