The primary importance of educational leadership for the success of any educational institution and educational reform is universally recognized. Why do some teams and schools, as well as policies and reforms, succeed while others fail? The credit or blame tends to be assigned to the principals, administrators, curriculum or educational leaders involved. Not surprisingly, educational leadership continues to be an important area in the field of education, attracting much attention.
It has been the subject of a large number of publications in the West. Comparatively, educational leadership in the East including China has been largely neglected in English language publications. What makes an effective educational leader in China? How is the concept of educational leadership defined in China? What sort of theoretical concepts enable us to understand this elusive but absorbing concept in Chinese culture? A common assumption is that educational leadership encompasses a social process of influencing others.
In leading and managing an organization, an educational leader needs to endeavor to establish appropriate relationships with external John C. K. LEE ( ) Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Faculty of Education Studies, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China E-mail:[email protected] Du. Hack Nicholas S. K. PANG ( ) Department of Educational Administration and Policy, Faculty of Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China E-mail: [email protected] Deed. Hack 332 John C. K. LEE, Nicholas S. K. PANG authorities and internal members of staff.
The focus of this special issue relates to notions of leadership and management in Chinese culture and how these are connected with the realization of goals of school organizations as well as educational reforms in the mainland of China. The Need to Understand the Concept of Educational Leadership in China Some scholars like Diamond (2000) argue that theories and practices tend to be ethnocentric and influenced by Western philosophy and values. Nicolai (2008) has explored the notion of the “Europeanization of educational leadership” in the multicultural context of the European Union.
In China, educational leadership continues to be a fascinating but off-radar topic for most scholars, policy makers, and administrators. However, over the last two decades, the number of books and articles on educational leadership in China attests to the collective efforts to improve our understanding of the concept. Leadership n China has been characterized as patriarchal, deriving its power and responsibilities from a social ideology drawn from Confucius, and functioning within that value system (Tune, 2002). In Chinese society, social harmony is highly valued and it determines the leadership concepts and practices, expectations and responses” (Shah, 2006, p. 365). However, until now, attempts to reach a consensus on an accurate definition of educational leadership in China have not been successful. Even though some useful insights have been found by some research studies, no comprehensive theory of educational leadership in China has received universal acceptance.
A senior position in an administrative hierarchy in education provides opportunities to exercise leadership, but the position itself does not guarantee the effective use of this opportunity by its occupant. There are schools in China where persons, other than those who occupy the principals, exercise leadership, while the principals role is to maintain the status quo. There are government ministries in China, where persons, other than those who occupy the position of minister, exercise leadership while the minister is chiefly responsible for maintaining the status uh.
The conceptualization of educational leadership in China is complicated, and the idea that it has a close association with possessing certain personal characteristics has not been validated by research. Research projects have produced conflicting findings leading to the conclusion that no particular set of traits is correlated with effective leadership in China. The contingency theory of leadership offers a more accurate explanation of the effects of specific traits. Leadership behaviors and traits largely depend on the prevailing conditions of 333 organization, that is, the context.
However, it is important to note that certain personal characteristics are more highly valued than others. There is scope for more research on educational leadership in China and there is a need for a better understanding of the specific contexts in which educational leaders are employed, and of the situations in which Chinese traditions and culture prevail. An adaptation of the theories of educational leadership in the Western literature may simply not apply to China. Leadership theories, based on particular types of behavior, have been offered as an appropriate approach to understanding how o exercise influence within organizations.
However, Stodgily (1974) found no consistent relationship between behavioral styles and productivity, when examining organizations structured along traditional hierarchical lines. A more useful approach is to consider educational leadership as a function. From such a perspective, educational leadership in China emerges as a responsibility shared and exercised by an individual or individuals within an organization who are able and competent to function in a specific set of circumstances.
The Contemporary Contexts of Educational Leadership in China Around he world, including the vast country of China, education is undergoing unprecedented changes under the impact of globalization. Globalization has brought about a paradigm shift in educational management, administration and leadership. With this shift, the values of markets, choices and competition have become prevalent drivers for educational policies. Instrumental skills of efficiency, accountability and planning have been emphasized.
