Leadership in School: School Culture Key to Good Students Behaviours

The concept paper addresses an important measure for stopping secondary school fights in Papua New Guinea (PNG) city schools. The articles appeared on PNG Insight blog in early 2016 and later updated in 2018. The observations in the concept paper are based on the writer’s educational background and work experience.

The key discussion in the 6000-words article is that strong leadership in schools is vital for stabilising a positive school culture. The four articles in this series put in perspective the importance of stopping schools fights in PNG city schools.

Particularly, articles stress that school principals and headteachers are the key individuals who can maintain school cultures and correct students’ negative behaviours such as school fights.

This article is the first of 5 articles under the topic Leadership in School and School Culture. It introduces the discussion. Refer to the content Table of Contents for the topics in the series. A PDF is available on request.


  • School fight – fight between rival schools in PNG city schools.
  • School culture – norms and values of a school that governs the school.
  • Leadership in school – performance of principals of secondary schools in PNG.
  • Student culture – negative student behaviours that result from a breakdown in school culture.

Key discussion point

School principals are best placed to maintain good schools’ cultures. They need to maintain the established school cultures – they do not need to re-engineer new ones.

School culture is the way the schools have been run. It is the established culture – both physical (school uniform, rules, songs, motto, etc.) and invisible (school norms, values, virtues, etc.)

Key terms: maintain good school culture, stabilise school culture, breakdown in school culture, negative student behaviour

Part 1: Leadership in school places principals as guardians of school culture

School fights are a big problem in some city secondary schools in PNG. Leadership in schools must look at ways to maintain good school culture and prepare students for life. Part 1 highlights the need for a permanent solution to this problem. Click on the image (or here) to read more.

leeader in school and school culture

The article identifies a student bad behaviour as a derivative (copy) of a school’s culture. There is a belief that a school with a strong identity, ethics and practices will pass the values onto its students. School principals are best placed to maintain school culture. Where school culture breaks down, the duty rests squarely on principals fix it.

In retrospect, the author observes that negative students’ culture thrives where the schools fail to pass on to students the positive values of the schools.

Furthermore, a school’s culture is the intrinsic (fundamental) pillar of the school. Part 1 highlights that the school culture is an established facet of the school, NOT introduced by principals or headteachers. That means that it is the ‘way things are done’ at the school over time.

Guardians of School Culture

In fact, school culture can be identified as the backbone of every school, both physical and invisible, present and practised by students. It is the right of passage of students. As such, any student passing through a school must immerse themselves in positive school’s culture.

On the contrary, where the school culture has deteriorated, it is important for headteachers to re-establish strong (and positive) school culture. The author believes that positive school culture can stop secondary school fights in city schools and improve the performance of the students.

In the second article, the writer observes the actions that can be taken at the Provincial Education Circles to promote positive learning cultures in schools

Part 2: PEAs, MPs and Provincial Governors Stewards of Positive School Culture

The second article puts in perspective the roles of provincial education officials, principals and provincial governors. These positions are vital for promoting positive schools’ values. Understandably, the provincial education leaders and politicians must use their powers appropriately when appointing school leaders.

appoint school principals in png schools

Some PNG city schools have a decentralised education system. The Provincial Education Boards (PEBs) have the responsibility to ‘plant the seed’ of positive values in their provincial schools.

The article encourages the provincial governors, local Members of Parliament (MPs) and provincial education advisors (PEAs) to use their powers to appoint school heads to positions to maintain school culture. Particularly, if the school has a history of school fights, the appointments of the principal must aim to stop the school fights.

Apparently, when the PEB (and politicians) appoint incompetent principals, it impacts negatively on the school culture. Simply, because principals appointed this way are unable to promote the norms and values of the schools. In fact, such political appointments can be absolutely damaging to the values of the schools.

The result is often seen in school fights where the intrinsic school culture breaks down and a new (problematic) culture thrives among students.

Values of School Heads and Principals

Asking important questions (such as the three given below) can help to select competent school heads to positions:

  • Is the potential principal the right person to strengthen the school culture?
  • What are the ethical values of the potential principal?
  • Is the potential headteacher qualified for the role in a school?

Additionally, research (Kalep-Malpo, 2018) have shown that school heads must show leadership qualities such as:

  • strong Christian values,
  • familiar with the school culture (e.g. a former student),
  • having a vision for the school,
  • well-qualified, and
  • transformational leader.

Part 3 of this series of secondary school fights in PNG city schools looks at the roles of class patron and deputy head teachers. The article is a brief insight into school discipline.

Part 3: Identify Bad Habits Early in City Schools

This article discusses five misunderstood areas relating to students’ behaviours and students’ discipline in schools. Part 3 drives through the point that stopping school fights is challenging. However, vigilant class teachers, principals and deputy principals can correct bad behaviours, early.

In many instances, schoolteachers and head teachers rebuke students rather than counselling them. The keyword is ‘counselling’. In fact, targeting bad behaviours instead of scolding the students can help them see their wrongs. The class teachers and head teachers must play a proactive role as students’ counsellors.

There is no new system of counselling suggested in this article. The key point is that city schools that have prevalent school fights may have to take a proactive approach to counsel students. In hindsight, counselling must be done with the aim to correct bad behaviours.

The article stresses that suspension (or termination) of students should be the last resort when school boards take disciplinary actions on students.

The Final article in the series takes a more serious stance on principals and headteachers’ inability to create powerful school culture.

The point that cut-through this 6000-words article is that principals are best placed to maintain positive school culture.

Part 4: Principals Challenged to Maintain School Culture

The final article challenges the principals to align the school’s vision and mission with school culture. This section directly points to school leaders’ and school culture as the KEY to changing student’s behaviours. Hence, a powerful vehicle for positive school culture.

Part 4 further discusses that a powerful school culture exists when students and teachers respect and admire the headteachers.

The article reiterated that secondary schools are institutions that play two greater roles:

  • educate future generations, and
  • mould children to be productive citizens.

In summary, the 4-part series on Education leadership role and positive school culture is available via the links below.

  • 1: School’s Culture Prepare Students for Life
  • 2: PEAs, MPs and Provincial Governors Key Stakeholders of Positive School Culture
  • 3: Identify Bad Habits Early in Primary, High, Secondary and National High Schools
  • 4: Principals Play Significant role in Stopping School fights in PNG Schools

Writer’s note

The articles on students fight in PNG schools first appeared on PNG Insight blog in 2016. There was an indication of good organic searches for the article.

I believe the readers are PNG postgraduate students. Especially, Papua New Guineans studying in the US, New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

The observations in the concept paper are based on the writer’s educational background and work experience. It is important that academics and researchers visiting these posts analyse the ideas presented here carefully.

In true academic spirit, any quotations or paraphrasing must make reference to PNG Insight. The discussion on Leadership in School and School Culture is available in PDF for download on request.

You can contact the writer for more information on Twitter or leave a message in the comment box below.

Recommended reading: Ethical Leadership Dynamic Teams Key for Education Development

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