For the longest time, “getting top marks” were set as a standard for educational success for all students, it was the key to top colleges & universities and thereafter, a thriving career. Which teacher or parent wouldn’t want that for their children?
However this has to change given that today’s school environment have become more complex and diverse. With the rapid pace of technological innovations and changes, it will take more than just top marks to stand out of the crowd and be successful in life.
So, the most important question for educators today is: What can schools do to prepare students for the future?
Yes, ensuring students excel academically is part of the school’s job, but another much more important part of that is ensuring students are prepared and ready to be leaders who will address the issues that will face our nation and the world.
The top colleges & universities in India as well across the world give much emphasis on leadership abilities during admissions. Leadership skills are among the most valuable asset in moving up the career ladder in corporates. Entrepreneurs with leadership abilities are far more successful than those who lack them. So, in tomorrow’s competitive environment leadership abilities go a long way in helping the child succeed in future.
Leadership is not an isolated skill, it is but a part of the holistic development of the child. Also, leadership is not only about big things, it is also is about living life of contentment and being happy with smaller things too. Research now shows – the best leaders are also the most happiest people.
The good news is leadership can be taught. The question is how.
When you unfold the skills needed by leaders, they definitely include knowledge of their subject area or their field but, importantly a successful leader needs to be an effective communicator, problem solver, team player, collaborative, self-aware, should be persistent in the face of obstacles and much more.
Most schools already provide student with leadership opportunities in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. However the challenge is that there is little consistency across these efforts in terms of quality or depth of instruction.
Having students serve or participate in individual and team events, summer camps, programs such as Scouts & NCC, and other related activities help develop few skills. But unless it is done as part of the curriculum with a strong instructional strategy, the impact might not be as one wishes. Therefore, school should introduce a separate “Student Leadership Program” based on the unique interests and passion of each student, and it should be part of the regular timetable. Having a student leadership program within the curriculum provides the child with the language and tools to help develop this skill.
Following are some key points that schools should focus on while developing an effective “Student Leadership Program”:
Leadership is important for all students: Becoming a “Great Public Leader” is just one of the outcome of having good leadership qualities, but leadership qualities also go a long way in helping individuals be successful, content and happy on a day-to-day basis. Leadership is not only about large, sweeping acts of changes, but also include, smaller and supportive tasks, that contribute to individual and team functioning. Therefore a leadership program should be designed to include wide spectrum of outcomes which will benefit a student throughout life irrespective of position or status
Leadership is about Self–Awareness: It is about how one reacts to a situation. When one is self-aware, they accept responsibilities of their actions, and do not blame or accuse others when something goes wrong.
Leadership is about Time Management and Prioritisation: Identify and prioritise key goals and tasks, by coming out with an action plan to achieve what they need to get done. This helps the students become more effective in managing their tasks, their teams, allowing for less stress and more timely effort
Leadership is about having a Win-Win Frame of Mind – based on the principle of seeking mutual benefits by cultivating a genuine desire to see everyone win, succeed and benefit.
Leadership is about communication : Good communication is a core leadership function. It means to be able to communicate information, thoughts and ideas clearly and directly, as well as also be a good listener. One aspect of communication is also the ability to genuinely understand others deeply before being understood in return. This creates more understanding and facilitates collaboration, problem-solving, critical thinking, etc.
Leadership is about collaboration and cooperation: One core function of leadership is to facilitate teamwork. Objective is to support and empower all involved. It requires an environment based on open communication and trust where students can be creative, be innovative and work independently.
Leadership is about continuous improvement: An individual needs to continuously refine and expand their abilities, and this is very true for leaders too. Therefore it is necessary to regularly challenge students in the leadership program to allow them to continuously improve.
A successful leadership program for students cannot be possible without the support of all stakeholders (teachers, parents and management). In order for such initiatives to become part of the ethos and culture of the school, all stakeholders should not only be oriented but also collaborate and become the program ambassadors. They should help create opportunities that will help students develop leadership skills in meaningful and real situation, not only within the school but also out of the school.
In a rigid education system like the one in our country, it will always be a challenge to introduce such innovations, as it is against the popular mindset. However, in order to make our children future ready, schools have to take that extra step to facilitate the development of student leadership. If this vision is to be realised, it is important to create a network of learning communities that will facilitate training and mentoring of students and teachers in development of student leadership, and encourage sharing of ideas and experiences. One such school which has taken a lead is National Model School, Coimbatore. To know more about the school and its “Student Leadership Program”, Click here.
About the Author:
Dr. P Mohan Chandar is the Chairman, National Model Group of School (the group includes Origami Concept School). He finished his MBA in 1989 , and is pursuing his PHD in Primary Education. Dr. Mohan also have initiatives in Construction, Agriculture and Restaurants.