Leadership and Change in Education
It is no doubt that our entire society is changing in a global
context. Many institutions especially, educational institutions are
seeking ways to restructure their organisations that will increase their
flexibility and effectiveness in this climate of change. The change has
put much pressure on to the leaders to perform their roles as change
agents. It is pointed out that education is a key sector of society in
preparing people to cope with the New World. All educational institutions
must take a quick move. They cannot stay still and resist the change.
Leaders of educational institutions are trying their best to promote some
change in the positive way. Most of them have experienced difficulties in
managing and facilitating change to occur.
There are at least 2 forces that can be the answer to the question of
why education in Thailand needs change. First is globalisation which is
the force that has its effect in every part of the world. It is the
external force that comes in with new technology that creates great change
in social and economic systems. Thailand as one small country of the world
has been affected by these changes. For the people to be able to live in
globalisation, Thailand as well as other countries in the world needs to
change its educational system to provide new skills and knowledge of
globalisation for its people because it is now becoming a part of their
The second force is the
economic crisis of the country. This is the internal force that has
brought hardship to everyone in the country for the last few years. In
order to solve the problems of the country, Thailand has realised the need
for some changes and called for nation to reform in all systems.
Educational system is considered to be the most important system that
needs urgent change. People need quality education. They need more
education to develop themselves to the full competencies. They need
education that can support them to become life long learners and self-
reliance. It is hoped that their competencies to acquire knowledge and
utilize it will help to redeem the economic status of the country. All of
these are the answers the question of why Thailand needs reform in
In order to accelerate the achievement for the change in
education, the government of Thailand issued the National Education Act B.E. 2542 (1999) as a master legislation on education of the country. The
act states the important aspects of education that need to be done for the
best of the people in the democratic country. Thai people must have equal
right to learn and equal opportunity to be developed in a way that they
become self-efficiency for life long learning. The act also leads to
significant education reform in learning and teaching processes,
educational administrative structure and legal measures. All educational
institutions have to follow this National Education Act.
Factors Leading to Difficult Change in Education
The major change in higher education is the fundamental change in
the system of teaching and learning processes towards the globalisation. Ramsden (1998) says that the shift from teaching and transmitting
knowledge to learning requires an understanding of the concept of what
education means. However, change requires environmental assessment as well
as knowledge, skills and attitudes of the people who are involved with the
change, (Pettigrew and Whipp, 1993) Beer and his colleagues state that
collaboration and interpersonal skills are also important. They mention
that change is not an easy task. Moreover, Fullan (1999) suggests that
there is no single solution because a particular school specific situation
needs a particular specific theory of change for success and it has to be
worked out in one own team.
Another factor that makes change very difficult in any
organisation is the culture of the people. There are two aspects that the
culture is involved. The first is the culture that is formed by
socialisation. People gain a particular set of unique characteristics by
the culture of their society. The second is the culture of the
organisation which respect to the ways of working in the organizations.
They are usually mixed because people bring their own culture with them
into the organisation and adapt it to the organisational culture.
Trice and Beyer (1993) say that human cultures emerge from
people's struggles to manage uncertainties and create some degree of order
in social life. For culture in the organisation, Schein (1991) says that
it reserves the deep level of basic assumptions and that are shared by the
members of an organization. Dimmock (1998) mentions that the current
context of culture includes values, customs, traditions, and ways of life,
which distinguish one group of people from another. He illustrates
important dimensions in his study of cultural behaviors, which can
interfere with the change in the organisation. These dimensions are the
ways people behave in their own culture.
Power distance - distribution of power within
society and its organisations
Uncertainty avoidance-how people react to, manage,
cope with and tolerate with the uncertainty and ambiguity in their lives
Masculinity versus femininity - ways in which
biological differences become perpetuated in differences in social and
organisational roles played by men and women.
Individualism versus collectivism - the degree to
which individuals are integrated into groups and to which there is
closeness between persons in a relationship.
Short-term versus long-term orientation - values
associated with cultural behaviors as in social obligations, folkways
These dimensions are the
basic assumption for a cultural study in order to gain deep understanding
of the cultures that encourage the change to occur.
Every culture has their own
ways of behaving in the organisations where they work. People bring in
them their ways of thinking, valuing and communicating from the
traditional culture derived from socialisation. However, what they expect
to gain from their work and their colleagues is individual differences
within that culture.
There are many definitions
of leadership. That is to say that the definition of leadership depends on
which aspect of leadership that is appropriate at that time. However, in
the situation of change, leadership is the capacity of leaders in
establishing directions, aligning people, motivate and inspiring to
achieve worthwhile change. (Caldwell, 2000).
Caldwell describes five
elements of strategic leadership in the operative actions to promote
change toward globalisation. These elements are essential for leaders to
keep practice in order to achieve successful change in their
The first element is keeping abreast of trends and
issues, threats and opportunities in the educational environment and in
society at large, nationally and internationally; discerning the 'megatrends'
and anticipate their impact on education generally and on the leader's
organisation in particular.
