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The principal makes the difference

Jaime Saavedra's picture
Also available in: Español
Principals have to deal with hundreds of students and their personal and academic challenges. (Photo: Sarah Farhat​ / World Bank)


All schools are different. I’m not referring to the building, the number of students or teaching practices. I’m talking about the school’s spirit. When you walk into a good school, the building is often well-organized and clean. The students look busy and happy. You don’t see strict discipline; ideally, you see organized chaos.

When you see a well-functioning school, most likely, there is a good principal behind it. A leader who sets a vision for the school and sets clear objectives. Someone who creates the space that fosters teachers’ professional and personal development, and encourages students’ personal growth, creativity, and their own journey of discovery.

Running a school efficiently is a very difficult challenge. A principal must be a pedagogical leader to dozens of teachers: observing them in the classroom, evaluating institutional performance, and helping them get the professional development opportunities they need. Principals have to deal with hundreds of students and their personal and academic challenges. They need to respond to parents, each with their own expectations for the school. And principals also need to contend with the administrative and financial burdens imposed by the bureaucracy.  

El director hace la diferencia

Jaime Saavedra's picture
Also available in: English
Los directores tienen que lidiar con los desafíos personales y académicos de cientos de estudiantes. (Foto: Sarah Farhat / Banco Mundial)​


Todas las escuelas son distintas. No hablo del edificio, del número de estudiantes, ni del enfoque pedagógico que siguen. Hablo del espíritu de la escuela. Al entrar a un buen colegio, uno a veces ve que todo está bien organizado y limpio. Los estudiantes se ven ocupados, y al mismo tiempo, felices. No necesariamente se observa disciplina estricta, idealmente, uno ve un caos organizado.

Cuando una escuela funciona bien, en gran medida se debe a que existe un buen director. El buen director establece una visión y objetivos para la escuela, y puede hacer de ella un espacio efectivo de desarrollo profesional y personal para los maestros, y un espacio de crecimiento, creatividad y descubrimiento para los alumnos.

Lograr que una escuela funcione bien es una tarea extremadamente compleja. Requiere que el director se constituya en un líder pedagógico de decenas de profesores, observándolos en el aula, monitoreando permanentemente su desempeño con sus alumnos y en su contribución al trabajo institucional. Así podrá el director desplegar las capacidades de su cuerpo docente de manera efectiva y darles apoyo en lo que necesiten. Requiere lidiar con cientos de estudiantes y sus retos personales y académicos; y con los padres de familia de esos estudiantes, que tienen sus propias expectativas sobre la escuela. Además, debe lidiar con los retos burocráticos, administrativos y financieros para hacer funcionar la institución. 

Supporting India’s next generation of bright tech and science minds

Jessica Lee's picture
Ajay (third from right) was a Mitacs Globalink research intern at the University of Toronto.


With the Indian economy poised to be among the fastest growing economies in the world, there is great demand for world-class engineers to drive domestic value-addition, innovation and make the economy even more competitive globally. In this context, the Indian government’s Technical/Engineering Education Quality Improvement Project (TEQIP), supported by the World Bank, has been working with engineering colleges across the country to make them more responsive to a rapidly changing technical environment.

Teaching 21st Century Skills to Ready Students for the World of Work

Mohammed A. Khan's picture


What are the jobs of the future? How can I steer my daughter to a career which offers the best potential for secure employment? If I am honest with her, no one really knows. A decade ago, who had heard of an App Developer or a Chief Listening Officer? These jobs, like so many others, simply didn’t exist.

Working Together, Governments and Unions of Top-Performing Countries Show that it is Possible to Improve the Teaching Profession

Emiliana Vegas's picture

Last week, I traveled to New York City to attend the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession hosted by the US Department of Education, the OECD, and Education International, a global teachers union.  Of the 16 countries represented, all were top-performers in the international PISA tests, or rapid improvers, such as Poland and Brazil.  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called the meeting to learn from what other countries are doing to improve teaching and learning, a sign that not only is this task complex and challenging, but that it is critical to countries at all levels of development.

So how do these top-performers and rapid-improvers manage their teaching forces to achieve high learning outcomes? The goal of the Summit was to have frank and open discussions about what works. Each country’s delegation included both government and teacher representatives, thus recognizing from the start the need for collaboration in the design and implementation of teacher policy reforms.

Indigenous Peoples, Poverty and Development

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

Blogging from the World Bank's Indigenous Peoples Research Dissemination Workshop in Washington DC.

As is well known, there are more 300 million indigenous peoples in the world.  While they make up fewer than 5 percent of the global population they account for about 10 percent of the world’s poor.  Next year, Cambridge University Press will publish my book with Gillette Hall on the state of the world’s indigenous peoples

As part of the dissemination process, we have brought together most of the contributors to our volume for a workshop in Washington D.C. today, to share their research with each other and with an audience of World Bank staff, researchers and others from the development community. We expect a lively discussion on our forthcoming publication, which covers countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. 

Global Hunger? School Feeding Offers Double Dividend of Healthier Children and Better Chances in the Classroom

Donald Bundy's picture

Co-authored by Lesley Drake, Director of the Partnership for Child Development

As leaves crackled and autumn closed in on Washington DC at this time last year, the Brookings Institution played host for a special event focused on global hunger. At that time, World Bank President, Robert B. Zoellick, joined Executive Director of the U.N. World Food Programme, Josette Sheeran, for a pre-Thanksgiving discussion on the fight against food insecurity that continues to wage on for millions around the globe.

Many of those hungry are the most vulnerable—particularly children.

Waiting for School Autonomy

Harry A. Patrinos's picture

Alternatives to the traditional public school system are actively being sought and radical approaches for expanding school accountability are being widely touted.  For example, in the award-winning documentary, Waiting for Superman.

While radical approaches are needed – given the desperate state of most public education systems; just see the poor results of most middle income countries in international assessments such as PISA and TIMSS – there are more mundane approaches, already in practice, that could be made to offer so much more.  Giving public schools adequate resources, the right to make appropriate decisions, and holding them accountable through the publication of school results – in short, school autonomy – has been used in countries around the world since the mid-1960s.  The school autonomy approach – be it known as school-based management, whole school development, comprehensive school reform, or parental and community participation – has been tried, evaluated, and proven successful at achieving a range of education goals in many different contexts.