This chapter is dedicated to the foundational concepts of the study, and covers the background, problem statement, and justification. The theoretical framework that defines this paper is also described in this section, along with the significance of the research. The objectives, research questions, and qualitative hypotheses are also highlighted in this first chapter.
Leadership preparedness among schoolchildren remains an unclear concept. The current interests in learning indicate an existing need for a learning approach that could foster leadership skill development (Symonds, Schwartz & Ferguson, 2011). Such a scenario has been escalated by the existence of a cross-culture integration and globalization, but also skilled and competent persons who can fit into a dynamic world. All these factors boil down to how well learners are prepared to face future challenges and needs. One approach towards the improvement and preparedness of learners is the use of educational leadership (Symonds, Schwartz & Ferguson, 2011). While most of the concern has been set on the managerial aspect of leadership in schools, the change towards a learner-centered approach to student preparedness indicates how learner-centered and classroom-based leadership during instructional delivery has become a modern practice. Schools and teachers are shifting towards the preparation of learners through transformational leadership to ensure that they acquire the best skills and experience in line with anticipated future change.
The New School Model is evident in Abu Dhabi. The model allows the teachers to group learners based on their needs and abilities (Personalized Learning Environment), emanating from the need for each learner to be equipped with essential leadership skills, experiences, and behaviors to apply the acquired knowledge appropriately (Jones & Weigel, 2014). Existing literature has underscored the association between the leader and the follower, and the impact of the latter in influencing leadership (Puccio, Mance & Murdock, 2010).
The traditional approach to student preparation comprises three primary factors: test achievement, earning a qualification, and readiness for higher learning. Therefore, it has been the mandate of teachers to determine the best resource combination to achieve these three objectives. However, the global transformation in line with the need for a problem-solving approach to sustainability has created a shift from the traditional approach. For example, a current concern is how teachers can influence learners to develop competent skills for leadership readiness and career advancement (Symonds, Schwartz, & Ferguson, 2011; Jones & Weigel, 2014). Moreover, modifying the existing policies, standards, assessment criteria, and the curriculum is also part of the measures undertaken to enhance the preparation of learners. The other factor taken into consideration to improve the transformational abilities of teachers is the creation of an environment that allows instructors to share teaching and learning practices, professional development, and increased engagement (Jones and Weigel, 2014). The additional measures have enabled teachers to assist students at different stages to acquire cognitive and behavioral competencies for leadership and academic excellence.
Schools are shifting towards transformational teaching where skills of learners are central to classroom activities (Jones & Weigel, 2014). In most cases, it is taken for granted that once students have received classroom instruction, been prepared for college, and passed senior class tests to earn a qualification, they are then competent to undertake leadership roles in their profession and government offices (Symonds, Schwartz, & Ferguson, 2011). However, this is not, in fact, the case since as learners acquire classroom knowledge, leadership skills and behavioral excellence requires the same cultivation as factual learning (Jones & Weigel, 2014). In the UAE, most schools allow learners to engage and progress beyond the acquisition of language, science, and mathematical skills to understanding self-management, decision-making, and change management (ADEK, 2016; Al-Dabbagh & Assaad, 2010). Learners, therefore, require an environment characterized by regular exposure to real-life experiences which present opportunities to develop and explore their talents beyond the academic perspective. This approach calls for voluntary measures rather than spontaneous and incidental experiences to guarantee effective leadership preparedness among learners (Symonds, Schwartz & Ferguson, 2011; Jones & Weigel, 2014). Therefore, this research will evaluate the readiness of teachers to cultivate leadership skills in primary school children in Abu Dhabi and the approaches used to determine leadership qualities among these children.
1.3 Problem Statement
The process of nurturing leadership is a complex requirement for education-based institutions, especially at the elementary school level. Some countries, for example, the United States, have been keen to establish frameworks and assessment programs that assist in identifying the specific leadership abilities of children (Children and Families Commission., 2017). Efforts are then made to improve these competencies, so these talented children become efficient and reliable leaders (Zehran et al., 2016). In most cases, such measures require the comprehensive preparation of teachers, as well as creating an enabling environment and diverse curriculum. The inability to adequately address all these requirements has hampered the process of preparing young leaders in public schools (Rhoads, 2011). Private schools across the globe have made significant milestones in achieving the preparation of young learners; however, in government schools, it has been more difficult (Rhoads, 2011).
