Gender and school leadership in Taiwan within the context of political change
The political democratisation in Taiwan which started in the 1980s had an enormous impact on educational leadership in schools in the 1990s. Democratisation was imported into school leadership as the state of reform and change reached education. Moreover, gender also became an important issue as the number of women principals increased in Taiwan. This research uses case studies of eleven junior high schools in Northern Taiwan to explore the values and vision of Taiwanese men and women principals in a time of change. It examines how they engaged in change and how their staff perceived their efforts; and also how they tried to adapt or resist democratic practices in their schools. It looks at the ways in which 'democracy' was borrowed and interpreted in the school context. The thesis reviews related theories about gender and school leadership in the West to see what insight they give in the Taiwanese context. In addition, related critiques about the influence of traditional Chinese culture and the impact of politics on school principals in Taiwan are examined. The central research finding is that although men and women principals in Taiwan share similar vision and values about educational reform, other members of school staff perceive significant gender differences in the way principals have responded to the changes of democratisation. Staff generally show a preference to work with men rather than women principals. The thesis argues that the ill-defined principalship, together with the top-down process of 'democratisation' initiated by principals in schools, has created a paradox that makes principalship in Taiwan a very challenging task. For many newly arrived women principals, who did not fit the traditional image of 'male' principals, their aspiration to work hard and to make a difference to schools often creates unexpected resistance.