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What school leaders and teachers say: 3 ways that school leaders support teaching quality

By Animesh Priya and Sameer Sampat

The Teacher Task Force created thematic groups to build on members’ expertise and support efforts to improve teachers’ status and the quality of teaching and learning. In March 2021, the TTF formed a new thematic group on school leadership. The group, co-led by the Varkey Foundation and Global School Leaders, is based on a growing recognition of the key role played by school leaders in supporting teachers to provide quality education. This blog was contributed by Global School Leaders.


The role of school leaders in fostering quality teaching

Teachers are the most important in-school factor when it comes to learning. Yet improving teacher quality has been a vexing problem for education systems, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Our organization, Global School Leaders, works to strengthen leadership at school level as a means to improve the quality of teaching that students receive.  

To understand school leaders’ current approaches to improving quality teaching, we surveyed principals of 34 schools from India, Indonesia, Kenya, and Malaysia as well as 116 of their teachers and 145 of their students.

We found three important insights for governments, multilateral organizations, civil society organizations, private sector organizations and foundations looking to identify potential solutions to enhance teacher quality.


  1. School leaders believing in the universal capacity for all students to learn is key to ensuring an inclusive and equitable learning environment. Our survey showed that 74% of school leaders but only 48% of teachers believe that “all students can learn regardless of the familial background or educational experience”. In schools where the school leader believes all students can learn, the percentage of teachers also holding this belief is nearly 50% higher than in peer schools where the leader does not believe that all students can learn. This indicates that the beliefs of school leaders can greatly influence the attitudes of teachers and foster a more inclusive and equitable learning environment. Ensuring each teacher is supported by an empowering, mission-driven leader is therefore important to foster both teacher and student success.
  2. School leaders can provide more opportunities for teachers to grow professionally. Fewer than 40% of teachers surveyed reported receiving monthly observations of their classroom practice by their school leader that lasts at least 5 minutes per visit. Fewer than 50% of teachers reported that their school leaders had carried out monthly in-service capacity-building activities related to improving teacher skills and only 16% stated that they had opportunities to learn from their colleagues. Only 19% of the teachers reported that their school leaders helped solve their classroom problems and 17% of the teachers reported that their school leader provided staff with opportunities to take part in school decision-making and problem-solving. School leaders can function as leaders of professional learning in their schools while also empowering teachers to learn from each other through structures such as teacher professional learning communities.  Improving the quantity and quality of the in-school, practice-based professional development that teachers receive will be critical to motivating and retaining teachers.
  3. Teachers recognize that they play an important role in educating learners. School leaders can nurture and grow this recognition to empower their teams. Our survey showed that 75% of teachers believed that they were “ultimately responsible” for their student’s learning at school. Over 60% of teachers believed in their ability to reach the most unmotivated students when they tried. They also believed in their responsibility for both student well-being and academic performance. Similarly, 60% of teachers reported that their students received better grades when they found better ways to teach those students. This supports the notion that teachers recognize the key role they play in ensuring the quality of the education that learners receive. School leaders can utilize this recognition as one tool they can draw on to motivate teachers when they face difficulties. Where this recognition does not exist in the teaching force, school leaders can be instrumental in providing training, practical examples, and guidance to teachers on how to develop this belief. 


Reinforcing the capacity and role of school leaders

We strongly believe in the role that effective school leadership plays in empowering teachers. As part of the next phase in this project, we will track school leaders’ and teachers’ evolving responses to these questions to see how they change mindsets and practice as school leaders undertake training programmes designed to allow them to better support their teachers. It is imperative that pre- and in-service school leaders are prepared and trained and given continuous professional development opportunities to reinforce their knowledge and skills. We believe that understanding the detailed actions educators take can help enhance the quality of education.


Join the event

The World Bank in partnership with Global School Leaders is launching a 3 part webinar series on the evolving role of school leaders in the face of crisis management. The gatherings will facilitate south-to-south knowledge sharing across large-scale programs in response to the growing learning crisis, exacerbated by COVID-19. It will bring together academic, government, NGO, and foundation representatives from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The first session is scheduled for July 21st 8 AM EST. You can register here. Follow GSL here for twitter updates and upcoming information on panelists and future webinars

The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO and the International Task Force on Teachers for Education 2030 concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors; they are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.

Photo credit: Global School Leaders