An Exploration of the Role of Leadership in Successful Systemic Improvement in China

Project: Research project

Project Details


This study will examine the relationship between leadership, educational infrastructure and system-wide improvement through case studies of selected innovative system reform initiative implemented in three Mainland Chinese regions – Shanghai, Anhui and Guizhou. They are located in East, Central and West China. The study aims to deconstruct the innovative system reforms carried out in these provinces and examine the role of leadership in designing and deploying infrastructure necessary for successful systemic change. The study will employ a case study design and selects 4-6 municipal/provincial-level or district-level reform initiatives, such as commissioned administration (weituo guanli, which usually involves the commissioning of high-performing public schools to take over the administration of weaker ones), district-level teacher learning collaboration (which mainly refers to an established mechanism for expert teachers to network across schools and exert leadership beyond their immediate school level), as innovative cases for focused research. Data will be collected through observing cross-school collaborative learning activities, conducting in-depth interviews with different levels of leaders involved in the reform initiatives, and collecting documents and field notes. This study will make a unique contribution to three major bodies of educational literature: system reform; international understanding of system leadership; and educational leadership in China. The research findings will have important implications for system leadership and systemic improvement practices in Hong Kong and other societies. Objectives: 1. To investigate the role of different levels of leadership in designing and deploying educational infrastructure towards systemic improvement in Mainland China; 2. To explore the characteristics of socio-cultural, political and educational systems that facilitate and inhibit the exercise of system leadership; 3. To develop rich case studies that explicate complex relationships between system leadership, educational infrastructure and systemic improvement; and 4. To draw lessons about executing leadership and designing and deploying infrastructure that may have implications for leading systemic reforms in Hong Kong and other societies. Expected Outcomes: 1. Empirical data about how different levels of leaders design and deploy educational infrastructure to create the conditions for systemic improvement; 2. Explication of meanings of enactment and distribution of system leadership in the systemic reform; 3. Identification of the socio-cultural, political and systemic aspects of the Chinese education system that enable and inhibit system leaders to exert their leadership roles; 4. Development of rich case studies that explicate complex relationships between system leadership, educational infrastructure and systemic improvement; and 5. A set of propositions about what Hong Kong and other societies can learn from the practices of leadership execution and infrastructure deployment of these regions.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/2130/06/23


  • Leadership, Successful Systemic Improvement, China


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