Dr. Sheeba Jojo, Vice Principal, GEMS Our Own English High School, Dubai, UAE

Dr. Sheeba Jojo likes to call herself an ‘educational evangelist’ who loves to inspire both the teaching and the learning community. Having grown up with tremendous support from her parents in nurturing her spirit of learning, innovation, and creativity, Dr. Sheeba Jojo had plenty of opportunities in her school life and after, that helped the teacher inside her to grow and realize her aspirations as an educator. Dr. Sheeba Jojo is a proud alumnus of GEMS Our Own English High School – Dubai (OOD) and she believes that she is one of the luckiest people ever to come back to work in her dear Alma Mater. She joined OOD as the Assistant Headmistress in 2019 and today dons the role of the Vice Principal.


The landscape of education today is dynamic and susceptible to a plethora of systemic changes. Educational leaders too must be dynamic and ready to embrace change with open arms. Educational organisations typically operate on deep seated cultural norms and traditions that define behaviours and decisions. This poses enormous challenge to new leaders who may have to grapple with hostility and indifference for a while before they can make a difference.

Today, success as an educational leader is about perspectives and strategies suited to a culture of change. The need of the hour is smart, young individuals with a clear vision, equipped with grit, passion and resilience to percolate their vision effectively. One must be high on emotional intelligence to be able to catch subtle nuances of indifference, hostility and displeasure to be able to react in a timely and appropriate manner. Avoid every instance of damaging news going viral as people’s sensibilities lean towards sensationalizing the most trivial of issues first before attempting to engage in dialogue to address a redressal.

Summarised below are a few key ideas to guide any new educational leader to a successful tenure in education.

Life-long learning and trend-setting

Be a leader that everybody looks up to for inspiration and motivation. Gone are the days when one could inspire with credentials drawn during one’s youth, topped with years of experience landing you a leadership position. We are living in an era that values talent more than experience. We come across inspiring stories of young leaders like Elon Musk. Demonstrate the virtues of life long learning by embarking on new courses of learning to improve your craft. Also, use every opportunity to share what you have learnt or read lately, thus, promoting a culture of engagement and action research; nurturing inquiry groups among students and staff alike.

Value relationships

Leaders must consciously establish a culture of valuing relationships within an institution. An educational leader must understand that there is a strong connection between your relationship with all your stakeholders and your success as a leader through sustained school improvement. Connecting virtually for ease and comfort has hurled the importance and essence of real time connections away from our lives. However, nobody can undermine the value of a face to face meeting, be it with staff or students. The impact of real time human engagement is phenomenal and invaluable. Leaders must make the effort to connect directly with staff and students by making themselves visible and approachable. It is a great idea to facilitate opportunities to interact with all stakeholders as often as possible to catch their pulse and modify plans and actions across school.

Teaching and Learning

The true success of any institution depends on the quality of teaching and learning. Do not compromise on this. Hire the best people that you can and provide them with the training and resources to produce desired student outcome. Personalisation and inclusion are the buzzwords today and educational leaders must have a clear vision to fulfil the expectations of both, to ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential and is provided with equal opportunities to do so. Harness the power of technology to the maximum for this purpose. Implement tools and programs that don’t simply integrate technology for the sake of doing so; rather enhance teaching and learning by being able to monitor individual learning and progress and thus contribute to impactful learning for every student.

Redefining learning spaces

Contemporary leaders must think beyond physical classrooms and established norms of learning. Students must be allowed greater flexibility and choices where learning is concerned. Diagnostic tests like CAT4  and other benchmark examinations have indeed helped in educating the teaching community with detailed student learning profiles, highlighting learner strengths and  weaknesses. However, all the data that is available to schools is not being fully utilized to provide the best learning path to each student and this is what successful school leaders must drive. Education ought to be more than acing examinations; it should also be about understanding the needs and challenges of the world. It ought to be about nurturing critical and problem-solving skills of students to be able to identify problems on their own and discover workable solutions. Students must be given opportunities to exercise their creativity freely and communicate without inhibitions.

Establishing meaningful partnerships

Schools must strengthen partnerships with local and global institutions to prepare students for life and careers after school. The needs of the job market are changing exponentially and schools can stay abreast of market needs, only by working closely with them. Hands on learning and field trips must infuse meaningful engagement into school routines. Student engagement and interest can only be sustained through a dynamic, novel and innovative school program that beats the monotony of routine, regime and tradition. Internships should be an integral part of the school system. Experts in various fields must visit to engage students to share a clear understanding of the expectations and challenges of roles and careers.

Transformation in learning cultures and educational spaces is driven predominantly by conscientious and passionate educational leaders. Re-culturing is definitely the way forward. Change ought to more than structural and superficial. Real change must be about what people in an organization value and how they work towards accomplishing it.

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