Nation- states echo these values and trends by enhancing their own productivity and competition through decentralization and the creation of “market competition” n the educational sector (Amok & Welch, 2003; Pang, AAA, 2011). Given the multiple impacts of globalization, people involved in educational governance and management in the mainland of China are confronted with a choice between traditional Confucian ethics and values, such as hierarchical relationship, collectivism, humanism, and self-cultivation, and the so-called new values of competitive relationship, market, choice, efficiency, flexibility, and accountability (Pang, 2011).
After China gained access to the World Trade Organization (WTFO) in 2001, the confrontation of the two ideologies has become more striking. Currently, Chinese educational leaders are probing more into the instrumental skills of efficiency, accountability and planning than into the skills of collaboration and reciprocity. School educators emphasize the short term goals more than the long term, real and substantive goals and objectives, limiting their 334 john C. K. LEE, Nicholas S. K. PANG use of discretion, reserving judgment, and upright character.
In the competitive global economy and environment, China has no choice but to adjust in order to be more efficient, productive, and flexible. Regarding China, Hawkins (2000) momentum that there has been a mixture of decentralization and centralization. To enhance China’s productivity and competitiveness in the global situation, decentralization and the creation of a “market” in education have been the two major strategies employed to restructure education (Leningrad, 2000; Amok & Welch, 2003).
Decentralization and corporate management have been used by the Chinese government to increase labor flexibility and create more autonomous educational institutions while catering for demands for more choice and diversity in education (Blackmore, 2000). The emergence of markets has also been central o educational reform in terms of globalization in China. The belief behind the education reform is that if education is restructured on market principles and based upon competitive market relations where individual choice is facilitated, education will become more efficient.
Karen (2000) further introduced the concept of “decentralized-centralism” that highlights “the dynamic interaction between decentralization and centralizing forces in an educational decentralization process” (Tan & Nag, 2007, p. 156). Such a concept is to some extent applicable in China where policy initiatives start at the top, allowing some flexibility of implementation and accountability at the local levels and in some municipal cities and central control over the syllabi and public examinations and implementation of quality assurance in some places (e. . , Shanghai; Lee & Caldwell, 2011; Lee, Ding, & Song, 2008). Paradigm Shift in the Governance of Higher Education in China Higher education in China has played an important role in economic construction, scientific progress and social development by bringing up large scale advanced talents and experts for the construction of socialist modernization (Pang, 2010).
The overall objectives of higher education reform are to smooth the relationships between government, society and higher education institutions (Hess), setting up and perfecting a new system in which the state is responsible for the overall planning and macro management while the HESS enjoy the autonomy to provide education according to the needs of society and are obliged to follow the law.
The recent reforms of higher education in the mainland of China consist of five parts: (1) reforms of education provision, (2) management, (3) investment, (4) recruitment and job-placement, (5) intra-institution management, of which management form is of most importance and difficulty (Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, AAA). Regarding the management system 335 reform, working relationships between universities, government and society have been assisted by such methods as joint establishment, adjustment, cooperation and mergers.
A two-level education provision system has taken shape in which central and local government take on different responsibilities with the former responsible for the overall educational planning and management. At the same time, the government has streamlined administration and delegated more power o the Hess. With the demand for qualified manpower in the socialist market economy, China has been focusing on establishing a viable system of human resource development.
The Project 211, from 1996 to 2000, which was designed to foster 100 world-class universities in the 21st century, and the Project 985, starting in May 1998 has provided support to China’s top ten universities. Such projects have identified small group of universities as flagships of China’s higher education sector and to enable them in due course to compete internationally and be measured alongside the best universities in North America and Europe.
Globalization and School Educational Reforms in China In early 1999, the State Council in China ratified the “Action Plan for Educational Vitiation Facing the 21st Century’ formulated by the Ministry of Education (Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China, Bibb). This laid down the means for implementing the “Invigorate China through Science, Technology and Education” strategy and defined the blueprint of reform and development for the cross-century education, based on the 1986 “Compulsory Education Law of the People’s Republic of China” and the 1993 “Guidelines for the Reform and
Development of Education in China. ” In June 1999, the CAP Central Committee and the State Council jointly promulgated the “Decision on the Deepening of Educational Reform and the Full Promotion of Quality Education,” clarifying the direction for the establishment of a vital socialist education with Chinese characteristics in the 21 SST century.
