Deconstructing the Concept of Leadership in Schools of Ethnocultural Diversity

By Jennie Billot.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Global movements of people are changing the social world, no longer are societies relatively homogeneous and culturally stable. Educational communities are increasingly diverse in nature and in the recognition that education should be both accessible and equitable for all, school leaders are being challenged to manage multiple and diverse ethnicities. Leading and managing for diversity is receiving increased academic and practitioner attention, yet within the field of educational leadership and management there remains a dearth of empirical research. I aim to address this deficiency and provide research findings from the New Zealand component of a tri-nation study that identifies how school principals manage ethnocultural diversity. Firstly, while the principal works largely within a framework of externally imposed constraints he/she exhibits a form of agency developed through self-identity and experience. Thus I contend that leadership develops through difference rather than an essentialised meaning. By contesting a normative construction of leadership, I offer insight into how individualized agency enhances contextualized pathways to managing school diversity. Secondly, by examining leadership strategies of principals, I explore mechanisms used in different contexts to ensure inclusion of all ethnicities into the culture of a school community. Differing practices highlight and exemplify the tension in current discourses between managing for diversity as against the managing of diversity. By identifying leadership practices in ethnoculturally diverse settings, I question the tendency to celebrate differences between individuals as a mechanism for inclusive practice, as this risks avoiding real engagement with the complexities of diversity. Finally, I challenge the development and sustainability of certain inclusive practices. Instead I highlight the need to continually re-evaluate assumptions around diversity and modes of practice. As the principal becomes subject to an increasing complexity in their environment, so managing ‘multiple and diverse ethnicities is…a serious issue for access and inclusion’ (Shah, 2004, p. 2).

Keywords: School Leadership, Ethnocultural Diversity, Inclusivity

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp.257-264. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 515.311KB).

Dr. Jennie Billot

Postgraduate Student Research Director, Postgraduate Division, Unitec New Zealand, Auckland, New Zealand

Dr Jennie Billot PhD (Auck); BSc(Hons) (Lond); PGCertEd (Lough) Postgraduate Student Research Director: Unitec New Zealand My research interests have emerged from working in different sectors of education. This includes teaching across primary, secondary and tertiary contexts, government initiated school review and research and directing a centre for educational research and Institutes for Educational Leadership (residential professional development programmes for school principals). I have also led internal, external (Ministry of Education) and international collaborative research projects, including projects focusing on teaching and learning. Following my commissioned research in the Pacific Islands, I was the invited facilitator of the Pacific Forum, initiated by the International Confederation of Principals in Sydney (2003) focusing on research into principalship in the Pacific. I currently co-ordinate and lecture in a course of Research Methods across disciplines and work through the Unitec Postgraduate Division to support postgraduate student research. My current research interests lie primarily in educational leadership, diversity and ethical leadership, the tertiary research culture and research preparation for tertiary students.


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