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© 2022 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Global School Leaders Evidence Review on School Leadership in the Global South

By Opportunity EduFinance

Global School Leaders has published Evidence Review Report 2020: A Review of Empirical Research on School Leadership in the Global South. Authors of the report explain their overarching goal is to expand the analysis of empirical studies done in the Global South on school leadership. 



“The purpose of this evidence review is to summarize and analyze studies that have focused on the key levers education policymakers can use to increase the quality of school leadership in the Global South.”

Key areas the review addressed included:

  • Relationship between school leadership and student learning
  • School leader background and role
  • School leader training and support

Below are key findings of the report related to the essential role school leaders can play in impacting student learning, and how training and coaching can change behavior and contribute to increased focus on learning outcomes.

School Leaders can directly impact increases in student learning outcomes

“School leaders moving from the bottom 25% to top 25% of their quality management score was associated with a large increase in student learning outcomes, equivalent to an additional 3 months of schooling for every year.”

  • There is evidence the influence of quality school leadership on student achievement is stronger in adverse circumstances, using findings from studies on school closures during the 2016 Hurricane Matthew in Haiti and COVID-19 related school closures in Puerto Rico. 
  • Multiple studies on non-state schools in Latin America, India, Tanzania and Senegal all suggest school leadership impacts student outcomes through a range of management decisions they are empowered to make, including improving teacher selection, teacher incentives, compensation and termination policies, teacher training and parental engagement. 

School Leaders often lack skills to ensure quality teaching

“The core responsibility of a school leader should be in ensuring student learning via quality teaching. However, in many Global South countries, the school leader spends less than 25% of their time managing such activities.”

  • Multiple reports have cited school management and leadership as a key area needing improvement, which directly links to student outcomes and the resilience of education systems (2016 UNESCO Report, 2018 World Development Report, Education Commission’s 2019 Transforming the Education Workforce report).
  • “Recent studies throughout the Global South have found that school leaders receive inadequate training for their role,” citing studies in Indonesia and Kenya where school leaders report limited access to professional development and indicate feeling unprepared to execute their role.
  • A different Indonesian study also indicated district supervisors, school leaders and teachers “rated the ability of school leaders to improve classroom instruction and teachers’ pedagogical skills to be the lowest among their skills.”

School Leader training and coaching can impact leader practices and priorities  

“Emerging research base reviewed here is showing the importance of school leadership training on improving student outcomes and leader practice…content that is focused on having leaders prioritize student learning as their key deliverables and that incorporate coaching of leaders are critical for quality initiatives.”

  • “Several studies have documented the positive impact leadership training can have on school leaders’ practice,” including an evaluation of a leader training program in Jamaica that found trained school leaders reported spending more time on areas such as classroom observation and feedback to teachers.
  • While there is limited studies on the specific characteristics of the most effective school leader training programs in the Global South, the review notes “While traditional models of professional development focus on training workshops as the mode of delivery, choacing for school leaders has been implemented less often but can potentially complement traditional training to improve its effectiveness.”

Through EduQuality, a program of Opportunity EduFinance, we find our holistic 3-year school development program is consistent with many of the key findings in this evidence review.

  • School leader clusters, supported by a local education specialist, create space for coaching, peer-to-peer learning and problem solving challenges faced by school leaders in a small group context.
  • Our School Leadership Professional Development workshops provide additional opportunities for deep dive trainings into essential topics related to both school management and instructional leadership.
  • Our own program experience has also informed the structure of our Teacher Mentor training model, which includes school leaders in the training sessions alongside their self-selected teacher mentors. We found including leaders in these trainings is essential to supporting their role and perspectives on instructional leadership, offering practical guidance and coaching in areas including classroom observation and feedback.

Opportunity EduFinance finds evidence reviews such as this report essential to our continued learning, theory of change, and ongoing adaptations to our program. We are grateful for the extensive effort and work Global School Leaders put into creating and synthesizing this body of evidence to benefit the education sector.

We would encourage those interested to download the full report from Global School Leaders site here.  


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