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Leadership education in Singapore's high schools: its roles in school-business engagement to develop future leaders
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posted on 27.02.2017by Yew, Ker Ling
Educators recognise the need to develop Leadership Education Programs (LEPs) that prepare students to deal with the complex and rapid changes in a globalised world. Business organizations, with their emphasis on anticipating and managing multifaceted changes, are a natural partner for high schools to work with to cultivate leadership qualities among students. School practitioners are fully cognizant of the benefits of engaging business organizations to provide greater exposure and authentic platforms to students for experiential learning, as well as to augment school practices that foster leadership development in students. However, the current status quo points to a general lack of dialogue between high schools and business organizations to establish an understanding of the leadership qualities businesses look for in their recruits from the school systems. Significant and sustainable school-business engagement for the common purpose of shaping effective LEPs for students is thus infrequent and limited.
This research leverages a constructivist paradigm and adopts cross-sectional, multiple methods through a three-staged research process to investigate the way school LEPs engage with businesses in their implementation and the extent to which they meet the expectations of businesses in the Singapore context. Stage I of the study involved designing the survey questionnaires to elicit the leadership qualities business leaders saw as significant when identifying their future leaders. Stage II employed a mixed method of quantitative questionnaires and direct interviews with business leaders on their school-business engagement experiences. Stage III adopted the multiple case studies design with theoretical sampling of LEP cases from a sample of Singapore high schools using Astin’s (1993) Input-Environment-Output (I-E-O) theory as the lens.
This study draws on the experiences of business leaders as well as educators associated with a diversity of LEPs in high schools to discern why an engagement gap exists between the two parties. The fieldwork, which also involves ten LEP case studies in three high schools, helps to firstly, distill the leadership qualities sought by business organizations in their future leaders; secondly, identify the attributes essential to sustainable school-business engagement; and thirdly, determine the roles high schools can play to contribute to the future leadership development of their students.
Based on this research, I constructed a school-business engagement model for developing future leadership qualities that is built upon three categories of nine attributes as a key outcome of this thesis. By encapsulating all the key attributes and roles high schools can play to enact each attribute in one model, the school-business engagement model becomes a readily accessible checklist for stakeholders to examine, improve and build sustainable relationships that bridge high schools and business organizations, and create more meaningful LEPs for students.
The three categories which my engagement framework hinges on are: the establishment of ‘Mutually Agreed Engagement Outcomes’ to kick-start school-business collaborations; followed by the creation of a ‘Flexible Engagement Structure’ to delineate the strategies for working together, and finally, the generation of ‘Leveraged Engagement Sustenance’ to nurture and preserve the relationship. Incorporated in each of the three categories are three attributes, which together form the school-business engagement model for leadership education.
With increased awareness and emphasis on corporate social responsibilities among business organizations to contribute to nurturing future leaders, high schools can play a pivotal role in initiating dialogues with business organizations to understand the future leadership qualities sought by them. The engagement model provides a timely and practical guide for schools and business organizations to collaborate to create more meaningful LEPs for students. Through their participation in such LEPs, high school students acquire competencies and life skills that prepare them to better tackle tomorrow’s challenges.