Social justice leadership: Opportunities and challenges

Sing Ying Elson SZETO, Yan Ni Annie CHENG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


This paper explores principals' practices that promote social justice through creating more inclusive school for ethnic minority students and expanding the learning opportunities for low socio-economic status students. This study is part of the International School Leadership Development Network project (ISLDN)- Social Justice Strand conducted in Hong Kong context. Hong Kong society is experiencing rapid demographic change and undergoing a number of education reforms. Principals are constantly facing challenges in this changing context. This study aims to address three research questions: (1) What are the principals' perceptions of social justice; (2) How do they identify the opportunities and challenges in response to the education policy in the changing context; (3) How do they navigate the environment to practice social justice leadership. A qualitative cross case study was conducted in Hong Kong and describes how principals enacted social justice leadership in the changing contexts. We purposely selected two principals because these schools have successful reputation of practicing social justice in diverse student population. emi-structured interviews were adopted to capture the principals' values of social justice and leadership practices in addressing resistance and challenges facing schools with the students. Documentary evidence searchable in school websites and other artefacts such as annual school reports, school development plans and news clippings provided by the participants will also be collected to seek deeper understandings of the issues. Data was analysed through the ‘Framework for macro-micro examination of school context' developed by the ISLDN. Findings reveal that the challenges facing were lack of resources, acceptance of the community and support of the government policy. Both principals emphasized the importance of navigating the environment and connecting with the local community in enacting social justice. Differences of principals' values were found in individual definitions of social justice. Implications for principal preparation, future research for social justice leadership and the framework are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


Szeto, E., & Cheng, A. (2014, July). Social justice leadership: Opportunities and challenges. Paper presented at The British Educational Leadership, Management & Administration Society Conference 2016 (BELMAS 2014): Educational policy and practice: Can leaders shape the landscape?, Ettington Chase Conference Centre, Ettington, UK.


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