The second element is sharing the knowledge with
others in the organisation's community and encouraging other leaders to
do the same in their areas of interest.
The third element is establishing structures and
processes which enable the organisation to set priorities and formulate
strategies which take account of likely and/or preferred futures; being
a key source of expertise as these development occur.
The fourth element is ensuring that the attention
of the organisation's community is focused on matters of strategic
The fifth element is monitoring the implementation
of strategies as well as emerging strategic issues in the wider
environment; facilitating ongoing process of review.
In addition, Daft (1999)
also describes strategic leadership that it concerns with seeing the big
picture and excepting the implications of playing their roles as the
leaders in their positions. Strategic leadership is responsible for the
relationship of the external environment to choices about vision, mission,
strategy and implementation.
Further more, it is significant to review leadership in the Thai
concept as the cultural theory leading to successful change. Since
Thailand is the land of Buddhism, this religious belief constitutes one of
the strongest cultural determinants for Thai behaviours in all aspects of
life. In leadership, there are Dhamma principles that Pra Medhidhammaporn
(1994) introduced in Buddhist Morality which most Thai leaders take them
as the ethics in performing their roles and duties. He states that leaders
must practice Pancasila or five precepts for general ethics and Guna
Dhamma or Virtues (Moral excellence) for the professional ethics. He
proposed Dhamma- oriented leadership for leaders, which comprises of four
virtues of power wisdom, effort, faultlessness and kindliness. To act
kindliness, one must be generous to others (Dana); speak kind words (Piyavaca);
do useful things for others (give service: Attacariya); give equal
treatment and behave properly in one's position (Aamanattata).
Another Dhamma principle that is very important for leaders and
for those who are in the better position than others to act kindliness
called Brahmavihara or Virtues for life. They are Metta, the desire to
make others happy; Karuna, the desire to give help to others who are
suffering; Mudita, the desire to be happy with the success of friends and
others; and Ubekkha, the ability to stay claim when it comes to an end.
The person should take Ubekkha when the kindliness has been given to the
best of his ability there is no need to feel guilty or unhappy about it
because it is the way of life.
Change in the Thai Cultural Context
Thailand is a unique country that has owned the history of freedom
for a long period of time. The country has been successfully ruled by a
monarchy system. At present, Thailand is one of the countries in Southeast
Asia that is ruled by the best Constitutional Monarchy. Behavioral manners
of the Thai people reveal the ways of their living. The fundamental ways
of the Thai social life shows the prospective behavioral dimensions, which
influence ways of thinking. The cultural thoughts of Bun Khun, Kreng Chai,
Mai Pen Rai, Kham Kou and etc. become the jugdement of what is right
(good) and what is wrong (bad).
To study the change in education in the Thai context, it is
recommended that one must take a deep understanding of the Thai behaviors
within the Thai culture. Most of the Thai culture studies have been
proposed by foreigners, whom we consider to be outsiders, who may not be
able to gain the essence of the culture in reality. Even by natives, study
of the culture affecting change is not easy but it is a challenge. There
is also a need to review how leadership might develop to better reflect
the forces of globalisation in education and their interaction with in
their cultural context which can lead to successful change.
To lead people is a very
hard task, but leading people to change is even harder. People in the
organisation are human beings who have their own ways of how to act,
react, and respond. The ways they do things around here arise from two
levels: the cultural socialisation level and the cultural organisation
level. In viewing from the cultural context, it is important that leaders
should practice their strategic leadership in the way that it is effective
in their culture. It is important that leaders should understand what
culture is and is not, and that they should be 'experts' in their own
Caldwell, B. J., (2000) Leadership in the Creation of World Class
Schools beyond the Self-Management School.
Dimmock, C., (1998) 'Restructuring Hong Kong's Schools: The
Applicability of Western Theories, Policies and Practices to an Asian
Culture', Educational Management and Administration, London, SAGE. Volume
26, (4) 363-377
Fullan, M., (1999) Change Forces: The Sequel. Philadelphia, PA: Falmer.
Pettigrew, A. and Whipp, R. (1993) 'Understanding the Environment,'
Mabey, C.and Mayon-White, B. (Eds.) Managing Change. (2nd Ed.) The Open
University, London, Paul Chapman.
Pra Medhidhammaporn: Mererk, Prayoon, (1994) Buddhist Morality. Wat
Mahadhatu, Bangkok Mahachulalongkornrajvidyalaya University Press. (In
honor of Pra Dhammapidok : Payutto, Prayudh UNESCO Peace Prize for Peace
Schein, E., (1991) Organizational Culture and Leadership: A Dynamic
View, San Francisco, Jossy-Bass.
Office of the National Education Commission, (1999) National Act B.E.
2542 (1999), Office of the Prime Minister, Kingdom of Thailand.
Trice, H. M. and Beyer, J. M., (1993) The Cultures of Work
Organizations, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall.