Review of research on school principal leadership in mainland China, 1998-2013: Continuity and change

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Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to review English-language publications about school principalship in China published between 1998 and 2013 and to present an overview of the authorship, topics, methodologies and key findings of these publications. Design/methodology/approach– The methodology includes an exhaustive review of journal articles and book chapters about Chinese school principalship published in the English language. In total, 39 articles and 17 book chapters are identified for the 1998-2013 period. Qualitative analysis is conducted to determine the basic patterns of authorship, topics, methods and key findings. The changes or continuities in these patterns during the study period are also discerned. Findings– The paper identifies several continuous and discontinuous patterns in each of the review categories and provides a better understanding of on-going research into the practice of school principalship in China. The results also suggest areas that require deeper exploration. Originality/value– This paper explores the landscape of school principalship in China as reflected in the international literature and indicates the ways that this landscape has changed or remained the same over the years. As such, the paper contributes to the thin knowledge base concerning school principalship in China and sheds light on the enduring local-global tension in the evolution of education systems. Copyright © 2015 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-491
JournalJournal of Educational Administration
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015



Walker, A., & Qian, H. (2015). Review of research on school principal leadership in mainland China, 1998-2013: Continuity and change. Journal of Educational Administration, 53(4), 467-491.


  • China
  • Literature review
  • School principals