Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
School of Education
Dr Bill Allen
Dr Christine Cunningham
School leadership in developing countries, with a particular focus on post-conflict and post-disaster, is an area of increasing importance to education researchers. However, this research has often been limited to the areas of educational achievement and outcomes, government policies and their impact on school systems, and comparing schools irrespective of their vastly different contexts.
This thesis reports on research into school leadership within Nepali government secondary schools, typically referred to as community schools. As a developing country, The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal (Nepal), faces crucial educational challenges due to its cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious diversity, and associated socio-economic disparities exacerbated by national restructuring towards a federal system. Critically, community schools have been further challenged by a decade-long civil war and two catastrophic earthquakes in 2015. Accordingly, secondary school students face inequality in terms of access, participation, and educational achievements. However, recent educational policy frameworks aim to minimise those inequalities by instigating equitable nation-building projects. These frameworks support affirmative, non-discriminatory initiatives in which secondary school headteachers carry out pivotal roles in meeting educational goals. To date, little research has investigated Nepali community school headteachers, their leadership styles, and their perspectives on the roles, responsibilities, priorities, and strategies that are implicit in mitigating the situational challenges in their schools. Through an in-depth investigation, this study aims to address this deficit, by exploring how community school headteachers managed their schools in different and difficult circumstances.
This research used a multiple-case study methodology, with the six community school headteachers as case study participants. The theoretical perspective of symbolic interactionism underpinned the research, from the development of the research question, through to data-generation and data analysis. The findings revealed key historic and contemporary contextual challenges that the Nepali community school headteachers coped with at the individual and school levels. Given the diversity of their experiences, perspectives, and actions, together with the distinctive circumstances of their schools, three of the headteachers were found to be demotivated, ineffective, unenthusiastic, and under-resourced. Conversely, the remaining three were committed, highly effective, optimistic, and resourceful. The headteachers who demonstrated a better understanding of the historic educational contexts were more effective school leaders, recognising and responding to these challenges with more successful strategies.
The study and its findings are significant, shedding light on the management approaches that Nepali community headteachers used, along with their perspectives in relation to their schools, their students, parents, and the wider community that included school committees and local government agencies. The thesis concludes by identifying and discussing the important leadership implications for Nepali government community school headteachers and the ramifications for local municipal governments and key stakeholder groups.
Dahal, R. (2021). Headteachers in difficult circumstances: A study of school leaders in post-conflict, post-disaster Nepal. https://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses/2486