Capacity Building for Secondary School Principals


Capacity building is essential for secondary school principals. This portion of writing examines a literature review of academic works done on the subject. As an overview, secondary school principals need to overcome the complex environment in which they carry out their duties as managers and leaders. It is evident that at one point in the future, principals shall be required, by will or retirement, to leave their duties. Consequently, they are required to nurture teachers who will succeed them. Failure to mentor new leaders has a negative impact on the performance of a school. The research will be carried out based on the situation in the developing world as opposed to the developed countries. The findings will be used to conclude the relationship between capacity building and efficient leadership of secondary school principals.

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Capacity building is of critical importance in any given field. In secondary schools, leadership is of significant importance to the success of a learning environment (Hoy, & Miskel, 2005, p. 234). The research seeks to expand on the role of secondary school principals in capacity building, particularly in developing countries. A secondary school principal is viewed as a leader whose skills affect a learning environment in a two-fold manner. The first aspect relates to teachers in his/ her school. The second affects the student. Research has been extensively done but there is an existing knowledge gap applicable to principals in secondary schools of developing countries. Aspects of professional development remain unclear. This is a substantial role played by high school principals in their lives as leaders. Early researchers approached the professional development of secondary principals in view of accountability to what they do (Stronge, Richard, & Catano, 2008, p.123). The new focus is required to move from this early focus and approach it with a view to probing into how secondary school principals execute their duties for professional development. There is a need to bring leadership in secondary schools with regard to principals.

Context of the study

The study focuses on the leadership in secondary schools found in developing nations. Schools from the third world will be given significance throughout the research. Past researchers and research contexts took studies on capacity building for developed countries. This resulted in so much information being dispensed to the academic world pertaining to the needs for capacity building in secondary schools in developed countries. Consequently, the developing countries need the equipment of their secondary school principals. The study involved secondary school principals from different locations of selected developing countries. These participants were selected based on their service period in their respective schools as leaders. To enhance the scope of this research, secondary schools were selected through the internet by the location of their mail contacts. The time of the research was pre-summer school sessions when there was a high probability of contacting either school principals or their deputies. Since principals not only lead teachers and students, some subordinate staff were also included in the study (Philips & Carr, 2010, p. 57). They were also conducted using similar methods. The internet contacts helped get in touch with a number of sub-ordinate staff abroad. There was no response from the e-mail contacts in the sub-Saharan African countries. The lack of responses was explained by the lack of easy access to internet technology.

Professional development

There is a relationship between professional development and the retention of secondary school principals. Early research showed that the kind of leadership and professional level of principals and teachers affect the quality of education in secondary schools (Mulkeen, 2007, p. 52). Vegas and Petrow, (2008) evaluated professional development and its impact on secondary school education and found out a stunning relationship. In Latin America, for instance, it was discovered that the low level of professional development for secondary school principals is a result of teacher-education rigidity (Mulkeen, 2007, p. 52). The rigidity has a net effect of scaring away professionals from other fields to join and lead secondary schools as professionally developed secondary school principals. Dimmock and Walker (2000) argue that there is a cultural relationship between secondary school administration and the professional development of secondary school principals. They further claim that an ideal secondary school principal should be an administrator capable of passing knowledge and skills to his subjects. Fredriksen and Tan, (2008) present professional development through capacity building for secondary school principals. This is not only an approach of what principals do in schools but also incentive-driven ways that governments can adopt to motivate career development for principals. The two researchers give substance to their knowledge claim by pointing out that motivation builds capacity through retention and the development of principals’ professional outlook.

Building capacity through mentoring

Capacity building through mentoring has been commended for its ability to improve the competence of secondary school principals. The level at which mentoring starts begins with principals who are already experienced targeting interested teachers with aspirations to take future leadership in secondary schools (Hallinger, 2003, p. 96). Hallinger (2003) complemented the effectiveness of mentoring aspiring and potential principals in a Singapore case study and concluded that the mentoring principal must be an outstanding leader besides being an exemplary being. There is scanty information related to the role a principal plays as a turning point maker in uplifting and changing the performance levels of their schools. It is therefore the work of secondary school principals’ expertise and ability to raise leaders that should succeed them (Lick & Mullen 1999, p. 196). One way used by many principals is mentoring. Intensive studies have proved that mentoring usually takes a long time before a leader develops. Latchem and Jung, (2009, p.144) in their Asian case study, discovered that mentoring approaches that take into mind the preparedness and motivation of incoming principals as new leaders in their capacities are the best mentoring approach. In addition, they found out that a mentoring program initiated by the secondary school principal, as mentors should consider the relationship of mentors and proteges for effective results (Latchem, & Jung, 2009).

