Comparative leadership: Pathways, scope and values in DRC-English 'urban' schools

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Purpose/context: This research compares the accounts of two experienced urban primary heads based in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo-DRC) with two others based in Sheffield/Doncaster (England), in order to make sense of their leadership pathways, challenges and actions. Despite the differences in educational reforms, research, investment, and staff competencies etc., the two settings are diverse, have ‘similar’ stages of development of formal education and relative pupil outcome challenges. Literature/Methodology: Following a critique of relevant literature, ‘comparative knowledge domain’ is proposed as a theoretical basis for researching practice in the above (similar) contexts. The study also utilises a consistent multi-perspective ‘comparative research methodology’ that, in this case, uses ‘leadership conversations’ within narrative research traditions to extract data that is analysed thematically and using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Findings: In DRC, headship is experienced as an innate vocation; challenges include corruption, poor working conditions and poorly trained workforce operating in a centralised system. Whereas in England, headship is experienced as an exploratory journey; challenges are systemic: people versus policy-centred styles and fractured social and institutional entities. Heads here operate within a decentralised system. However, all four heads enact not only the literal and organisational but also the comparative meaning of the ‘gospel according to the head’ metaphor, which is driven by core values of risk-taking, inclusivity, integrity and success-mindedness. Originality/contribution: The study makes a rich contribution to school leadership in the DRC and adds to the limited body of research in educational leadership comparing the DRC (Africa) with England (West). As well as arguing for ‘comparative knowledge’, as a unique domain in educational leadership, and proposing ‘comparative research’, as a methodological research concept, the findings offer an overall empirically-based comparative leadership framework that is recommended to further develop theory, practice, policy and research.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Sheffield Hallam University
Award date16 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2017


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