Making of school leaders


Ultimate mission of India School Leadership Institute (ISLI) is to train school leaders who drive high-performing schools committing to academic achievement and character development of children from underserved communities. The Progressive Teacher finds out how this institute is taking the country’s education system to a new paradigm shift.

ISLI gathers inspirations from the world’s best school leadership development programmes. The Akanksha Foundation, Central Square Foundation, Teach for India and US-based KIPP jointly founded this institute in January 2013 with a vision to transform the country’s education system. ISLI believes in unfolding a revolutionary change in education system that can be brought only when school leaders are empowered with necessary skills, knowledge and mindset. Sameer Sampat, executive director of ISLI, leads the institute’s rapidly expanding team of professionals at different branches in Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune and Hyderabad.

Fellows and fellowships

Currently ISLI offers two fellowship programmes—National Fellowship and City Fellowship. The former is a pan-India programme that supports school leaders in creating models of excellence in education for low-income students while the latter aims towards raising quality of education in specific urban areas. National fellows are selected through meticulous selection process. City Fellowship programme is now piloted around Delhi-NCR area only and it will be launching in Mumbai, Pune and Hyderabad by June 2015. Selection process for this fellowship in cities involves an orientation programme.

So far, ISLI has trained 30 school leaders, including both past and present fellows, who successfully edify 29,000 students. Shalini Sachdev, principal of KC Thackeray Vidyaniketan, Pune, the country’s first public-private-partnership school is an alumna of the first cohort of fellows at ISLI. Among the current fellows include Manikyam Malla, principal of Andhra Pradesh Social Welfare Residential School and Jr College, a government residential school for 900 girls in rural Seemandhra.

Unique approach

School improvement strategies at ISLI are introduced through theoretical training conducted by leading education experts, which is combined with exposure to real-life examples of best practices. The fellows are also provided with a personal coach who helps contextualise the learning and put it into practise in the school. So, ISLI programme is comprehensive and it supports school leaders through the journey that begins at gaining theoretical knowledge and ends at successfully putting the knowledge into practise.

Strategic move

India boasts of having one of the world’s largest education systems, but learning level among students in the country is one of the lowest among all countries. According to Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an international student achievement survey, Indian students stand at second last among 73 participant countries and economies. Studies from around the world indicate that school leadership is a key lever that rapidly moves student learning. As recently as in April this year, a study by London School of Economics indicates that one point in school management index is associated with an increase in school performance of approximately 15 percent. In this respect, ISLI indicates that in order to bring transformation in the current education system, it is crucial to invest in the school leaders. (To know further, write-in at: or visit:

Programme structures

National fellowship

  • This is a year-long programme comprising a mix of theoretical training and experiential learning. Experiential learning will take place at residencies where fellows will be hosted at highperforming schools and have the opportunity to shadow their principals.
  • Residences will be followed by inter-sessions where fellows can synthesise their learning into concrete plans that will be implemented in their schools.
  • This programme is implemented in conjunction with the school year. So, fellows will have a chance to implement their learning while receiving real-time feedback and coaching from the faculty of ISLI.
  • ISLI’s faculty consists of experienced school leaders from around the world, noted executive coaches and renowned civil society leaders.
  • ISLI fixes the size of its cohort to enable the faculty to customise the programme in accordance to the individual learning need of each fellow and requirements of the school they are leading or planning to lead.

City Fellowship

  • City Fellows will be learning from accomplished school leaders from all around the world as well as within their own cities.
  • Residencies will be hosted at some of the city’s most well-known, high-performing schools.
  • Fellows will graduate the programme after having formed a strong network of educators from varied backgrounds, upon which they can rely to support the progress of their school.
  • This programme will feature contents in English and Hindi.
  • The curriculum will focus on how fellows can increase their influence as leaders, build effective teams and improve instruction in their classrooms.