Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Monograph

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Larsen, Marianne

Abstract

Adopting a critical approach to policy analysis, this qualitative comparative case study uses Actor Network Theory (ANT) to explore the transfer of the global discourse on leadership standards to China, the adaptations of the discourse as observed in the Professional Standards for Compulsory Schools Principals (PSfP) (MoE of the PRC, 2013), and the enactment of the PSfP in schools. While most studies researching the PSfP are limited to related background in China, this dissertation situates the policy in the global convergence of leadership standards, and highlights the nature of policy transfer, which is multi-directional and political. Focusing on the notion of enactment, the study also addresses that the translation of policy into practice is both relational and multiple.

The findings suggest that in developing the PSfP, different types of actors were either enrolled or marginalized depending on their connections with government departments. The global discourse on leadership standards has also been adapted by emphasizing: 1) the authority of socialism, China’s Communist Party (the Party), and the State; 2) morality; 3) student overall development; and 4) cultures and traditions. Another four themes were identified in terms of the enactment of the PSfP: 1) Everybody is responsible for his/her own duties; 2) Morality as moral education and moral leadership; 3) Student academic performance is the key; and 4) Cultures and traditions are essential.

In my analysis, I identified three assemblages (the assemblage of leadership standards, the assemblage of adaptations, the assemblage of enactment), and further interrogated the alignments and tensions between the policy adaptations as observed in the PSfP and the enactment of the policy. The assemblages are configured through the power relations among heterogenous types of actors, including the State, the Party, government departments, universities, think tanks, school leaders, schools’ physical settings, and intergovernmental organizations. The transfer and adaptations of the global discourse on leadership standards to the Chinese context, as well as school leaders’ enactment of the PSfP are all produced through those sociomaterial interrelationships, within which the actors make meanings of their relationships with others, manage to achieve balance among different interests, and devote to promote their own agendas.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation explores the transnational flows of policy ideas by presenting a case of a standards-based policy introduced in China, namely, the Professional Standards for Compulsory Schools Principals (PSfP) (MoE of the PRC, 2013), which outlines the responsibilities, competencies, and practices that are expected for principals’ and vice-principals. Predominant commonalities have been identified between similar standards from non-Chinese contexts, and the major dimensions outlined in the PSfP.

This study firstly explores the process of the development of the PSfP, and then sheds light on the ways in which the standards outlined in the PSfP are contextualized in China by highlighting four themes, including: 1) the authority of Socialism, China’s Communist Party (the Party), and the State; 2) morality; 3) student overall development; and 4) cultures and traditions. The dissertation also offers a discussion of how the PSfP has been put into practice by principals and vice-principals in schools. Four themes emerged from the findings: 1) Everybody is responsible for his/her own duties; 2) Morality as moral education and moral leadership; 3) Student academic performance is the key; and 4) Cultures and traditions are essential.

A further interrogation of the alignments and tensions between the standards identified in the PSfP and school leaders’ practices is manifested to address the conclusion that the development of the PSfP, the contextualization of leadership standards in China, and related practices of school leaders all rest in the interrelationships within which agenda setting and practices are both driven by divergent interests, negotiations and compromises.

Available for download on Wednesday, August 31, 2022

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