Schools need a strong vision as much as all other institutions – social, economic or governance! Indeed, the lack of a strong vision for schools is a big part of the current crisis in education. To understand the big difference a vision statement will make to a school, let us see an example of a ‘vision statement’ of an exemplary organisation – Apple Computers!
‘We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing … We believe in the simple not the complex … We believe in saying no to thousands of projects, so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us. We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allow us to innovate in a way that others cannot.’
‘And frankly, we don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we’re wrong and the courage to change. And, I think, regardless of who is in what job, those values are so embedded in this company that Apple will do extremely well.’- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Computer (Quoted on CNN Money.com).
It is for all to see, many of us have experienced Apple products, what this statement has done to every customer, employee, and partner of Apple computers even after the loss of its visionary Founder, Steve Jobs. The market capitalisation of Apple Computers breached USD 700 billon mark in November 2014 – an amazing testimony to the power of visioning.
The more articulated the vision, the better executed the processes and hence, more consistent the quality of ‘outcomes’ of the processes.
Specifically, all organisations have a vision (or goal) articulated at two levels – global (such as the one above) and local (such as the one on environmental responsibility of Apple which states – ‘…reduce our impact on climate change, find ways to use greener materials ….’
To take another example, all governance institutions across the world have two levels of vision statements global, e.g. improve the security of its citizens and local, e.g. reducing corruption at the citizen interface level to create employment opportunities. The global goal helps define the raison d’etre, the primary reason for ‘being in business’ – the top-down linkage while the local goal helps to define the priorities of the sub-units – the bottom-up linkage.
Carrying on the analogy, every school should also have two levels of vision –
- ‘global’, i.e. the common goal for all schools (e.g. the goal of education for overall development) and
- ‘local’, i.e. the specific goal of a school based on the particular demographics of the parent pool (e.g. in a largely rural school academic performance may get an overriding priority, at the cost of some activities for overall development);
Importantly, the local goal is a school’s way to stay on course to achieve the global goal!
The global goal of schools can actually be worded as “guarantee of overall development of every student”! The local variation would be about the strategy to reach the goal based on parent pool, teacher resources and the infrastructure.
How should schools create vision statements?
The global (‘institutional’) goal need not be recreated by any school – it is the inherent mandate for the institution called schools. As stated above, the global goal of schools could be ‘guarantee of overall development of every student’.
The local goal will have to be developed by educating all the stakeholders about the institutional goal and then mediating exchange of views among all the stakeholders about how to best achieve the global goal(s) within the context of a school.
Mediating (meaningful) exchange among all, unfortunately, requires strong democratic functioning of institutions. Schools in India are not really models of democracy. As a result ‘local vision statements’ in Indian schools (and in many other countries too) are simply too esoteric and imprecise, adversely affecting their quality benchmarks and achievements.
Creating effective vision statement for schools requires significant democratisation of schools’ decision making processes!