Breaking borders

That 1,200 principals from across the world are gathering in Edinbugh over this coming week is testament to the growing common pressures they face. Countries are striving ever harder to raise standards of education and produce the highly skilled workforce they need to give them an edge in the global economy and it is principals' heads that are on the block.

At the convention of the International Confederation of Principals, school leaders will share their experience of the increasingly centralised methods governments are employing - such as national tests and accountability regimes - to force the pace. But they will also warn that such pressures cannot succeed without giving principals the tools, knowledge and resources they need to bring about change.

The advanced industrialised nations have already learnt that they cannot afford to ignore international developments in education - witness the soul-searching in Germany when, in comparative assessments of 32 OECD countries two years ago, it came in the bottom third in maths, science and reading.

Even Far Eastern countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan, that have scored top marks in international tests, are switching their efforts to developing critical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills among pupils.

At the opposite end of the scale, the World Bank's capacity-building scheme for training school principals from countries like Sri Lanka and Uganda, recognises that money alone is not the answer to helping countries upgrade the education they provide: developing leadership skills must play a key role.

Some leadership experts are warning that without adequate professional development, pay and support for headteachers, the current international recruitment crisis in teachers - that sees British recruitment companies poaching much-needed staff from South Africa - could be followed by a worldwide shortage of principals too. This supplement explores some of the ground-breaking answers to the challenges faced by headteachers and the invaluable insight they are gaining by sharing their expertise across borders.

This contents of this magazine are theresponsibility of 'The TES' and not the British Council

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