A successful example is reform of education in Shanghai where, since the early sass, the government has adopted the strategies of “revitalization the city with science and technology and education” and “promoting the city through human resource management of talents,” both f which underline the importance of the further development of education, science and technology. Shanghai is striving hard to achieve its objective of being a “first-class city with first-class education,” hence the current educational reforms.
Whilst these reforms have had positive effects on the development of basic education, they have had the further effect of shedding light on and aiding in the formulation of educational policies in other major cities of Chinese mainland. During the transformation from a planned economy system to a socialist market system in China over the last 20 years, the 336 entrap government has found it increasingly difficult to dominate and control everything in the country, not least education.
In the ideological transition, ideas of neo-public management which emphasize “competition” in the market economy, and “efficiency and effectiveness” in public administration have been introduced to China and have been well received by many scholars and managers (Hughes, 2003; Pang Bibb). Issues of Educational Leadership in China Some scholars have analyzed educational leadership issues in China from a cultural or contextual perspective (e. G. Change & Wong, 1996; Ribbons & Ghana, 2006). In leadership discourse, Bush and Kiang (2000) use concepts of power distance, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientations for educational leadership in Chinese societies. While Healthier and Letdown (1996) highlighted the traits of dedication, discipline, strong will and persistence as higher priorities for moral codes of behavior in China, Walker and Diamond (2000) emphasized collectivism, authority and patriarchy.
Are the values and actions of educational leaders in China bound or shaped by these cultural contexts? Collard (2007) argued that there is a need for constructing a theory for leadership in intercultural contexts and a call for educational leaders “to understand diverse cultural realities, to discern the deep values and assumptions upon which they are based, to mediate between them and to build bridges at cognitive, individual and institutional levels” (p. 51 In addition to the influence of culture and values, there are also themes of study in educational leadership such as school leadership, teacher leadership, middle leadership and leadership in special education (Ribbons, 2006). In China, there are some unique features of educational management and leadership. The principal plays the role of n educational leader while the Party Secretary as a political or ideological leader takes up the second position.
In addition, school leaders are expected to become “resource winners,” generating funds to cover part of the school expenses including teachers’ salaries and bonuses. In some schools, principals run factories or other businesses, rent out the school premises or provide private tuition to students (Wong, 2006). Focus on academic learning and monitoring as well as student discipline is another important issue for educational leadership in Chinese schools.
Past impressive academic results of Chinese students n The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMES), and the recent outstanding results of The Programmer for International Student Assessment (PISA) in Shanghai has led to the glorification of China’s education but ironically Premier Went Ojibwa has expressed concerns over China’s shortage of distinguished talents in science and 337 technology. This has become an acute issue for Chinese educational leaders seeking to close the “creativity gap” between East and West. Chaos (2009, p. 1) has pointed out a widely recognized problem of Chinese education, gaffed dining (high scores but low ability). Impolitely and Berger (2010) also remarked that “Chinese educators are torn between new Western educational ideas and their own deeply rooted educational ideals. The Chinese administrators we spoke with believed that the USA, for example, is good at community learning, close relationships between students and teachers, holistic, democratic and collaborative learning. They see China’s strengths as being a respect for teachers, a focus on basic education and high national and international exam scores” (p. 10). In a recent study, it was found that Chinese school leaders were affected y both Chinese values and practices in areas of school management and organization and Western values and practices in the areas of relationship building, staff performance and promotion (Law, 2009). Moreover, studies by Impolitely and Berger (2010) on educational leadership in North-West China suggest that leadership training could pay more attention to the integration of theory and practice, and content relating more to Western leadership theories and local needs.
Nonetheless, as regards the introduction of Western theories, some scholars argue that moral leadership may not be adaptive to the Chinese intent of school leadership where there may a need to reinforce rules of law instead of moral authority for school leadership as the rapidly expanding economy in China may lead to more opportunities for corruption (Ma & Sun, 2006). Given the launch of the curriculum reform in the new century, there has been a call for school-based curriculum development as well as an emphasis on collegiality, professional learning community and teacher leadership within the school.
