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Major Langlands on BBC -letter2

With reference to video clip of Major Langlands, the objective of this letter is to offer gratitude, salute and thank Major Langlands for his sacrifices and to select Chitral for promotion of education years back.

In comparison to other organizations working in the same sector for promotion of education in Chitral at the cost of millions of dollars as foreign aid, the out put of Langlands School has been much batter and contributed a lot in providing quality education to Chitralies resulting in improvement of living standard of thousands of families in terms of getting better jobs as result of study at his school. Now he is physically getting weak because of age factor, and is worried about the future of his School. He knows there is no one in Chitral to replace him and therefore trying his best to get another British volunteer to come to Chitral and continue his mission following his footsteps. It will be our Good luck if he can find some one of his choice otherwise there are chances that the School may not be able to maintain its standard after Major Langlands, and we will loose one of our biggest asset.

At Chitral level carrying few of characteristics of Langlands could be either Dr. Inayatullah Faizi who has vision and long teaching experience or Mr. Islam ud din of Garumchashma who has proved his leadership qualities through successfully lunching Pamir schools and has the courage to call spade a spade,

Dr. Khalil (Jughooru)
Hamilton Ontario Canada

16 May 2010.



Major Langlands on BBC -letter

I watched the BBC video clip on Major Langlands and being a teacher and a principal, I couldn't resist my temptation to comment on it. My objective is to contribute to the thought process that can be of help in leadership transition of the Langlands School. My comments are neither directly or by insinuation anyway critical of this long serving dedicated educator.

Major Langlands' career is not only longer than the life of Pakistan but also a sustained commitment to education where it has been mostly needed. It was an apt act of gratitude to change the schoolís name and dedicating it to its benefactor who has worked tirelessly to build its endowment and leading it despite his advanced age. Alas! Gratitude as a value, an ethic is fast eroding amongst Chitralis, at least it appears to me. No wonder Major Langlands is desperate to find an Englishman with a spirit of adventure. He says: "I would certainly expect him to have some of my characteristics". This short statement speaks volume. Why an Englishman? Is it because a non Englishman canít have some of Major Langlands' characteristics? Is it because a non Englishman canít be trusted to manage the resources of the school? Is it because an Englishman can better generate resources, particularly financial resources thereby strengthening the schoolís endowment? I will not indulge in seeking speculative answers to these questions and leave it to Major Langlandsí wisdom. My concern is long term sustainability of the school and its quality.

My comments are based on my experience and my research. I taught in a Karachi school for six year, commissioned and developed a high profile higher secondary school in Gilgit as its founding principal and managed a large network of schools in Gilgit-Baltistan as Chief Academic and Operation Officer. My Ph. D. thesis is on the professional development of teachers. With this background, I strongly believe that school leadership plays a critical role in developing a community of learners consisting of students, teachers, management staffs, parents, civic leaders and others. As a matter of fact, principalís role is a cementing one bringing all these constituents together in an enabling environment to build a vibrant learning school community. In other words, he/she is an architect of the school culture. He/she is an instructional leader for his teaching staff, developing their professional capacity on an ongoing basis, inspires students by expanding their horizons of the future, acknowledging and appreciating the professional behavior of the management staff, providing updates to the parents and community leaders on a regular basis, and above all engendering the ethics of honesty, industry, collegiality, generosity in terms of knowledge sharing and assisting others in their capacity enhancement.

The second critical element to sustain the quality of school is to ensure that it produces its own leadership rather than being dependent upon external head hunting. What this means is that the school's quality of education and organizational culture is such that it attracts the best quality teaching faculty and students, who in turn aspire to become its leader, faculty members or management staff. The nourishment of such culture rests on the principalís shoulders. They know what they have experienced and what is expected of them should anyone of them to assume its leadership. They also know who the best among them is to assume that position. This is not to suggest that the leadership should always come from within the staff, not at all. What I am saying is that the internal candidates have the capacity to compete with the best external candidate. The internal collective capacity should be such that the new principal knows who he/she is leading, not a bunch of mediocre but a strong community of learners.

A third building block for quality sustenance is that the principal should have the ability to lead as oppose to manage. I found it absolutely ridiculous when principal is viewed as a manager even worse as an agent of the central management office to impose its often narrow conceived utilitarian objectives upon educators of the school. The managerial role is a small aspect of the principalís leadership, which he/she can exercise easily through the admin staff working with others in a team spirit. Leadership involves many things some of them are symbolic but critical. He/she should be believed for honesty, fairness, respectability, ability to deal with issues without damaging the personís self-esteem, empathy without compromising on principles and policies, capacity to transform individualsí mistakes into opportunities to learn and improve themselves, and many more. All these qualities can be best utilized when principal has full knowledge of the local cultural environment and ability to contextualize his/her externally acquired competencies.

Taking the above reasoning into consideration, it will be prudent to look for an individual who can have some of the characteristics of Major Langlands to continue his legacy and at the same time brings to the school the knowledge and skills of leadership that can ensure its future leadership development locally through proper succession planning. This individual doesnít have to be an Englishman.

Dr Mir Baiz Khan,
Toronto, Canada,

13 May 2010.


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