It’s not just students who are failing in schools, schools are also failing their students,” – Tariq Khokhar, Global Data Editor, World Bank1

In the education ecosystem, different environmental factors interact to influence and impact the success of solutions to resolve issues like rates of literacy and numeracy, access to educational resources, and lack of quality infrastructure. With circumstances that interrelate closely with one another, we must look at the education sector holistically to reimagine what solutions might look like at a systems-level.

What about starting with those that enable school success? In their roles as school facilitators, advocates, strategy heads, community outreach coordinators, and operations managers – principals play a vital role in the daily functioning of a school. They source (sometimes needing to be quite entrepreneurial in doing so) and distribute resources, manage programs, monitor student success outcomes, and interact with teachers, students, and family members in order to make sure things are running smoothly. Their vision (or lack thereof) for their school can create the difference between a thriving school or a dysfunctional one.

Understanding the role of school leadership and their power to influence is a pivotal way to reimagine the education sector. There’s a rising trend that recognizes the direct linkage between transforming school leadership and the subsequent health and quality of a school2. Established in 2012, the National Centre for School Leadership (NCSL) was set up to ensure that Indian school principals are prepared and successful in their roles. Government agencies like National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) as well as organizations such as Gyan Prakash Foundation, Mantra4Change and Kaivalya Education Foundation work in this space, with the goal of creating effective, thoughtful, and empowered school leadership through capacity building and knowledge sharing. However, there’s a critical need to align these initiatives for greater impact and collaborative focus. Because efforts can quickly get siloed, it’s imperative to bring ideas together in order to learn and share from one another.

Imagine what would happen if each of the 1.5 million schools in India had nurturing, empowering, and effective environments – what would that mean for every child or teacher at such a school?3 What would that mean for the quality of education and children’s eventual success in learning outcomes and happiness?

That’s the future envisioned by Advaith Foundation, a philanthropy focused on the educational leadership space. Through their journey in giving children from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities and resources to succeed, they realized they would better reach their goal at scale if they invested in finding, supporting, and creating the leadership that could enable students to thrive instead.

Inspired by these insights, Advaith created ShikshaLokam, an initiative that would focus on empowering school leadership at scale to thereby better empower students, teachers, and the communities that surround schools. ShikshaLokam aims to enable and amplify leadership development opportunities for individuals and organizational leadership management for institutions engaged in K-12 education systems. The organization went live in November 2017 with the goal of serving as an (eventual) system-wide community and infrastructure for school leadership, as well as SMCs (school management companies) to obtain directly relevant knowledge, assessment tools, and program management resources related to transforming school leadership on a digital platform.

By enabling these pieces to be available on a platform, accessible by all, at any time, anywhere, more leadership have access to resources or tools that they can take or adapt, as opposed to the reach of a typical leadership training organization in this space that would be limited by geography or staff. ShikshaLokam seeks to make the scarce – school leadership resources and organizations, assessment materials, and leadership themselves – abundant.

Empowering school leadership is a transformative piece that adds to other initiatives being implemented in the education sector – like those to improve literacy outcomes for K-12 children and to augment teacher training resources. It involves interactive collaboration with different stakeholders in the school education network, government officials, as well as organizations working to transform school leadership themselves.

How can we transform leadership for 1.5 million schools in the next few years? How can we encourage and enable thoughtful collaboration between different stakeholders in the education sector – and what can they learn from one another?

Transforming schools begins with transforming the individuals supporting and enabling schools to operate, as well as transforming the institutions themselves. What does it take to bring about this individual and collective change? In our next piece, we’ll explore how ShikshaLokam co-creates with other capacity building organizations, school leadership, and members of the ecosystem in order to do this at scale, rapidly, and with an audacious goal to create a long-term systemic shift in the sector at large.

The article is authored by Shaanika Subramanyam. Shaanika is a Communications Associate with Societal Platform at EkStep Foundation.


  1. World Development Report 2018
  2. Hallinger and Heck, Reassessing the Principal’s Role in School Effectiveness: A Review of Empirical Research