However, teacher or middle level leadership on a subject curriculum panel hinges on the leadership style of the panel head and in order to promote ore teacher participation in curriculum and instructional development, there is a need to offer more professional training to raise awareness of panel heads in developing their panel members’ professional autonomy and engagement in professional dialogue among members (Alai, 2010).
In addition to cultural contexts, a recent study by Gong and Erich (2010) examined how cultural, societal and organizational contexts had shaped two female principals’ leadership practices in teaching and learning, and power utilization in China. Moreover, personal values or factors have shaped their leadership raciest in ways which are noteworthy for further exploration. In the case of higher education, with the advent of Project 985, some top universities in China may need to enhance their strategic leadership so as to better cope with globalizes changes and increasing demands for research performance (Www, 2005).
According to Ribbons (2006), the study of administration and leadership in education could broadly be categorized into four groups: “understanding 338 meanings (the conceptual and the descriptive), understanding experiences (the humanistic and the aesthetic), working for change (the critical and the axiological) and delivering change (the evaluative and the instrumental)” (p. 120). In this special issue, we have four papers on educational leadership in China.
The paper by Chin, Ghent and Lo entitled “Landscape of scholarship on principal training in China from 1989 to 2008,” highlights the need to combine an understanding of meanings and the process of change. It provides a pioneering review of the changing landscape of scholarship of principal training in China based on journal articles in the Chinese Database of Journals. It was found that the most researched theme is the “General commentary on training,” while the east researched themes are “Mentoring, coaching and induction,” “Faculty” and “Clinical experience. It is suggested that diversified methodological approaches and rigorous data analysis are called for to build up the area of principal training in educational research. Pisa and Line have written a paper, “Values and actions: An exploratory study of school principals in the mainland of China,” which could be categorized as a combination of understanding meanings and delivering for change. They explore the link between leader values and actions in China through survey based on the Strategic Leadership Questionnaire and the Chinese Value Instrument.
Their findings indicate that principals regard familial loyalty, social harmony, benevolence and honesty as important values and they prefer using bonding and transforming actions. In addition, achievement and power appear to be the most important predictors for leader actions. It is also notable that familial loyalty and social harmony do not seem to strongly influence leader actions and the link between Guiana (personal relationship), which is common in Chinese culture, and leader actions is not explicit. The paper by Walker, Asian and Ghana, “Secondary school principals in curriculum reform:
Victims or accomplices? ” is a study directed at understanding experiences and delivering for change. The authors discuss why a group of Shanghai secondary school principals believes that the new curriculum reform is not working in the ways intended by policy-makers. Their findings reveal that instead of a lack of curriculum leadership on the part of principals, there have been ambiguous messages sent to principals from the government under the strong influence of the principal evaluation and accountability systems as well as the examination- oriented Couture.
Hang’s paper, “Critical perspectives on changes in educational adhering practice,” exemplifies a combination of understanding meanings and working for change. It examines leadership practice changes after a group of Chinese educational leaders undertook a leadership development course offered by an Australian university in China. The results show that most participants highlight 339 the importance of assimilating good ideas from Western theories on leadership and maintaining the essence of national and indigenous cultures.
These findings suggest more emphasis could be placed on intercultural understanding and awareness of societal and local contexts in leadership development programs. Interestingly, these four papers address some emerging issues worthy of attention in the field of educational leadership in Asia, including leadership for curriculum, teaching and learning, leadership training and development, moral leadership, women as leaders and women teachers’ empowerment, and developing schools as learning organizations (Kennedy & Lee, 2010).
In addition, these four papers use different research methodologies and associated research methods: Chin, Ghent and Lo adopt a quantitative approach and documentary, open-coding analysis; Pisa and Line employ a quantitative non- experimental design; Walker, Asian and Ghana use a qualitative approach and in-depth interviews; and Wang uses a qualitative approach and interpretative phenomenological analysis. To conclude, Chinese educational leadership perspectives are not fixed entities especially given the great impact of globalization and the rapid economic growth in China.
There is a need to engage with, and draw from, diverse sources in the East and the West to enrich our understanding and to develop leadership model(s) of educational leadership to meet the challenges of educational change in China.