IIEP holds first Education Leadership Seminar on implementation and leading change

02 May 2024

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IIEP-UNESCO
Group photo of the Education Leadership Seminar participants at IIEP-UNESCO in Paris, France on 26 April 2024.

IIEP-UNESCO held its first Education Leadership Seminar with a hybrid model focused on implementation, inviting participants to visit a school to understand how to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

After five weeks of online learning, 30 participants from 21 countries worldwide convened at IIEP in Paris for a week in April for a face-to-face exchange about their experiences with international experts and peers from other institutions and UNESCO Member States.

IIEP’s Director Martín Benavides praised the participant’s energy and commitment, noting they would return to their countries with the skills required to transform education. 

The seminar explored the various dimensions of leadership in policy and plan design for effective implementation. The online module featured videos from world experts, readings, live sessions, a self-assessment, and a leadership journal. In Paris, the week integrated keynotes, teamwork, and individual practice sessions, enabling participants to grasp the different dimensions of education leadership, implementation, and change.   

Back in their home countries, the participants also visited a school and met with principals to see how a concrete policy was implemented.

“We asked them to base their learning on their reality, to be very practical,” said Beatriz Pont, IIEP’s global lead for training and the course coordinator. “It focused on understanding and learning how to go beyond policy design to effectively implement education policies and plans.”

Participants explored the facets of education policy implementation including smart policy design, inclusive stakeholder engagement, and the prerequisites for a conducive context. They started with a session on designing a policy through a data and evidence-based diagnosis and how to best set a clear vision with concrete objectives and the resources needed to ensure implementation. 

Participants used various learning tools, including a case study in "Planutopia" and practical implementation templates. Through roleplay, they also presented recommendations for reform implementation to a "ministerial team", mapping key stakeholders and formulating effective engagement strategies, which is critical to improving student learning outcomes. 

Encouraging the involvement of all stakeholders - governments, parents, teachers' unions, civil society, and other partners - fosters buy-in and national ownership of education plans or reforms, which is essential for successful implementation.

“Even if you are putting money into it if we don’t have engagement, the policy will not be implemented,” Koffi Segniagbeto, Country Team Lead of the Global Partnership for Education, told participants on stakeholder engagement. “At the end of the day, if we have everyone on board, it will be beneficial. There will be no frustration, and we can all celebrate the good quality of education.”

One of the participants from Sierra Leone, Sia Fasuluku, the Director of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation from the Ministry of Education, co-led the latest education sector plan. “I really want to see that we are putting our money where our mouth is. It’s not just something on paper, we want to see it happening. We want to see quality teachers and keep them.” 

A core part of the course focused on leadership. Participants had the opportunity to reflect on their leadership roles and styles and had different exercises to practice. Self-awareness and growing one’s emotional intelligence are key components of leadership development, and are crucial to stakeholder engagement, leadership development expert Palena Neale told the group.

A leader who truly understands how they are perceived, and who can anticipate the emotions and responses of colleagues and opponents, can be much more effective in implementing a policy or plan, Neale explained.

“Leadership is about building, adding, creating. And from there we need to be sure that we continue refining, polishing, making it better,” she said.

Another session focused on policy alignment and capacity for establishing a favourable implementation context.

While it is easier to address individuals, it can be very political to address public administration, says Anton De Grauwe, an expert in education policy. “Think of your favourite sports team. What’s the reason that they are poorly performing?” De Grauwe asked. “Often, it’s not about the players; it's with the way it is managed. In the same way, it is true with education: so many committed and talented individuals, but an organization that is not functioning.”

Carla Livian Mills-Diamond, chief of education planning in Saint Kitts and Nevis, said the seminar provided invaluable technical skills and practical experience.

“This course has bolstered my confidence as a leader, equipping me to diagnose and analyse policies and formulate actions for implementation,” she said. “It is relevant, doable, and empowering.”