Empowering School Leaders as Middle Executives in the Centralized Education System of Cyprus

Empowering School Leaders as Middle Executives in the Centralized Education System of Cyprus

Antonios Kafa (Open University of Cyprus, Cyprus)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4331-6.ch005
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This chapter will provide information on the context of supporting and empowering school leaders in crisis management in the global pandemic crisis. Based on the contextual paradigm of the centralized education system in Cyprus, and in particular on school principals in Cyprus who acted as middle executives, this chapter will provide a guided theoretical perspective on how to lead in school organizations within a centralized education system during crises by focusing on the developmental framework of school leaders' skills capacity. In particular, through collecting evidence from the context of Cyprus during the pandemic crisis, a conceptual framework of empowering school leaders as middle executives is presented and analyzed. This framework could support policy experts on school leaders' professional training and capacity for handling uncertainty and crisis. Also, further empirical research could validate the proposed framework and examine to what extent this framework could be adopted by school leaders in school organizations both in centralized and decentralized education systems.
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Millions of individuals around the world have been distracted by the COVID-19 virus, which has caused disruption in their lives. The travel sector, enterprises, and economies have all suffered serious consequences as a result of the worldwide lockdown restrictions (Kafa & Pashiardis, 2020). In general, modern societies are in the midst of a “perfect storm”, which includes issues such as the global financial crisis, the worldwide climate crisis, and the global poverty crisis, all of which have an impact on people's lives when they are confronted with these “unknown unknowns” (Shrivastava et al., 2013; Ansell & Boin, 2019). As a result, the unprecedented arrival of the “invisible” enemy, known as COVID-19, once again brought the concept of crisis to the forefront, affecting all sectors and societies of humanity.

In particular, concerning the organizational aspect, the pandemic crisis brought various problems to organizations, such as financial problems, management problems, as well as insecurity for the employees. Furthermore, this crisis disrupted the normal operation of organizations since an immediate response is required in such cases (Fener & Cevik, 2015). Specifically, the COVID-19 crisis, besides the health crisis, also affected the economic and social aspects of organizations (Bartsch et al., 2021). Calogero and Yasin (2011) argued that due a crisis the overall operating level within an organization is changing since it affects everyone inside the organization. Therefore, during a crisis, specific initiatives and measures must be considered even if organizations are lacking time to prepare in advance (Bhaduri, 2019). In general, any crisis, including COVID-19, triggers a period of uncertainty in organizations. As a consequence, the need to redesign and redefine processes and procedures is more visible than ever, since everything changes.

Having said that, the crisis of COVID-19 triggered uncertainty in all educational organizations, including school organizations (both in primary and secondary education) and higher educational organizations that were not prepared in advance to address the crisis, and overall change the educational landscape across the various contexts. Specifically, in school organizations, this crisis affected more than one billion students and learners in more than 200 countries (Pokhler & Chhetri, 2021; UNESCO, 2020) and disrupted the way in which these learners were educated, since the concepts of teaching and learning were re-designed and dramatically altered (Harris, 2020). In particular, the learning process was redesigned since online and distance learning were imposed and brought changes in the educational processes. This particular change affected all school teachers who undertook the difficult task of transforming their conventional teaching into a distance teaching, through an online environment, and at the same time revealed how unprepared all the education systems were in terms of infrastructure and staff training. Research studies, indicated that teachers faced many challenges and pressure (Walls & Seashore, 2021), such as various complexities of meeting students’ needs remotely and the overall adjustment to these new circumstances, while maintaining high academic expectations (Burgin, Daniel & Wasonga, 2021).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Distributed Leadership: A form of shared leadership in which the leader promotes collaborative decision-making and distributes leadership duties to all the staff.

Centralized Education System: School organizations adhere to the Ministry of Education's guidelines and regulations. Overall school decisions are made from the top to the bottom by a single governing body.

Middle Executives: School leaders in Cyprus are obliged to follow all the rules and regulations. On that account, school education in Cyprus is overseen by the Ministry of Education and Culture, as well as by the Educational Service Commission. In Cyprus, school leaders serve as liaisons between their school organization and the Ministry of Education, and it is integrated into both primary (ages 6–12) and secondary (ages 12–18) education.

Entrepreneurial Leadership: A leader who achieves collaboration with a range of potential school stakeholders and acquires different resources so that the school organization operates and runs smoothly.

Crisis Management: Highlights the important role of the leader in organizations during a period of uncertainty as a consequence of a crisis that arises.

Organizational Crisis: An unpredictable event that disrupts the normal operations of the organization that requires an immediate response.

Context: The background, setting, framework, and environment of a particular country, area, etc.

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