School-based management: A multi-perspective analysis on the experience from Hong Kong

Man Tak CHAN, Yin Cheong CHENG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


The School Management Initiative (SMI) is a school-based management (SBM) reform in Hong Kong schools. Reviews on studies of implementation obstacles and strategies of school-based management were huge (e.g. Ornstein, 1983; Wholstetter & Odden, 1992; Leithwood & Menzies, 1996) but experiences from Hong Kong might be ignored. Viewing from multiple perspectives of organizational theory, viz., the structural perspective, the human resource perspective, the political perspective, and the cultural perspective, this paper reviews past literature on SBM researches and reform studies of local schools to identify obstacles and strategies that are applicable to the implementation of the SMI scheme. In terms of the structural perspective, some SMI schools still take the form of Administrative Control hindering the progress of the other two forms, Professional Control SBM and Community Control SBM, because the control of schools are still retained by school sponsoring bodies (SSB). There may remain no clear accountability and role in some schools for key actors who hang onto traditional roles especially for the SSB, the school management committee and the school supervisor. The lack of common goals for key stakeholders in some schools is also an implementation obstacle. The strategies identified to be useful to cope with such obstacles are: to enforce clearer role and accountability on actors at different levels, including government departments, SSB, and site level management; to create participative decision making structure; and to build up common school goals accepted by key stakeholders. For the human resource perspective, obstacles spotted are: the rapid staff turnover in schools with unfavorable conditions; stakeholders' lack of adequate skills and knowledge; the increased stress and pressure on teachers and administrators due to more involvement in school management and appraisal system; and the insufficient time and resources available for teaching and related work. The strategies dealing with these obstacles are identified as to provide extra resources and comprehensive development programs for teachers and administrators in schools, to adapt internal and external demands on schools more manageable, to place appropriate limits on teacher involvement, and to provide a supportive climate with proper information and rewards. Viewing from the political perspective, power distribution and conflicts are the main concerns in the development of the SMI. The Education Department (as a whole) seems to have no strong determination to implement the SMI in all schools and many SSBs are unwilling to be de-bureaucratic and resistant to further devolution of authority in school management. Also many school principals do not devolve real power to teachers and increase their Professional Control on school functioning. Difficulties for Community Control SBM are identified as: the inactive parents' participation in school management, parents' low expectations for their children, and most importantly, teachers' and administrators' unwillingness of the involvement of non-practitioners in school management. The deficiencies can be remedied by balancing the power for, by increasing communication among and by clarifying significant roles for different parties such as government departments, SSBs, teachers and parents. In regard to the cultural perspective, obstacles to the reform of the SMI come from teachers' and principals' beliefs of uncertain advantages of SBM and their culture of resistance to change. The lack of cultural leadership in schools is also an obstacle to the SMI. Collaborative culture is highly valued in SBM but it is now not so systematically developed in SMI schools. As a starting strategy, principals should be equipped with the ideology and skills of cultural leadership to produce more opportunities for teachers' collaboration, ownership, and involvement in decision making processes. Meanwhile, school actors should be encouraged to articulate effects of school life and educational process on students and to acknowledge the need for change hi their practices. A great improvement in this reform will take place when collaborative culture is widely established in most schools. It is hoped that the analysis of this paper can contribute to the development and the implementation of school-based management in both local and international contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1997


Chan, M. T., & Cheng, Y. C. (1997, November). School-based management: A multi-perspective analysis on the experience from Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Hong Kong Educational Research Association (HKERA) 14th Annual Conference: Compulsory Education and Beyond, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China.


Dive into the research topics of 'School-based management: A multi-perspective analysis on the experience from Hong Kong'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.