Making sense of images of fact and fiction: A critical review of the knowledge base for school leadership in Vietnam

Philip HALLINGER, Allan David WALKER, Gian Tu TRUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to review both international and domestic (i.e. Vietnamese language) journal articles and graduate theses and dissertations on educational leadership in Vietnam. The review addresses two specific goals: first, to describe and critically assess the nature of the formal knowledge base on principal leadership in Vietnam, second, to synthesize findings from the existing literature on principal leadership in Vietnam. Design/methodology/approach– The paper employed a method for conducting systematic reviews of research. The authors conducted a detailed, exhaustive search for international and “local” papers from Vietnam, yielding 120 research sources. Information from these papers was extracted and evaluated prior to analysis. Data analysis included both quantitative description of the “review database” as well as critical synthesis of substantive findings. Findings– The review supports and extends an earlier review which found that the practice of educational leadership in Vietnam remains largely “invisible” to the international community of scholars. The review also yielded a highly critical assessment of research perspectives and methods used in the “local” Vietnamese studies which comprised the bulk of the authors’ database. Synthesis of substantive findings highlighted the manner by which organizational, political, and socio-cultural forces in the Vietnamese context shapes the practice of school leadership. Research limitations/implications– First, qualitative studies are recommended that seek to describe, in-depth, the enactment of leadership in the Vietnamese context. Second, broad-scale surveys of characteristics, attitudes, and beliefs of school leaders across Vietnam are warranted. Third, the authors encourage graduate students and scholars studying school leadership in Vietnam to undertake a new generation of theory-informed studies that connect with the global literature. Practical implications– Due to the relatively weak nature of the existing knowledge base, the authors were unable to identify specific implications for leadership practice. However, practical implications are identified for developing the research capacity needed to improve research quality in Vietnam’s universities. Originality/value– This review is the first systematic review of educational leadership and management conducted of the Vietnamese literature. Moreover, the authors suggest that the review is original in its comprehensive coverage of both the local and international literature on educational leadership in Vietnam. Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)445-466
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


Hallinger, P., Walker, A., & Trung, G. T. (2015). Making sense of images of fact and fiction: A critical review of the knowledge base for school leadership in Vietnam. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(4), 445-466.


  • Vietnam
  • Asia
  • Review
  • Leadership
  • Culture
  • Administrators
  • Principal


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