The Leadership Project: Dr. Dick Krajczar
In the first installment of The Leadership Project I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Dick Krajczar, the Executive Director of the East Asia Regional Council of Schools, better known as EARCOS. Dr. Krajczar generously discussed a number of topics regarding international education for over an hour, and not surprisingly had much to say about this quickly growing field.
After over 40 years in international education which included assignments in Afghanistan, Syria, Jordan and Malaysia, it’s obvious that Dr. K has seen international Ed change in many way. “[When] many people started in these schools they generally would come for maybe two or three years…then they’d go home…because it wasn’t as easy to make international education a professional career opportunity.” Certainly the rise in professionalism amongst teachers and administrators has led to a flip in relations between international schools and schools in the states and other developed nations. “[As international] schools get more sophisticated and more refined…many of us [school leaders] feel that we are working in the best schools and we would be a big help to a lot of the schools back in the US or other countries.”
Where as budget crises and low student performance has been common in the states, international schools, especially in Asia, are performing at high levels and continue to spring up all over the region. When asked whether this was a bubble, Dr. K explained, “many schools will survive because…[only] 12 years ago in China there were only 20 international schools and today there are over 200. With the economy booming in China and with so many international companies doing business there, the end is not in sight…and the same thing is happening in other countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and India.”
Dr. K was hesitant to guess what areas or schools we’ll be talking about in 10 years, saying it all depends on “what the economic environment is…if I could forecast the economic environment for the next ten years I’d be a very wealthy person.” However, he did point out that new and opening markets like that in Myanmar could explode if the government allows it.
This is good news for international educators, since as the industry grows so will the opportunity for more people to step into positions of leadership. When asked what key qualities are needed to be a successful leader Dr. K continued to emphasize one trait…trust. “Trust is forever, you break it and you’re done.”
Dr. K went on to say that school leaders must trust the people they’ve hired, “you don’t want to hire people who are clones of you, [instead] it’s best to hire educators who are better than you. Then when you do hire them…you have to listen to them…[and] trust the people you’ve hired [to do their job].” Other traits like being a good listener and being a risk-taker and a team player, are important but they all connect back to your willingness to trust others and be trusted. “You have to allow people to develop and when you…[give] responsibility to someone you’re working with you have to have the guts to hang with them cause sometimes they’ll be right and sometimes they won’t [but either way] you both learn from it.”
So what advice does an experienced Ed leader have for a new generation of international educators? “Don’t wait until your 50 years old to try and be a principal…and try to envision what the classroom is going to look like in 20 years…[this is the big question in education] yet we keep building the same type of schools.”
A major criticism of the field of education is that it lags behind other industries in innovation and needed skills. If this trend continues, it could mean that the skills needed for the class of 2030 won’t be fully realized in the classroom until 2040 or later. Hopefully international education can “buck this trend,” as it continues to place more emphasis on innovation and new ideas.
However, Dr. K pointed out that many new schools, in a hope to encourage innovation have introduced new programs but failed to deliver the training and support needed to the teachers. Citing the trend in 1:1 laptop programs started in many new schools, Dr. K explained, “A piece of hardware should be the last thing a teacher gets, the first is training.”
Dr. K clearly demonstrated that from his unique vantage point as EARCOS Executive Director that the international education industry is not fading away, and as schools and community continue to develop it’s very likely that the next generation of world leaders will come from these classrooms.
Dr. Krajczar gave some recommendations for whom to interview next, but I also want to hear your suggestions. Post a message or send me an email to nominate the ed leader you believe is gifted at leading schools or grade levels and developing talent.