Better Schools:
Resource Materials for School Heads in Africa
School Mission, Values and Objectives
The head of a school should play a leading role in improving the quality of teaching and learning. As a head you will appreciate that it is your duty and responsibility to ensure that your school is an achieving school, meeting its objectives in an effective and efficient manner. It is therefore in your interest to search for ways and means of improving yourself as a manager. The aim of this unit is to explain how to formulate a clear mission for your school and a set of objectives.

Individual study time: 5 hours

Learning outcomes
By the end of this unit, you should be able to:
• formulate a mission statement for your school
• identify the values you wish to promote in your school
• state your school objectives.

Let us clarify the terminology we will use here. There are several terms which are used to indicate the purpose and direction of a school. Consider the following terms: philosophy, mission, goals, objectives and targets.

The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes the meaning of the word 'philosophy' in several ways, including: a system of principles for the conduct of life. Such a concept is useful both for each of us as individuals and for each school. But as the term 'philosophy' may be seen as too complex, an alternative commonly used is the term 'mission', and its expression as a 'mission statement'.

The differences between the terms 'goals', 'objectives' and 'targets' lie mainly in the degree to which the destination we want to reach is specified. Thus 'goals' may suggest a broad vision, 'targets' an exact position, with 'objectives' somewhere in between. There is really not much to choose between them, and you should feel free to make your own choice. Here we will use the term 'objectives' to mean a set of statements each of which provides a clear indication of what the school wishes to achieve, and which together satisfy the principles included in the mission statement. Targets are very specific statements describing positions which will be achieved within an agreed span of time.

The mission of your school

Activity 1.1
Consider your own school. What would you say is the philosophy or mission of your school? (Note: At this stage do not try to write a complete statement.)
20 minutes

In undertaking the above activity, we hope you appreciated that a school philosophy or mission should include such things as:
• the promotion in the pupils of an interest in learning and the skills needed to learn
• the acquisition by the pupils of relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes
• the provision of opportunities for pupils to participate in and contribute to their culture
• a willingness on the part of the pupils and staff to serve both the school and the wider community.

Above all the mission statement of your school should reflect national goals.

Your mission statement will be based upon your own values, and those of your staff and of your country, and which you want to pass on to the next generation. Values are guidelines for behaviour, and they govern each person's actions and attitudes. Values are learnt through experience, education and observation. It is necessary for the head to consciously and deliberately plan school programmes that promote the values a society approves and wishes to uphold.

Activity 1.2
List some of the values you yourself hold and believe your school should seek to promote. Check whether your initial ideas about your school mission or philosophy gave sufficient expression to your values.
20 minutes

Your list probably included the following values: acceptable behaviour, reliability, honesty, efficiency, punctuality, diligence, politeness, courtesy, fairness, self-discipline, tolerance, courage, respect for the dignity of labour, respect for other people and their property, good sportsmanship, impartiality, perseverance, respect for legitimate authority, public spiritedness, cleanliness, justice, etc.

As a head, you will almost certainly wish to ensure that the values the school cherishes pervade all the teaching/learning activities including the co-curricular ones. In this way the gap between what a school says it does and what it actually does may be reduced.

School objectives
A general statement about a school philosophy or mission may be explained more fully in terms of objectives. School objectives indicate, in fairly specific terms, what the school intends to achieve.

Activity 1.3
(1) Does your school have a set of objectives?
(2) To what extent would you say they are comprehensive and clear?
(3) What areas should a set of school objectives cover?
20 minutes

School objectives should take into account the needs of the pupils, the staff, the community and the nation. Pupils' needs include the desire for a complete education that prepares them for the world of work; the fostering of creativity to facilitate problem-solving; strengthening their abilities to learn independently; the provision of a variety of co-curricular activities and opportunities for them to enjoy and learn about their cultural heritage. Furthermore, pupils need opportunities to develop themselves as individuals; an environment that encourages them to develop their leadership qualities and inter-personal skills, within a culture of tolerance.

In addition to the needs of the pupils, you need to be sensitive to the critical role that the staff play in achieving school objectives. It is therefore important for you to ensure that your school objectives address the following:
• the creation of an environment that enables both the pupils and the staff of the school to experience success
• the provision of sufficient facilities, equipment and materials to facilitate the attainment of these objectives
• the creation of organisational structures within the school that will allow both pupils and staff to realise their expectations
• the provision of opportunities for professional growth for the staff.

