One Hundred twenty-five school Principals and Teachers from Chennai attended a conference on educational leadership organised by the All India Don Bosco Education Society (AIDBES) in association with the Salesian Province of Chennai at the Don Bosco College, Kilpauk, Chennai on June 29, 2019.

    An online survey conducted by AIDBES recently revealed that the Transformative Leadership pattern is high among the school leaders of Don Bosco schools in India. The result pointed out that school leaders have a high level of discernment and also a sense of collaborative leadership.

    ‘Leading into the Future: Spirituality, Discernment, and Leadership among Heads of Schools in India’ was the theme of the Chennai conference, where two eminent speakers, Dr. Chris AM Hermans, from Radboud University Nijmegen, and Professor Dr. Francis Vincent Anthony SDB, Salesian University Rome, delivered the keynote addresses.

    The Programme began with the lightning of the lamp followed by a Welcome note by Fr. Stanley Lawrence Ignatius, Principal and Rector, St Bede’s Academy, Chennai. The Presentation of the Programme was by Dr. Maria Charles SDB, Secretary/Treasurer, All India Don Bosco Education Society (AIDBES).

    Dr. Chris AM Hermans addressed the gathering first and stressed on the importance of the need for transformational leadership in the education sector. He focused on the topic ‘Good Education, Transformational Leadership and the Gift of Discernment’. Research among school leaders in Salesian schools recently brought to light that in order to grow in transformational leadership, school leaders needed to grow in decision making on the basis of the gift of discernment. He also spoke about the three elements that influence higher levels of discernment, namely: spiritual traits, spiritual capital and spiritual experiences

    The first response was given by Dr. Anthony Savari Raj, Professor of Philosophy and Former Head, Department of Arts, Manipal University Jaipur, Rajasthan, India on The role of leadership and discernment in the educational process. In his response he stated that to understand better the spirit of Prof. Hermans’ enterprise, it’s important to keep in mind a fundamental distinction that is to be made between what we may call human invariants and cultural universals.

    Professor Dr. Francis Vincent Anthony, the Second Keynote speakers in his address, said that the research among school leaders in Salesians institutions prove that higher performance of transformational leadership is influenced by the following antecedents: the gift of discernment, spiritual traits, spiritual capital, and spiritual experience, besides some antecedents, referring to personal and contextual features. He focused on ‘Spiritual Antecedents of Discernment and Transformational Leadership’. He also mentioned about Devdutt Pattanaik in his book ‘The Leadership Sutra’ sums up the transformational function of the leader in these terms: “A manager is expected to adapt to changes in the organization; A leader is expected to change the circumstances, have greater vision; A follower does as told”.

    The second response was given by Dr. Jayaprakash Kodadala, Principal of Don Bosco College of Education & Research, Dharmapuri, Tamil Nadu on The spiritual dimension of teacher leadership Programme. He cited Neil Darragh – who says spirituality to be “the combinations of beliefs and practices which animate and integrate people’s lives”. He also went to say if viewed through the lens of spirituality, the classroom becomes a sacred space from which teacher and students make the pilgrim’s journey toward greater understanding of subject matter, understanding of self and understanding of truth.

    There were two Practice Oriented Workshops which were conducted. One was on Teacher
    formation to discernment and leadership conducted by Dr. Chris A.M. Hermans and the second one was on Spiritual formation for teacher leadership conducted by Prof. Dr. Francis Vincent Anthony.

    The meeting was conducted to understand in depth about the leadership style and patters in all our Don Bosco Schools in India. To understand what type of school leaders we have and what type of educators we have’. There was a survey which was conducted in 106 schools which were chosen randomly after having stratified the schools according to the 11 Salesian administrative provinces, levels (High and Higher Secondary) and their location (urban, semi-urban and rural). Three respondents from each of the selected schools were included in the sample: Principal / Headmaster, Vice Principal / Assistant Headmaster, and a key Coordinating Teacher (chosen by the school head). 198 formed our final sample of respondents, bringing the response rate to 62%, which in the case of an online survey is rather high.

    All the participants and the respondents who participated in the event were very happy and contented from the full day reflection on Discernment, Spirituality and Leadership. They were keen on listening to the results of the survey that was conducted. Many of the participants appreciated the Practice Oriented Workshops. The event was coordinated by Fr. Y. L. Irudayaraj, Principal – St. Mary’s Anglo-Indian Hr. Sec. School, Chennai.

    The Citadel

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    Dominic Matthews

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