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Getting the right teachers to become principals in Singapore


To produce effective school leaders, school systems first need to select the right people to become leaders. To get the right people to become school leaders, high-performing school systems provide the right incentives to get the best teachers to apply for leadership positions, and implement processes effective in selecting the best of those who apply.

In Singapore, principals’ salaries are high, partly in recognition of the demands of the role, as well as to attract strong candidates. As part of the stringent selection process for principals, candidates are put through an Assessment Center, which is a series of carefully designed exercises that elicit observable behaviors related to the core competencies of a school leader. Candidates that are found to have principalship potential attend a six month program run by the National Institute of Education. These candidates are assessed continuously by the training team, and this assessment is fed into the selection process. This ongoing assessment over a six-month period provides a more accurate reading of the intrinsic capabilities than is achieved by a regular recruitment process. At the end of the six-month program, only candidates who are found to be ready for principalship and can be matched to schools are appointed as principals.

Once the school system has identified and developed the right people with the right skills, it then needs to structure the roles, expectations and incentives to ensure that its principals focus on instructional leadership, not on school administration. This contrasts with school systems in which many principals spend most of their time on tasks not directly related to improving instructions in their schools, thus limiting their capacity to effect real improvement in student outcomes.

Source: The McKinsey Report (2007), 'How the world’s best performing school systems come out on top'.

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