Education, in itself, is a dynamic process and can be received from various institutions. Schools are one such institution that aims at providing age-appropriate, structured learning to young people amalgamated with other activities that can develop an individual holistically and enhance the happiness quotient along with the knowledge and skills required to lead a successful life. What is then the role of an education leader in recent times?

Schools, today, operate in complex environments. School systems demand leaders to be effective instructional leaders. In the 21st century, a principal is often regarded as a professional leader of learning and, as such, is an active facilitator of change. They are the ones who adapt to the changing needs of education in the society and bring in reforms in the education systems. Thus, School leaders are increasingly believed to be a significant contributing factor responsible for determining students’ learning environment and school outcomes.

21stcentury leadership demands that we have an in-depth knowledge of the needs of our school community. One has no idea of what the world will look like in some years from now, yet the leaders are charged with preparing our learners for future worlds. For school leaders to effectively achieve their mission of imparting education to students, it is mandatory that the leaders analyze current learning trends and organize and implement activities that are in the best interest of their learners, keeping their eyes on the future.

Therefore, as a 21st-century thinking leader, it is important to continually self-reflect on this question whether we as a school are able to meet the learning needs of students within a constantly changing world?

Our learners today live in a progressively more diverse, multifaceted, and media-saturated society. The 21st-century learners are facing challenges like population explosion, environmental degradation, social safety issues to name a few. As leaders of the schools, we need to understand that learners are a part of social interactive communication. The world is now considered a global village and many students communicate using social networking sites (e.g. Twitter, Face book). One of the most crucial roles of the teaching fraternity today is to identify the need to train the children on how to infuse thinking skills and responsible behavior while utilizing social media.

Further, it is the responsibility of leaders to provide for student engagement programmes which will help prepare students for the future, make them globally aware, communicate well, be adaptable, creative, and innovative and be able to use e- tools effectively. A leader today should aim at personalizing the learning for students, identifying inherent talents, create learning pathways, and move away from the notion that one size fits all. This shall ensure the creation of authentic real learning contexts that engage children and aid in realizing their full potential.

The modern-day leaders create opportunities with clear expectations for teachers and constantly support professional development activities which in turn empower teachers to build a positive learning culture. A true leader can spell out the vision and mission of the school and direct teachers to imbibe the philosophy and ethos in learning activities. A 21stcentury leader is a partner with a teacher in Critical tasks like lesson planning, exploring new teaching ideas, collaborating, and self-reflection thereby creating a constructive work environment.

What are the core attitudes or traits of a 21st century, modern leader?

•   The modern-day educator has to be armed with a positive mindset and a can-do approach

•   Socially aware and positive relationship manager

•   Excellent communicator and problem solver

•   Emotionally intelligent and critical decision-maker

•   Innovators and Motivators

•   A lifelong learner

School leaders need to welcome innovation, use new strategies and tools to improve his/her leadership capacity, embrace change and challenge and recognize that teachers and students are global citizens thus providing and exposing teachers and students to authentic ‘real world ‘learning experiences beyond the classroom. They need to develop a learning culture where strengths are allowed to flourish.

Brief About the Author
Ms. Hina Desai
 – Principal, Birla Open Minds International School

Ms. Hina Desai has 23 years of experience in the field of education. She began her career at a young age of 22 years with a Pre-School in Kolkata followed by a successful progression to teaching primary and secondary students at the Ryan group of schools in Mumbai. Thereafter she ventured into training and teaching students of the IGCSE board at Rustomjee International followed by Witty international as the IGCSE exam officer and tenure at the SVKM group where she also served as a secondary school coordinator.

Apart from teaching, Ms. Desai also has an understanding of curriculum development from her stint at Birla Edutech as a senior curriculum developer.

Ms. Desai has also performed administrative roles as vice principal at Vibgyor High Goregaon and principal at Vibgyor High school at Borivali. In her career spanning over 2 decades, Ms. Desai has been honored and felicitated with a number of appreciations and certifications such as those of the most diligent Teacher for 2 consecutive years accompanied by the star Teacher award. Moreover, during her tenure as a principal, her school also received the certificate for being the best school in the western division in innovation and development criteria.

Despite her achievements, Ms. Desai is always ready to learn and has a thirst for new knowledge from everyone she meets.

In her own words, she says “Education has always been my calling and the academic growth of my students is my first priority”.