[Opinion] Nurturing Young Leaders in Schools

Muhammad Ali 

Our society is currently in the midst of different challenges. Lack of quality leadership is viewed as one of the reasons of such challenges. Looking for the solution of the dearth of quality leadership in different fields of life, the huge energetic young population can be seen as a powerful force to overcome such embedded challenges. By nurturing the potential and capacities of the youth, quality leaders can be developed for tomorrow.

In developing quality leadership, the role of formal education cannot be overlooked. Educational institutions, particularly schools are the nurseries for nurturing the potentials of young people as leaders. However, despite highlighting the importance of youth leadership development in the national education policy and curriculum documents, it is evident that in majority of our schools the curricular and co-curricular activities do not help the students develop their leadership qualities. As a result, after graduating from our schools the young people face challenges in playing their role as leaders.

Developing Youth leadership in schools requires a serious and conscious effort. It demands to transform various beliefs and practices of the schools.  Some of the beliefs which are viewed prerequisite for youth leadership development in the schools needs to reflect upon.

The first thing to change is the school management and teachers’ belief and attitude towards students potential and capacities. It is important to view youth as assets rather than threat.  Every student has the potential to become a leader but they need the conditions to actualize their gifted potentials. Hence school should trust in the potentials of youth.

 Secondly, it is also crucial that how the schools view the notion of leadership development. In past, there was a general belief that leaders are born and cannot be developed. However, today leadership practices have shown that leadership qualities and skills can be nurtured and developed through conscious efforts. Besides understanding the purpose of schooling and education schools also need to understand that leadership can be nurtured in schools and forward serious effort to provide opportunities for students to practice and develop their leadership potentials.

Thirdly, Leadership development is complex process and requires dynamic and multiple approaches. A conscious effort is needed at the management level to diversify its activities and open up platforms at multiple levels from the classrooms to management level. The management should also support and encourage students in curricular and co-curricular activities at a provincial, national or even international level. This attitude will help the schools to search for the activities that guide the youth in developing their cognitive, affective and psychomotor domain of life.

For youth leadership development various approaches has been suggested in literature. However, to highlight some of activities that are important for leadership development it would be effective to discuss them in the light of the qualities important for leaders and how schools can inculcate those qualities.

Personal vision is one of the crucial qualities of the leader and it can be developed in a very young age.  For this purpose schools need to encourage formal sessions and co-curricular activities which provide opportunity to the students to think and discuss about their future ambitions and their role in the society. They should be given chance to reflect on their values about their lives. Such exercises will help the students to look at future from different perspective with positive attitude. These practices also help them in determining their career for their future lives.

Another important quality of a leader is the ability to work and deal with diverse group of people. This quality is not built in isolation rather it needs a social medium of human interaction. For this purpose schools requires to set such practices that provide chance to the students to interact with each other and work in groups. The group members should be given opportunity to play leadership role by taking responsibility. It is also the responsibility of the teacher and management to teach values while working in group. For this purpose collaborative work in the class, games and other projects work needs to be introducing in the schools.

Concern for other is the one of the important qualities of a leader. This quality demands values which promote respect, concern and sensitivity for human being as well as for the environment. This complex task is carried out by different actors such as home, society, media and school. However, as a social institution, the role of school cannot be overlooked in inculcating values of respect and feeling empathy for human being. This quality can be developed through a variety of practices in the school. First the ethos and values of the school are very crucial. If the school is not respecting and showing concern for others then it cannot be expect from the students. Secondly, it is important to teach the values in classroom and provide opportunity to students to practice those values through interacting with each other.

Decision making is considered another important skill of leadership. In this regard the schools need to values the students’ voices and include them in the decision making process. The students should be given such task where they have to take decision individually as well as in groups. Such activity will enhance the confidence level and self-esteem of the student.

In short, our country needs quality leadership in different fields of life in the future to pace with a competitive globalized world. School can play a vital role in developing young leaders of tomorrow. However, schools needs to reflect on their beliefs and practices how they can fulfill their responsibility in better way. They have to initiate such practices which can cater the dynamic needs of students such as social, physical, psychological and spiritual needs, to prepare them for leading the nation.

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