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Defining a Vision

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

The stonemason did not describe his actions, the choice of stone, his skills or any issues – instead, he described the purpose, and the passion that drove him and his community to realise their vision for a splendid temple. The vision gave him the energy, pride and commitment to engage as a team member in creating something of quality. The challenge of striving for something that may always be just out of reach is what leads communities to achieve far more than would otherwise be the case.

A stonemason was shaping a keystone to place at the apex of a doorway to a temple and was asked by a visitor, 'What are you doing?' the reply was immediate and unexpected: 'I am helping to build a temple to the glory of god.'

Sunil Batra (2011) reflects that in India, ‘schools rarely visualise or articulate their own vision’.

A clear aspiration of the NEP 2019 and Right to Education Act (RtE) 2009 is that schools should become more autonomous, taking responsibility for their continuous improvement and being responsive to the local community. The establishment of school management committees (SMCs) and the requirement that all schools should have a ‘school development plan’ (SDP) in place are intended to support this aspiration.

Batra goes on to suggest that ‘not having a vision, a goal or an aim to work for with a moral purpose of development for a people or a community is tantamount to working in a void’.

As a school leader, it is your responsibility to create a vision for your school. That vision needs to be shaped to fit the school’s particular context, as well as the needs and aspirations of both the school and the wider community. Its design should reflect the school’s cultural identity and the attributes of its students and their families.


The Importance of Having a Clear Vision

Four behaviours that characterise an effective school leader (Rutherford, 1985) are to:

  • have clear, informed visions of what they want their schools to become; visions that focus on students and their needs

  • translate these visions into goals for their schools and expectations for their teachers, students and administrators

  • not stand back and wait for things to happen, but continuously monitor progress

  • intervene, when necessary, in a supportive or corrective manner.

So developing a vision for your school is an important part of being an effective school leader. In a report that examined several educational systems across the world to see what factors led to improvement, it was found that ‘almost all school leaders say that setting vision and direction’ are among ‘the biggest contributors to their success’ (McKinsey & Co., 2010).

A ‘Vision’ is a learn statement of what the school is trying to achieve so that all stakeholders - teachers, students, their families and community members - are working together.

The vision is about looking forward and seeking to motivate and unify everyone to achieve the very best for the students. It needs to capture the aims of a school in its particular context and guide and inform the preparation of a school development plan.

A vision is important for schools (West-Burnham, 2010) because it:

  • provides the focus for all aspects of organisational life

  • informs planning and the development of policies

  • clarifies and prioritises the work of individuals

  • helps to articulate shared beliefs and develop a common language, thereby securing alignment and effective communication

  • characterises the organisation to the rest of the world.

The vision is much more than a few words of vague intention; it embodies the values of the community and is the foundation for actions that will lead to school improvement.


What is a Vision Statement?

A vision statement is essentially a value statement. It summaries the moral purpose of the school and reflects a set of shared values. A good starting point in the process of establishing a vision for your school is to examine your values and beliefs and the values embodied in the NEP 2019.

The NEP 2019 sets out an ambitious programme for education in India and the RtE 2009 puts into place some of the structures that will support its implementation. The RtE 2009 also stresses the responsibility of a school to address the needs of all students and foster inclusion.

Figure 1 The values underpinning the NFC 2005 and the RtE 2009.

As a school leader in India in the twenty-first century, your role is to translate the aspirations of the NEP 2019 into practice in your school. Establishing a shared vision that embodies the values set out above is the starting point.


About the Author

Dr. Atul Nischal is the Founder of the International Council for School Leadership (ICSL) and serves as the Program Director of ReSET, the 3 week online certificate program for educators.


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