According to Rhoads (2011), primary school children are at the developmental stages where essential skills could be easily natured and developed to influence cognitive and behavioral excellence. Another aspect of this same question is whether the government has set aside enough resources, and developed frameworks, guidelines, and policies to support early childhood leadership preparation (Zahran et al., 2016). That is, whether the government is prepared to support children with leadership abilities to educate and nurture them as they advance through to college. Therefore, the readiness of teacher in public primary schools remains a critical concern in the UAEwhich warrants an evidence-based assessment.
On the other hand, an evaluation of the literature on the preparation of young leaders also indicate limited evidence to offer essential insights for decision-making and change implementation (Mathias, 2017). The questions regarding primary schoolchildren preparation that linger among researchers are whether teachers in government schools in the UAE are sufficiently prepared to identify leadership traits and potential among the young learners, especially at their stage of childhood development.
1.4 Justification of the Study
Studies that have examined how education and leadership are interrelated are diverse and numerous (Rahman & Said, 2015; Vangen, 2017; Al-Dabbagh & Assaad, 2010). However, research dedicated to determining how children can be prepared to become competent leaders is limited. This research therefore tailored to examine not only the approaches and measures undertaken but also the competence and experience of teachers in government schools, in line with the process of identifying leaders and nurturing their talents at primary school. The trend to nurture talent at the early childhood development stage is becoming common practice (Kamali, Jayashree & Lindsay, 2015). The process of acquiring the desired experience and expertise depends on the exposure and preparation of potential leaders. Whenever this potential is identified at an early stage, then the possibility of generating successful leaders is guaranteed (Edwards, Elliott & Iszatt-White, 2013). Therefore, schools and learning institutions have become the breeding ground for nurturing successful leadership traits. However, in most cases, such consideration has been perceived as an affair to be conducted at high school and beyond. For instance, most projects operated by the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) have exclusively concerned leadership development among adults, and there is a gap in the literature about how we should develop younger leaders. Consequently, this study seeks to identify various approaches used in primary public schools in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and recommend additional initiatives and suggestions for improvement. The current concern is how leadership skills could be nurtured among primary schoolchildren (Kamali, Jayashree & Lindsay, 2015). At the primary school level, students are learning vital skills which indicate how they can be motivated and influenced to develop competent leadership abilities (Rhoads, 2011).
The topic was selected because the issue of leadership has become a significant consideration in governments, corporate sector, and Non-governmental organizations. Talent management, recruitment, and retention depend on the level of leadership competence. Therefore, it was necessary to examine how schools and learning institutions contribute towards the preparation of learners to become leaders. I noticed that higher education level programs are comprehensive and address multiple aspects; therefore, my curiosity led me to ask what is being done at primary school level in public schools (Rhoads, 2011). While many aspects could be investigated, I focused on the readiness of teachers. In this case, my interest was on whether the teachers are prepared to nurture leadership skill among primary schoolchildren. However, the evaluation of the readiness of teachers could not be carried out effectively without incorporating an assessment of the strategies they employ (Al-Dabbagh & Assaad, 2010). Therefore, this study topic became my area of focus and relevant because it was essential to present the exact scenario characterizing the primary schools regarding the preparation of young learners to become leaders.
Teachers are classroom leaders who can potentially assist children to realize their leadership talents and such a role calls for proper preparation, such as training, the creation of programs tailored to nurture leadership, and creating a separate budget to sustain such strategies. They can collaborate with the families to achieve positive outcomes. Thus, a skillful teacher will not only support the children and encourage the families to foster leadership skills in the children but will also provide a suitable environment for the same. In most cases, private institutions have progressed over government schools because of the advantage of access to resources (Rhoads, 2011; Zahran et al., 2016). In the UAE, data regarding how government schools are implementing leadership training and development at primary school is limited. More evidence-based research is needed to assess and improve the process of leadership identification and development among primary schoolchildren.
1.5 Research Objective
This research was designed to evaluate the readiness of teachers to cultivate leadership skills in primary school children in Abu Dhabi and the approaches used to determine leadership qualities among these children. The research attempts to determine the strategies in place to ensure that students are nurtured to become successful leaders in future. Education has become an essentia...
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