Understanding the Significance of Instructional Leadership and School Principals’ Roles and Responsibilities

Image: SlideServe

Ly Rathana
Sihanouk Provincial Teacher Training College
Sihanoukville, Cambodia
September 22, 2020


Education is the cornerstone of development in any country. This statement applies to Cambodia where poverty and illiteracy rates are relatively high compared to other Southeast Asian nations (see Sadeka et al., 2018). The quality of school leadership plays a vital role in enhancing the quality of education, often equated to the quality of teachers and school principals.

In 2013, a policy on school teachers, called Teacher Policy, was adopted by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to initiate a comprehensive reforms in order to improve the national education system by laying out the roles and responsibilities of teachers, principals and local education authorities (MoEYS, 2013). To achieve competencies required of teachers as spelt out in the Teacher Policy, including pedagogic, personal, social, and professional competencies, leadership in schools must be taken into account. 

Principals are important leaders at the school level. They have many functions to contribute to the improvement of the teaching and learning process (Fessehatsion, 2017). They also have many day-to-day duties and multiple roles (e.g. managers, administrators, curriculum leaders and instructional leaders) that they perform each day. Besides, they have often been regarded as important individuals whose leadership performance generally has a significant impact on school performance and specifically on the quality of teaching and learning.

Instructional leadership is unique to the education field as it is closely related to curriculum, student learning and teacher performance. It is a critical role played by principals whose actions and decisions significantly affect teachers and students’ achievement (Blase & Blase, 1999; Hallinger & Murphy, 1985).

Hoy and Miskel (2013) note that instructional leadership places a particular emphasis on teaching and learning improvement. School principals as instructional leaders attempt to change important school factors such as curricular content, teaching methods and assessment strategies for academic achievement. Also, instructional leadership consists of behaviors that (1) establish high expectations and clear goals for both teachers and students’ performance, (2) monitor and provide feedback on the technical fundamentals (i.e. teaching and learning), (3) provide and promote professional growth for all staff members and (4) help to create and maintain a school climate for high academic success (Blase & Blase, 1999; Hallinger & Lee, 2013).

Practically, Hallinger and Murphy (1985) developed a model of instructional leadership employing three dimensions: defining schools’ mission, managing the instructional program, and promoting a positive school learning climate. Subdivisions of these dimensions are described as follows:

Figure 1. Instructional Management Framework (Hallinger & Murphy, 1985)

In the first dimension, Defining the School Mission,Hallinger (2009) listed several characteristics of instructional leaders’ role in defining a clear mission for schools:

First, at this school the mission was absolutely clear. It was written down and visible around the school. Second, it was focused on academic development appropriate to the needs of this particular school population. Third, the mission set a priority for the work of teachers. Fourth, it was known and accepted as legitimate by teachers throughout the school. Fifth, the mission was articulated, actively supported, and modeled by the principal. (pp. 8-9, emphasis in original)

In the second dimension, school principals are involved with stimulating, supervising and monitoring teaching and learning in the school. In other words, this dimension focuses on “the coordination and control of instruction and curriculum” to ensure the achievement for every student (Hallinger, 2009, p. 9).

In the third dimension,the focus is on the norms and attitudes of the staff and students that influence learning in school. According to Watana and Sattapong, (2019), school climate is “widely recognized as made up of order and discipline, relationship building with teachers and parents, and involvement in the affairs and life of the school.” Notably, effective schools create an “academic press” through the development of high standards and expectations for students and teachers (Hallinger, 2009, p. 10).

Thus, school principals have many roles to play. It is hoped that this short article can enable school principals in Cambodia to reconceptualize their roles and responsibilities, particularly those related to instructional leadership. Understanding these roles and responsibilities is an important step toward the promotion of learning and teaching quality in schools.

In short, this article has highlighted the roles and responsibilities of school principals and its significance for students’ achievement. If school principals use their leadership to develop an organizational climate where academic and intellectual pursuits are central to the school, students’ achievement will be improved. 


Blase, J., & Blase, J. (1999). Principals’ Instructional Leadership and Teacher Development: Teachers’ Perspectives. Educational Administration Quarterly, 35(3), 349-378.

Fessehatsion, P. W. (2017). School principal’s role in facilitating change in teaching-learning process: Teachers’ attitude. A case study on five junior schools in Asmara, Eritrea. Journal of Education and Practice8(6), 134-142.

Hoy, W. K., & Miskel, C. G. (2013). Educational administration: Theory, research and practice. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Hallinger, P., & Murphy, J. (1985). Assessing the instructional management behavior of principals. The Elementary School Journal, 86(2), 217-247.

Hallinger, P. (2009) Leadership for 21st century schools: From instructional leadership to leadership for learning. Hong Kong, China. The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

Hallinger, P. & Lee, M. (2013). Exploring principal capacity to lead reform of teaching and learning quality in Thailand. International Journal of Education Development, 33(4), 305-315.

MoEYS (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport). (2013). Teacher Policy. Phnom Penh: Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

Sadeka, S., Mohamad, M.S. and Sarkar, M.S.K. (2018). Comparative analysis of sustainable development indicators in southeast Asian countries: Current status and policy implications. International Journal of Development and Sustainability, 7(10), 2445-2462.

Watana, P., & Sattapong, S. (2019). Strategic instructional leadership characteristics and senior school administration competencies for a disruptive social environment. Rangsit Journal of Educational Studies, 6(2), 44-54.

The Author

LY Rathana is a teacher trainer at Sihanouk Provincial Teacher Training College and a lecturer at Life University, Cambodia. He holds a master’s degree in Educational Administration from the Indonesia University of Education and a graduate certificate in TESOL from the University of Canberra.

Suggested citation:

Ly, R. (2020). Understanding the significance of instructional leadership and school principal’s roles and responsibilities. Cambodian Education Forum, 1(14), 1-5.

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