The head teachers' role in school improvement: a case study of a primary school in Dar es salaam, Tanzania

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Education (MEd)

First Supervisor/Advisor

Dr. Jane Rarieya

Second Supervisor/Advisor

Brown Onguko

Third Supervisor/Advisor

Michael Fertig


Institute for Educational Development, East Africa


Much has been written about the centrality of the role of the head teacher in school improvement. But this has largely been limited to developed contexts. The role of the head teacher in school improvement in developing countries, and in Tanzania in particular is still very much an unexplored area. This study therefore, set out to explore how a head teacher of a public primary school in Dar es salaam, Tanzania engages with school improvement.

The study engaged one head teacher and five teachers in exploring their understanding of the concept of school improvement, in identifying the role of the head teacher in school improvement in their school as well as the factors that facilitate or impede the head teacher’s ability to engage with school improvement. Data on the foregoing was collected through in- depth interviews, informal conversations, and document analysis.

Findings from the study reveal that the head teacher contributes to school improvement in a number of ways. He builds relationship within the school, and between the school and the external community; he improves the learning environment; builds teachers’ capacity; leads learning; influences school culture; shares and generates a shared vision for the school. In addition, certain factors like having adequate funds; good academic performance; the presence of a supportive school committee among, others enable the head teacher to engage in school improvement.

On the other hand, inadequate funds; bureaucracy from the Ministry of Education officials; teacher resistance to change initiatives, and lack of time are some of the factors that hinder the head teacher from engaging in school improvement. In addition, study findings reveal that if the head teacher engages with school improvement, significant benefits accrue for both teachers and students. Such benefits include enhanced teacher knowledge; improved student performance; and the establishment of the school as a learning community. The findings support the view that head teachers who engage with school improvement contribute significantly to improved student learning outcomes which is the goal of school improvement in schools. Recommendations for further inquiry in the area of school leadership and school improvement have been suggested.

This document is available in the relevant AKU library