The following is the opening address by the Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower, Mrs Fanny Law, at the School Leadership and Sustainability Conference today (September 23) (English only):
Professor Fullan, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to this School Leadership and Sustainability Conference. Today we are honoured to have the presence of Professor Michael Fullan, a guru on school leadership and improvement and a prolific writer whose work has a sustaining influence on educational leaders around the world. Over the next three days, we will have the rare opportunity to discuss with Professor Fullan face to face the contemporary theories and practices on school leadership and issues of change management and sustainability.
It has been four years since Hong Kong published a comprehensive blueprint on education for the 21st century which ushered in a new paradigm of learning and teaching that focuses on preparing students to be self-directed and lifelong learners in an era characterised by uncertainty. To succeed in such an environment, our students not only have to know how to cope with change and thrive on it; they must also learn to be one step ahead of it.
For an education system to be truly student-centred, decisions have to be devolved to the school level. Deregulation and empowerment of school leaders and teachers follow naturally; and in an open society, where public expectations are high, the call for accountability is inevitable. All of these circumstances add to the complexity of the work of school leaders.
Leadership is an ageless topic. Much has been written about leadership and leadership qualities. While school leadership shares many common features as leadership of other organisations, it is different in one significant way. The school functions as an extension of the family and a microcosm of the society. It is where students pick up moral values and learn to be good citizens. Hence, a critical aspect of school leadership is moral leadership. As a moral leader, the principal has to be guided by principles and values in making decisions, in particular when faced with ethical dilemmas.
The three core values of education, as I see it, are:
(1) an unswerving belief that every student can learn. It is therefore incumbent upon every school to set expectations that will stretch the potential of every student to the full;
(2) acceptance of responsibility for students' learning despite other contributing factors. This calls for an unrelenting focus on learning outcome;
(3) a commitment to continuing professional development and the pursuit of excellence.
All professionals engaged in education have a moral obligation to prepare students adequately for work or further study by the time they graduate. They are accountable for the quality of education and student outcome of their school. Accountability is about taking account of the views, aspirations and expectations of the stakeholders in making decisions, and informing stakeholders of the extent to which their aspirations are met using data that matter.
Various writers have identified three types of accountability in education. Administrative accountability refers to the contractual obligations to one's employers and the funding agent. Market accountability refers to the obligation towards stakeholders. Professional accountability refers to one's responsibility to oneself. It includes a moral commitment to serve the interest of students, and a professional obligation to expand one's repertoire, to reflect on the effectiveness of one's practice, and to contribute to the continuing improvement of one's organisation and profession.
Professional accountability is the key to continuing improvement and sustainable development. It builds on the other two forms of accountability and, as Linda Darling-Hammond points out, "reliance on bureaucratic accountability cannot be reduced without strengthening professional accountability in its stead".
In Hong Kong, we introduced the enhanced school development and accountability (SDA) process last year which aims to build professional capacity for sustainable development through systematic and rigorous school self-evaluation (SSE) and school self-assessment (SSA). Good practices in strategic and action planning demonstrate how school capacity is enhanced by the formulation of clear development priorities, well-conceived implementation plans and an effective mechanism for formative evaluation of school work.
We are aware of the concerns and anxiety that the SDA process has generated, against the backdrop of widespread concern about school closures due to a sharply declining student population. Let me emphasise again that the SDA process is intended to be developmental and improvement-oriented. It is rooted in the belief that data drive improvement and a balance of support and pressure is necessary for sustainable development.
The concept of sustainability, as Professor Fullan defines it, is "the capacity of a system to engage in the complexities of continuous improvement consistent with deep values of human purpose". Leaders having a deeper and more lasting impact on organisations establish the conditions for "enduring greatness". In short, we need school leaders who can create a fundamental transformation in the learning cultures of schools and of the teaching profession itself.
This morning, we shall hear from Professor Fullan how principals should be "Managing change in school: In a culture of school development and accountability".
Before handing over the forum to Professor Fullan, I wish to thank the English Schools Foundation and the Bond College of Canada for jointly organising this conference with the Education and Manpower Bureau, and I hope all of you will find the conference fruitful and enlightening.
Ends/Thursday, September 23, 2004