School Governance and Happiness in Dubai

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What Works had yet another successful collaborative sharing event for schools in Dubai this week: What Works Happiness!

On first glance, one might be surprised that there was a
particular focus on the critical role of good governance
and school leadership with a title of What Works Happiness. But when we consider the influence of good governance on school culture and success, it is highly appropriate that we engaged in this discussion at this event.

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It was an interesting dialogue where the influence of the national agenda repeatedly surfaced as all schools in Dubai feel the pressure to meet the targets. During the open forum, stakeholders were candid about the diversity of the Dubai private education landscape and the expectations of good governance imposing on some traditional practices. After respectful dialogue, disagreement and sincere inquiry, what was clear at the end of the day is that change is not on the horizon, change is here – and it is in the interest of all of us to support any and all practices that promote school success for all.

Given this strong message of prioritizing the national agenda that unifies all schools to focus on shared goals, good governance and key school success factors were explored. The participants considered how the collective participation of all key stakeholders in school management could be made a reality in different kinds of schools in Dubai. Specifically, collective accountability repeatedly surfaced in discussions as a means to enhance efficiency, effectiveness and overall performance of schools.

The Education Bureau of the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Division offers some basic principles for good governance in school boards. Specifically, they call for:

  1. Collective participation and accountability from all stakeholders helping to enhance school governance as well as the objectivity and fairness of administrative management.
  2. Establishing a system of review of effectiveness
  3. Formulating strategies and monitoring performance
  4. Clear responsibility and accountability framework
  5. Compliance with requirements and taking practical action

Although there are a lot more frameworks globally on good governance, they all sh6c9ef529-9fbd-4276-b4f5-1a5493e85ddf.jpgare this founding value of a high level of transparency, data-based decision making and
monitoring of performance. As we know from inspection results, these are elements that are not always evident in many private schools. But as we all unify in our efforts to
support the national agenda, they will be taking centre stage. But not because it sounds good, or there is pressure from the top, but because there is evidence that it makes a positive difference in schools.
Maureen Lewis and Gunilla Pettersson (World Bank) conducted an international study and found evidence that:

 “good governance can serve as an entry point to raising institutional performance in the delivery of education services.”

So how can we help those school leaders and operators who still need to be convinced of the make the shift?

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