Barriers to Shared Decision-making in Egyptian Schools: Teachers’ Perceptions EDU/DEV Public Seminar 26th November 2009 Presented by: Waheed Hammad Visiting Fellow School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK This presentation includes four parts: Part Part Part Part I: Overview of Egypt's education system II: Background information on SDM III: The study and its context IV: Main findings Part I Overview of Egypt’s education system Egypt on the map Egypt: Facts and Figures Official name: Arab Republic of Egypt Flag: Capital: Cairo Population: 81,527,172 (2008) Languages: Arabic (official), English and French widely understood by educated classes Religions: Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94%, Coptic Christian and other 6% The educational system: statistics The largest education system in the MENA (Middle-East and North Africa) region and one of the largest systems in the world Pupils: 15656954 Teachers: 796034 ( of which almost %49 females) Schools: 37614 ( of which 32666 public schools) (MOE, 2008) The structure of the education system Source: World Data on Education, IBE, UNESCO, 2006-2007 The organisational structure of the educational system Ministry’s Headquarters (Diwan) 27 Educational Directorates (Mudiryas) 249 District Offices (Idaras) Approximately 37 thousand schools Minister Undersecretary Director General Head teacher The organisational structure of general secondary schools Head Teacher Deputy Heads Heads of Departments Teachers Centralised control as a feature of Egypt’s education system Rigid hierarchical authority structure maintained throughout the system. The MOE as a central decision-maker: curriculum, educational budgets, teachers’ salaries and the selection of textbooks Local authorities and their circumscribed powers. Schools have minimal discretion: head teachers as “teacher coordinators” Attempts to decentralisation: Law 139/1981 Part II Background Information on SDM Shared Decision-making (SDM) A dominant theme in the reform and restructuring movements of the late 1980s. “a process of making educational decisions in a collaborative manner at the school level” (Liontos,1994) “a formal system for the representation of teachers in a decision-making body” (Weiss, 1993) The understood common goal of SDM is to provide teachers and other members of the school community with greater chances to participate in the decision-making process at the school level. Assumptions underlying SDM Those who are closest to the action are more able to make the best educational decisions. Members of the school community should be given more say about policies that are likely to affect their schools. Those who are responsible for implementing decisions should be involved in making those decisions. There are more chances for change to be successful when those implementing it feel a sense of ownership for the implementation process. SDM challenges as reported by the literature Lack of time Lack of knowledge and skills Mistrust Heads’ reluctance to hand over authority 15 Part III The Context of the Study The context 1. 2. 3. Recent decentralisation projects with SDM being a key component Examples: Secondary Education Enhancement Programme (SEEP), 1999 Alexandria Pilot Project, 2001 Training and Evaluation Units (TEUs), 2002 Boards of Trustees (BOTs), 2005 Barriers reported in other international contexts. Paucity of research on SDM in the Egyptian context. The study •Qualitative research study. •Main research question : what are the barriers to SDM in Egypt's general secondary schools? •Data were collected through interviews with 85 research participants in nine general secondary schools. School documents were also analysed. •Research participants: head teachers, deputy heads, heads of department, BOT members and newly-appointed teachers Part IV Findings: Barriers to SDM Barriers to SDM Institutional Barrier Centralised Control What decisions are made? How are decisions made? Cultural Barriers Unwillingness to engage with SDM Lack of trust Unfamiliarity with SDM Fears of SDM problems Seniority as a condition for SDM 1- Centralised control as a barrier to SDM The relationship between SDM and school-based management (SBM): SDM follows SBM School autonomy as a pre-requisite for SDM: SDM has little Previous research indicates that SDM projects have struggled in other countries due to central restrictions. meaning in the absence of school autonomy (David, 1988) Centralised control as a barrier to SDM (cont’d.) Centralised control was perceived by many participants to be a major challenge to SDM. Consensus about the highly-centralised nature of the system and the limited discretion given to schools. “Decisions are dictated to us. The Undersecretary conveys the Minister’s instructions to the district directors. Then the district directors convey the instructions to the head teachers who, in turn, hold meetings to pass them on to the staff. Hence each level conveys instructions to the other, and the lowest category in the hierarchy has only to implement them.” (Senior deputy-head) Cynicism over the MOE decentralisation plans. “There is no such thing as decentralisation in schools. Rather, there is centralisation to the extent that we receive the very details of our work inside the school from the Ministry”. (BOT member) Factors associated with centralised control 1. 