Posted by: Principal/Editor | August 26, 2008

On “mainstream” educational leadership theories: Middle-of-the-road or Myopia

In the seemingly elusive search for what could be loosely-described as an “Asian worldview” on educational leadership, one must address the current dominant theories and beliefs in the field. What are the leading discourses that prevail when the subject of educational leadership is brought up? What do we discover when we make a cursory glance at curriculum offerings and subjects at universities granting degrees in education and at Teachers’ Colleges in different parts of the world? Naturally, these sets of propositions beget another search: what is the “dominant” — or using a more neutral term – “mainstream” worldview of educational leadership?

Logical Positivism

Young and Lopez argue quite convincingly that “the historical place of logical positivism in the field has strongly influenced our theoretical and methodological approaches”. The logical positivist tradition that could be traced to the Vienna Circle, refined to a great extent by Dewey, Russell and further ensconced by fellow positivists like Wittgenstein, and Durkheim seems to have gained a stranglehold on educational leadership. The logical positivist ethos posits that concepts or notions that are beyond the realm of logic and empirical verification are excluded as valid subjects for inquiry. One may even suggest that the dramatic increase in educational leadership circles for “evidence-based inquiry” is but an offshoot of the continuing prevalence of logical positivist thought.

Human Capital Theories

However, the contemporary and vogue partiality for logic and empirical evidence is not the only mainstream vision prevalent today. With the overpowering discourse on Knowledge-Based Economies (KBEs) as an inescapable reality of globalization, another mainstream voice in educational leadership that has emerged is the entire family of Human Capital theories. Education and the concomitant demands on leadership are reduced, to a great extent, to questions related to a maximization of productivity, efficiency and efficacy and the accumulation of various types of capital.

Middle-of-the-road or myopia: Asian worldview of education

History reveals to us that the cultural context and experience of most of the nations located in the Asian geographic region differ quite significantly from that of the western world. The renaissance and the industrial revolution—admittedly two titanic events that shaped contemporary history—were phenomena that occurred almost exclusively in a western context. It can even be argued that most of the underlying principles that are present in today’s mainstream worldviews on educational leadership trace their origins from these historic events.

But what happens to the immense history, culture and intellectual traditions that emerged from the region of Asia? What about the historical intersections between the west and Asia that should have undoubtedly generated unique worldviews? Have they been dismissed as illogical, non-empirical and thus not valid? Are they useful in an era of KBEs and globalization?

In teasing out an Asian worldview of educational leadership, would the use of mainstream lenses (or using navigational and sighting terms: as middle-of-the-road coordinates) be a legitimate attempt to calibrate with the end of coming out with new perspectives? Or would it simply be a case of myopia?



  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog.

    Tim Ramsey

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