In formulating the school objectives, it is also important to consider the needs of the community. These needs include the educational expectations of parents for their children; the promotion of good citizenship; respect for community values; and parental involvement in school programmes. Furthermore, school objectives must reflect national goals which may include the development of human resources, the promotion of a common national identity and respect for the dignity of labour.

Fig 1 below summarises the different needs both a school mission and objectives should address.

Fig 1 The needs school objectives should address

Formulating a school mission statement and objectives

A school mission statement
Each school should have a statement of its own philosophy or mission. In designing the statement for your school you will need to consult your staff and address the following key questions:

1 What is the purpose of this school? Why are the pupils and staff here?
2 What knowledge and skills do our pupils need?
3 How does the school identify individual differences, abilities and capacities amongst the pupils, and how does it adjust methods, materials and programmes to foster individual development?
4 What are the desired relationships between:
• a pupil and a pupil
• a pupil and a teacher
• a teacher and the head
• the head and the community?
5 What values does the school seek to promote?
6 How does the school prepare pupils to participate fully in the real world?

Activity 1.4
(1) Consider and answer the questions listed above.
(2) Compare your responses to the current mission of your school.
(3) Prepare a draft mission statement for your school for consideration by your staff.
1 hour

You should discover that your school mission will emerge from a discussion of the responses to the questions cited above. If you do not already have a school mission statement, this activity should provide you with a guide as to how you and your staff may develop an appropriate one, or to reflect on the one you already have.

You will need to make time for your senior staff to work with you on the school mission statement. You should present your draft statement to all your staff, to the board of governors or management committee, to the PTA, as well as to any other persons who may have an interest or a contribution to make.

Once you have devised the school mission, it becomes your duty as the head to communicate this to all members of the school community in order to secure their support and commitment.

School objectives
Having agreed upon your school mission, it becomes necessary to break it down into objectives that are realistic and achievable. You may find the questions posed below helpful in formulating a set of objectives for your school.

1 What is our school trying to achieve?
2 For whom does our school exist?
3 How is our school trying to achieve its mission?
4 What resources does our school have to achieve its objectives?
5 How will we know when we have accomplished our objectives?
6 Are our objectives realistic and achievable?
7 Do the objectives reflect the values of our school?
8 Could our objectives be improved?

Activity 1.5
(1) What are your answers to the questions posed above?
(2) Formulate objectives for your school. Make sure that they cover all aspects of school life and are clearly and concisely expressed. Do not make your list too long!
1 hour

Strategies for promoting selected values
Since a school plays a very crucial role in exposing pupils to selected values the head and the staff need to devise strategies for promoting them.

Activity 1.6
(1) How is your school promoting the values you identified in Activity 1.2?
(2) Spend some time this week observing the following in your school:
- how senior and junior children interact;
- how children leave assembly and go to class;
- how staff interact at a formal staff meeting;
- how staff and pupils interact with visitors to the school;
- how boys and girls interact;
- how children of different backgrounds talk to you.
(3) Suggest three ways in which more could be done in your school to promote key values.
30 minutes

Which of the following strategies did you include on your list?
Values may be promoted through:
• direct tuition or teaching during lessons
• a well-designed programme of guidance and counselling; Family Life Education or Education for Living; or pastoral care
• the content and conduct of assemblies
• allowing pupils opportunities to develop their leadership qualities
• ensuring that the school has an intellectual focus
• publicly honouring academic and practical achievement and by stressing their importance through the appropriate use of symbols, ceremonies, etc.
• above all, the exemplary behaviour by the staff.

It is likely that, in the same way as for the formulation of the school mission, you will need to work with your senior staff on the school objectives, before presenting them for further discussion to various groups involved with the school.

As the head, you should evaluate regularly the appropriateness and currency of your school mission and objectives. You will need to do this in order to satisfy yourself that the school mission and objectives are:
• realistic, achievable and well-understood by all concerned
• giving direction to the school and staff
• meeting the needs of the school, pupils and the community
• being achieved.
Module 6, Monitoring School Effectiveness provides suggestions as to how you may set about carrying out an evaluation exercise.

In this unit we have explained the importance of the school mission and objectives which should guide all school activities. Furthermore, suggestions on how to formulate the school mission and objectives, and the need to evaluate them regularly, have been made. As the head, you should ensure that your school has a clear mission and a set of objectives which reflect it.