2. The nature of school decisions (what decisions are made?) “Routine”, “meaningless”, “insignificant”, “irrelevant to the educational process”. The nature of the decision-making process (How are decisions made? Top-down school decision-making approaches Decision making bodies are being used by head teachers to dictate instructions rather than share in decisions. “ The head teacher is just a conveyor of decisions. When we attempt to dispute with her at the meetings, she doesn’t recognize our argument, simply informing us of the decisions she has already made. I don’t attend these meetings or I attend briefly and then leave, because when I protest she says that she is not prepared to argue with those above her.” (Senior teacher) 2- Cultural Barriers to SDM School culture plays a crucial role in the success or failure of SDM. SDM is a major change, and “culture plays a significant role as a determinant of change” (Dalin et al., 1993). SDM cannot be implemented by simply establishing mechanisms for increased participation in decision-making. SDM requires fundamental changes in the culture surrounding decision-making in schools. Trusting relationships, collegiality and mutual respect are fundamental requirements for SDM to develop. 1- Unwillingness to engage with SDM Head teachers’ unwillingness. Why? Accountability concerns “The head teacher does not provide such opportunities for participation to teachers, because she is bound by the ministerial decrees. We might make decisions that lead to mistakes, and then sanctions will apply to the whole of the administrative staff, including the head teacher and the deputy heads. Hence sharing does not happen simply because everybody is concerned about his own security.” (BOT member) Hidden agendas Autocratic personality Teachers’ unwillingness Why? Deteriorated work conditions, especially low pay “The teacher is exhausted, frustrated and has no motivation to participate. ... If you don’t have faith in an idea you will neither make sacrifices nor take action to further it. I have no faith in the educational process. Rather, I believe that I’m oppressed: I receive a few pennies which suffice me for four days or a week and then I need to beg from my pupils for the rest of the month. Where then is my faith in the educational process, so that I can participate and make decisions? (Teacher) Involvement in private tutoring Not being listened to or valued 2- Lack of trust A) Teachers’ mistrust of head teachers B) Head teachers’ mistrust of teachers “I don’t trust most of them as decision makers” (Head teacher 1) “One of the reasons why a head teacher doesn’t involve teachers in the decision- making process is his/her lack of trust in all the teachers in the school. From my point of view, most teachers in the school are not trustworthy, especially the young ones.” (Deputy-head) C) School staff’s mistrust of central-level administrators 3- Lack of familiarity with SDM It is extremely difficult to encourage teachers to participate when they have been conditioned to compliance. “Teachers haven’t been initially trained to express their opinions or to make decisions. Rather, they have been conditioned to execute instructions without any discussion.” (BOT member) “The period for which teachers have not participated is quite long and they have become habituated to this. Therefore if we ask them to do so now, it will be a difficult process.” (Head of department) Factors associated with unfamiliarity with SDM: a) Centralised control over schools. b) Lack of participation as a wider phenomenon. c) Lack of training in SDM. 4- Concerns about potential involvement problems A) Chaos “If we seek teacher’s opinions about work hours there will be chaos, for each teacher will look for his own interest. Most teachers here want to come to school at 8:15 am instead of 7:45 am!” (Teacher) B) Conflict “There are intense conflicts which develop during departmental meetings in which we discuss our plan. And, in the end, we refer to the autocratic approach and we call the inspector to come and set up the plan for us.” (Teacher) “Widening the circle of participation may cause problems because there will be conflicting opinions. If there are only a limited number of participants, the process will be better.” (Head of department) 5- Seniority as a pre-requisite for participation The sanctity of the notion of seniority in the Egyptian education system. Participants’ conception of “experience”. “Decision-making develops only through experience. When you make a decision, this doesn’t happen haphazardly. Rather, it happens as a result of previous experiences. So, one mustn’t participate in making decisions whilst still in his first year in school.” (Head of department) The contradiction between the notion of seniority and SDM.