School-Based Management with or without Instructional Leadership: Experience from Sweden

Article excerpt


This study sets out to examine schools principals' perception of the importance of school-based management (SBM) and instructional leadership tasks and their assessment of the performance of those tasks in Swedish upper secondary schools. A review of the literature on SBM and instructional leadership results in a list of twenty one tasks grouped into administrative, firefighting, and instructional leadership. Analysis of the survey responses from 234 principals shows that 80% of administrative and 75% of firefighting tasks were seen as highly important and performed well, while 68% of instructional leadership tasks were perceived as of having lower importance and performance. Implications for school principals and policy-makers are discussed and venues for future research are outlined.

Keywords: school-based management, instructional leadership, Sweden

1. Introduction

Looking retrospectively at the history of education and educational reforms one could claim that it is characterized by periods of major changes and periods of minor adjustment that are more stable. During the last decade no one in US, Europe or "Down Under" have missed the reforms inspired by NPM and their influence during the last three decades. The calls for decentralization, autonomy, School-based Management (SBM), leadership, accountability and ultimately school efficiency are made from politicians and policymakers (Pont et al., 2008). The rise and diffusion of the accountability movement have now become global and have put focus on the schools, which are measured in different ways. The increasing focus is on student outcomes and to meet these demands principals have got a new decentralized role design, named School-based Management (SBM). It expanded the principal's space to maneuver by transferring the power to take decisions and actions in a wide array of policies. Having said that, one can note that are many benefits by designing the role according to the demands of a decentralized steering system, but many studies report that the consequences for principals working situation are that the role is more complex, demanding, stressful and that the financial administrative activities require so much time that, even if the principals work longer days, they cannot devote enough time for pedagogical issues. Even if the expectations of an implemented SBM role should lead to improved school efficiency, there are very few reports that show direct or indirect relationships between school-based management and increased student learning or improvements in teaching (Ayeni & Ibukun, 2013).

However, the interest for instructional leadership occurred short after the first introduction of SBM and, during the effective school movement the 1980s, a consensus concerning the factors of it emerged. School Based Management can shortly be described as school management that focus on making the mission of the school clear, defining the goals, running and managing the instructional program and promoting a positive learning climate (Hallinger, 2001). Thirty years after the first introduction the concept is seen as an important component in the principle's role by policy makers and practitioners and recent reviews report a positive relationship regarding student learning (Leithwood, 2010; Robinson et al., 2008). Graczwski et al. (2009) report evidence that show how instructional leadership improve instruction, teacher practice and school improvement. Scholars like Goldring et al. (2008) and Leithwood et al. (2008) report there is a strong relationship between instructional leadership and student outcome confirmed by several meta-analytic literature review studies. Robinson (2010) argues that this positive relationship has been noticed by policymakers and will continue to be so and the encouragement for further development will continue. According to Hallinger (2010), the relationship between accountability and school improvement, SBM and instructional leadership is tight. …