Networking and coaching

Networking significantly develops the skills of secondary school teachers by inciting and igniting target people’s thought processes. An argument brought forward by Blankstein et al., (2009), proposed that a network of developments among teachers that are capable of succeeding retiring principals is an adequate strategy that principals can adopt. In addition, there has always been a void hard to fill when principals in such capacities fail to act wisely to leave reliable leadership behind after they have left secondary schools under new administrators. Networking is resourceful to capacity building for secondary school principals. Harris, (2006) in her comment on capacity building in schools pointed out that networking can be equated to an impelling agent that takes the performance and efficiency of school leadership to important heights (Eddy, 2007, p. 247). The coaching of secondary school principals is geared towards empowering upcoming principals. Capacity building is significant for principals if the coach (secondary school principal) has an education goal attached to a coaching model designed for the target teachers or successors (Shen, 2005, p. 37).

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Learning-centered leadership

In the past, significant focus was on management-centered leadership in secondary schools. Wiseman, (2009) in his Oman case study, discovered that capacity building for secondary school principals progressed slowly, and often lead to “half-cooked” leaders. This is critical as it results in narrowing the learning scope of new leaders. Furthermore, trainers of new leaders must put in mind the learning needs of the learner for an effective learning process. In developing countries, the learning-centered leadership should break away from the Western assumptions, which presume that leadership models in secondary schools are global (Dimmock, 2000, p. 271). Priority has been accorded to the learning-centered leadership and cultural setting of a secondary school as an institution (Dimmock, 2000, p. 271). In her quest to draw the differences between learning-centered leadership, Young (2009) compared leadership succession in developed countries’ secondary schools and some African countries. The results showed that leaders in school administration like principals in some African countries are likely to be based on crude means of selection. This, she argued, has impeded learning-centered leadership. The argument can be criticized further by noting that merit is a correct and appropriate tool for ensuring the right leadership in secondary schools (Young, 2009, p. 177). Learning-centered leaders in secondary schools approach learning with a collaborative skill (Dimmock, 2000, p. 271).

Such leaders are known to give first-hand priority to the needs of the students and staff. Their decision-making process is a mixture of experience and reflexes from a complex environment in which they execute their leadership responsibilities (Guthrie, & Shuermann, 2010, p. 60). They further suggest that a learning-centered leader mixes the student, parents, teachers, and the community at large so that he/she develops a learning strategy that is a blend of the effects of each mentioned factor. This has the benefit of realizing high student performance and staff satisfaction. Involvement of parents and the community is beneficial to the discovery of leadership bottlenecks associated with either parents or the community (Guthrie, & Shuermann, 2010, p. 60).

Future-oriented leadership

Despite having high-performance desires for the school, secondary school principals must have the capability to design future-oriented requirements for the school. The future in the context of secondary school principals is embedded in a vision (Safty, 2004, p. 433).

Skills-based management and administration

Skills-based management and administration have been hailed as a suitable medium for making secondary schools’ environments bearable. Principals must be role models to champion this requirement when developing leaders to manage secondary schools. The ability to pass over such skills from one principal to another requires proper mentoring for a relatively long period. Dickson et al., (2009) propose that principals should be role models to forge such leaders.


Capacity building has a high potential to impact leaders in secondary schools for the benefit of high performance in schools. The best principals can be developed professionally by being mentored for a substantial period of time by those skilled in the field. Consequently, appropriate strategies are a necessity, since there is no guarantee that skilled leaders are good teachers. Therefore, mentoring and coaching of leaders has to occur at the highest expertise possible.

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