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Title: The impact of education reform on the role of secondary school principals in China
Author: Xu, Yifen
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Worldwide, school principals, especially those in secondary schools, have felt increased pressure in their roles as many countries press for higher levels of student attainment. At the same time, education reforms and, in many systems, increased delegation to school leaders, have greatly increased principals' responsibilities and made the job much more complicated. Given their strategic importance, it is not surprising that the role of principals has attracted great attention since the 1990s. The central focus of this thesis was an investigation and analysis of the impact of recent education reforms on the role of secondary school principals in China. At the time of writing no clear picture of the expectations placed on principals in China exists, though there is no doubt that these expectation are greatly increased. The aim of the study was to investigate principals' own views of their role, their main activities and priorities, and the main influences on these. Consideration was also given to the major challenge or problems confronting school principals, and to identify similarities and differences between the principals' roles and attitudes in China and in the West. Naturalistic qualitative methods were used to investigate the experiences of 28 school leaders regarding how their role has developed in China during this period of major education reforms. Semi-structured interviews and shadowing these principals as they went about their work were the main methods of data collection drawn on in this study. Further information was extracted from documents about training policies and programmes accessible via official websites. Thematic analysis of the interview data was conducted, to identify key themes and issues. The analysis suggests that school principals encounter new challenges as 'curriculum leaders', in developing with their staff new pedagogies that shift the balance away from 'teaching' onto 'learning', and in dealing with the expectation of multiple stakeholders. It also emerged that the principals felt that they did not have sufficient autonomy to lead their schools as they would wish, which restricted curriculum development. Regarding the key findings, the main worry of the principals was with poor student attainment. Under the 'high-stakes' testing system, invisible pressure is exerted on the school for improving test results. The quality of education has never been subject to so much scrutiny from such a wide range of stakeholders, including parents, the community, and employers. As a result, the role of principals has become more complicated, and they are under increasing pressure from higher expectations amongst those both in and outside of the school. Leadership development has been embraced as an important factor in meeting those expectations. However, the thesis argues that there is not sufficient training provided for principals to develop their skills to meet these expectations.
Supervisor: Ainscow, Melvin Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: education reform ; principals' role ; Confucian traditions ; China