Sameer Sampat, Global School Leaders: #LearningPlanet Educator Voices

Meet Sameer:

​​Sameer is a co-founder of Global School Leaders. Global School Leaders (GSL) works with funders, governments, and NGOs to specifically strengthen schools in marginalized communities. GSL is a non-profit organization focused on mobilizing key stakeholders of lower and middle-income countries (LMICs) to invest and participate in School Leadership training in their country. GSL provides a combination of tools, resources, and in-depth consultation specifically designed to address issues faced by School Leaders in LMICs, and help them improve their school’s efficiency, performance and drive better learning outcomes. GSL has worked with over 3,500 school leaders, impacting approximately 920,000 students. Their primary countries of focus are India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, and Brazil. During COVID, they have expanded to work in the Philippines, Uganda, Nigeria, and Peru.

Previously, Sameer was the India School Leadership Institute’s (ISLI) first CEO and worked as a Project Manager and Research Analyst with the Education Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University where he designed, implemented, and evaluated interventions to close the racial achievement gap found in the United States. He has also worked with Teach For America, Akanksha and Adharshila Shikshan Kendra.

Sameer earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from UCLA and completed a Master’s degree in Economics and Education from Columbia University.

Why is it important to have teacher/school leader/school networks?

Our whole role at Global School Leaders is in improving and supporting the improvement of the capacity of the school leader to improve outcomes for children. One of the key ways we believe that we need to be doing this is by building school leader networks.

School leader capacity building is best done when it follows the three C’s approach:

  • Coaching: school leaders receive 1-1, ongoing support for their individual challenges,
  • Content: school leaders have access to designed-based content so that they can improve their teaching and become better school leaders
  • Community: Leadership can oftentimes be a lonely role; we often don’t have the opportunity to share ideas with other school principals, for example. Bringing school leaders together has a lot of power to generate new ideas, and provides a platform to share best practices.

Additionally, effective school leaders will do the same thing for teachers on their side; they will find ways to get teachers to interact with each other and share ideas.

Lastly, bringing people together across communities adds another layer of richness, which we do through international school leader networks.

What have been some of the ways your teachers/schools/school leaders have led in these times of crisis?

Firstly, it’s really gotten the school leaders to focus beyond the academic needs of the child (e.g. basic needs: food, shelter…), which were even challenges before COVID but were exasperated during the crisis. For example, in Malaysia, we had a school leader who took the initiative and organised regular meals for 80 in-need families at the school.

Secondly, it has brought to light the inequities to access to schooling and education. Before COVID, most of the countries GSL works ensured the children were enrolled in school. However, COVID disrupted that – and school leaders had to do a lot to ensure that kids had access to school. In India, for example, we were working with a network of schools to identify specific challenges that adolescent girls might have to get them re-enrolled into school. One of the school leaders had identified that one of the girls at her school was going to have an early marriage. With the principal’s network, they identified over 200 students who were going through early marriages and worked together on accommodations and ways to ensure they could go back to school.

If you could bring the ideal future for teachers/schools/school leaders to life right now, what would it look like?

Even before COVID, we were pushing for leaders to really focus on students’ academic, social and emotional learning as their number one priority of the school. An ideal school leader continues to be centred around that question – how can we best support the children in our school? Continuing to address those needs and seeing the school as partly responsible for addressing those needs is really important.

Additionally, I believe that there has been a stronger connection between schools and parents. Our recent survey of 11,000 educators (of which 4,000 were school leaders) to understand the response to COVID demonstrated that the most popular initiative of COVID support that was taken on by schools was parent meetings. This school-to-home connection has strengthened, and it is pivotal to continue strengthening it to best address the needs of each child.

What we ask of school leaders and teachers is not easy work – and we need to envision an ideal support system to develop and strengthen their skills and recognize the incredible work that our educators do.

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