Principals expand horizons with new program

In what is being hailed as an Australian first, principals will soon embark on an invaluable learning experience, swapping places with foreign counterparts. 

The program, slated to begin in July, will see primary and secondary school principals in South Australia switch places with fellow principals from New Zealand.

The exchange will last 10 weeks and be aimed at helping principals experience school systems that are different from our own so that they can return with an enriched perspective, Education Minister, Dr Susan Close, told ABC.

“It means they can spend a bit of time understanding what a different system and country is like,” Close said.

She added that she hoped the principals would return with different work practices that could benefit the South Australian education system.

The exchange will initially be trialled in New Zealand due to its proximity and similarities in teaching standards – however the program may be expanded to Asian countries in future.

“We are really excited that our SACE [South Australian Certificate of Education] is being taught in places like China and Malaysia, and why wouldn't we similarly be interested in learning from other countries?” Close said.

As student participation rates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education declines, Close said the program may reveal some of the root causes behind this issue.

“All kids benefit from being better at maths. I think there are multiple causes to why we are not getting as many students studying STEM as we would like,” she said.

“For the selected principals, the learning benefits [of this program] will be invaluable.”

Professional peer-shadowing programs have also helped principals improve their professional networking opportunities.

Leading Educators Around the Planet (LEAP) is one such program. The initiative, which was founded in Ontario by NSW educators in 2011, allows principals to explore new ways of improving both the quality of their leadership and their professional networks.

LEAP continues to connect principals who go on to host one another at their homes, engage in professional study tours and explore management best practice from their peers in a friendly and professional way.

“For a lot of the more broad-thinking and aware educators, they're now realising that to effectively run a school as a large organisation, you have to do a lot more than simply make sure the tuck shop runs well,” LEAP founder, Warren Marks, told The Educator.

The program has now spread to New Zealand, the U.S, U.K, Ireland and Finland.