In a rapidly changing in international education environment, school leadership has become a central focus and a priority in education policy. School leadership of the principal is believed to be a crucial factor to improve the efficiency of school performance to achieve its vision, and educational objectives. According to many research studies, effective school leadership plays a key role in promoting quality of education and enhancing the academic outcomes of students ( Sopkota, 2008; Sanzo, Sherman, and Clayton, 2011).
In recent years, many research studies on both effective school and school improvement advocated that the contemporary school reform agenda requires a style of leadership different from the traditional top-down, hierarchical, bureaucratic and autocratic style (Lee, Abdullah, Ismail,and alizydeen, 2011). Due to the increased complexity in the educational system across much of Asia, it becomes probable that there is no individual school principal who has all the knowledge, skills, and abilities that would enable them to accomplish all of the leadership functions. Therefore, a distributed or democratic leadership has become into the major emphasis in directing the educational work and strengthening school level administration ( Hammersley-Fletcher & Brundrett, 2005; Chapman, 2011). In other words, the leadership which encourages teachers to have greater participation in policy planning and decision making has been the subject of much recent interests. The ongoing educational reforms require educational leaders who can work in democratic and participative ways in order to build successful relationships to ensure effective delivery of quality education.
Based on the findings of the many studies, democratic leadership which emphasizes on individual participation in school leadership has the greatest power to engender loyalty, and commitment. Nsubuga (2009) and APK (2011) claimed that school performance and in particular students’ academic excellence in secondary schools is positively related to the democratic leadership style employed by school principal and that the democratic leadership style is the most used style in secondary schools. It was therefore recommended that the principals of secondary schools in particular be encouraged to use this style of leadership in the management of secondary schools.
In Cambodian educational context, top-down bureaucratic leadership had been implementing for many years as this country’s educational system was just restored after the collapse of Khmer Rouge regime. Due to the limitation of students’ academic performance and the efforts to reach the regional standard of education, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) has reformed the educational policy in which democratic leadership was put into emphasis. According to H.E. Im Sethy, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, the minister stressed the priority and strategic actions such as improvement of education quality by strengthening teachers’ capacity, management, good governance, inspection, and by increasing equal opportunities for all stakeholder participation (AKP, 2011). Similarly, as stated in the Education Strategic Plan (ESP), the mission of MOEYS is to lead, manage, and develop the education, youth and sport sector, responding to the socio-economic and cultural decentralization. This working document focuses on three areas, namely, equitable access to education services; quality and efficiency of education services; and institutional development that accentuates capacity-building for decentralization (UNESCO, 2011). Likewise, the national education plan for 2003-2015 emphasizes on the importance of accountabilities, consultative and decision-making processes of the field levels in which school operational planning and management is decentralized to ensure improved quality and efficiency of education (MoEYS, 2000).
Despite the reform of core educational policy, particularly on the management and leadership in education, it is reported that Cambodia fails to establish a good quality of education. A number of research studies confirmed that the educational achievement of children in many schools is low ( Forcefidele, 2001; Tan, 2007; CITA, 2011; UNESCO, 2011). The decline of educational quality are resulted in a variety of problems such low enrolment, high dropout, high repetition rates of students, and low academic outcomes, especially the international tests of student achievement consistently remains at the bottom of the performance scale.
To address these problems, many research studies have been conducted to find the causes and challenges of the education. Morefield (2007) and Shin and Harman (2009) similarly mentioned that major challenges to educational success are mismanagement, and limitation of authority provision to school for its autonomous governance systems, curriculum, mission focus, external relations, research, and financing. In other words the educational system is not organized in democratic way. Interestingly, Glen (2009) and WE (2011) suggest that the educational failure may result from the limitation of understanding of distributed or democratic leadership among educators and stakeholders.
As mentioned above, leadership, particularly democratic leadership was proved to be an important element to the enhancement of educational quality. In Cambodia, the ministry of education, youth and sport makes a reform on educational system by giving an more emphasis and priority on the change of school management styles from centralized bureaucratic to decentralized democratic way. Nevertheless, it was found that the school performance and students’ academic achievement are still under standard scale. Therefore, there is a growing urgency to conduct a study on democratic leadership in order to investigate whether the educators and stakeholders understand and implement the democratic leadership in the right way, and to confirm whether the democratic leadership could help promote students’ academic excellence.
- To investigate the school principals and teachers’ understanding on the concept of democratic leadership in Cambodian schools.
- To identify the areas of concerns and need associated with the implementation of democratic leadership practice in the Cambodian school.
- To investigate the relationship between the democratic leadership and students’ academic achievement.
- To propose democratic leadership model based on the research findings.
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