Educational Research for Policy and Practice

, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 33–51 | Cite as

School leadership and citizenship education: the experiences and struggles of school party secretaries in China

Original Paper


Many scholarly works have examined school leadership, and many others have studied models for teaching citizenship education. Research combining both school leadership and citizenship education, however, is rare. The leadership of China’s school party secretaries (SPSs), who are the equivalent of school principals in the Chinese school system and are particularly responsible for leading and supervising citizenship education and political work on campus, is even less researched. Drawing on data from document analysis and interviews, this empirical study investigates the dynamics and complexities of SPSs’ school leadership. The findings reveal a complex division of power and labor between SPSs and principals, as well as the SPSs’ struggle to balance state control with their professional autonomy and their power struggles with principals over leadership in citizenship education. The findings also show that, in China, the SPSs’ leadership in citizenship education is a form of political leadership that seeks to implement the state’s policies and transmit state-prescribed values. In addition, it is conducted in a socio-political context characterized by the integration of administration and politics. Moreover, it involves complex relationships and interactions with higher authorities and principals with diverse interests. Finally, this study presents theoretical implications for understanding school leadership in citizenship education.


School leadership Citizenship education School party secretaries Educational governance China 



The authors would like to express their heartfelt gratitude to all the school leaders and staff who participated in this study and to those who helped us to contact the schools used in this study. They also thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments.


  1. Banks, J. A. (2008). Diversity, group identity, and citizenship education in a global age. Educational Researcher, 37(3), 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bao, C. (2004). Xiaozhang fuzezhixia de xiaozhang quanli daxiao jiqi guiyue [School principals’ power in Principal Responsibility System and its regulation]. Jiaoyu Kexue [Education Science], 20(4), 51–53.Google Scholar
  3. Bazeley, P. (2007). Qualitative data analysis with NVivo. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
  4. Blase, J., & Anderson, G. L. (1995). The micropolitics of educational leadership: From control to empowerment. London: Cassell.Google Scholar
  5. Blase, J., & Blase, J. (2002). The micropolitics of instructional supervision: A call for research. Educational Administration Quarterly, 38(1), 6–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bush, T. (2011). The micropolitics of educational change. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership, 39(6), 642–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bush, T., & Qiang, H. (2000). Leadership and culture in Chinese education. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 20(2), 58–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen, G. (2003). Xuexiao guanli tizhi wenti yinlun [Discussion on school administration system]. Huadong Shifan Daxue Xuebao (Jiaoyu Kexueban) [Journal of East China Normal University (Education Science)], 21(1), 1–6.Google Scholar
  9. Cheung, K. W., & Pan, S. Y. (2006). Transition of moral education in China: Towards regulated individualism. Citizenship Teaching and Learning, 2(2), 37–50.Google Scholar
  10. Child, J. (1994). Management in China during the age of reform. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Communist Party of China Central Committee. (1985). Reform of China’s educational structure. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.Google Scholar
  12. Communist Party of China Central Committee. (1986). Guanyu shehuizhuyi jingshen wenming jianshe zhidao fangzhen de jueyi [Decision on the guidelines of socialist spiritual civilization]. In D. He (Ed.), Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyao jiaoyu wenxian (1976–1990) [The important educational documents in People’s Republic of China (1976–1990)] (pp. 2504–2505). Haikou: Hainan Press.Google Scholar
  13. Datnow, A. (2000). Power and politics in the adoption of school reform models. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 22(4), 357–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dimmock, C., & Walker, A. (2002). School leadership in context-societal and organizational cultures. In T. Bush & L. Bell (Eds.), The principles and practice of educational management (pp. 70–85). London: Paul Chapman.Google Scholar
  15. Hallinger, P., & Muppy, J. F. (1986). The social context of effective schools. American Journal of Education, 94(3), 328–355.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoy, W. K., & Miskel, C. G. (2004). Educational administration, policy, and reform: Research and measurement. Greenwich: Information Age Pub.Google Scholar
  17. Hoyle, E. (1999). The two faces of micropolitics. School Leadership & Management, 19(2), 213–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jiao, X. (2012, December 25). Yiwu jiaoyu xiaozhang zhijizhi youwang tuixing [Principal responsibility system in basic education can hopefully be implemented]. Zhongguo Jiaoyubao [China Education Daily], p. 1.Google Scholar
  19. Jin, Z. (2001, January 16). Shanghai quanmian tuixing zhongxiaoxue xiaozhang zhijizhi [Shanghai fully implements principal professional ranking system]. Zhongguo Jiaoyubao [China Education Daily], p. 1.Google Scholar
  20. Kennedy, K. J. (Ed.). (1997). Citizenship education and the modern state. London: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kennedy, K. J., Lee, W. O., & Grossman, D. L. (Eds.). (2010). Citizenship pedagogies in Asia and the Pacific. Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  22. Kerr, D. (1999). Citizenship education in the curriculum: An international review. The School Field, X(3/4), 5–32.Google Scholar
  23. Kubow, P. K., Grossman, D., & Ninomiya, A. (1998). Multidimensional citizenship: Educational policy for the 21st century. In J. J. Cogan & R. Derricott (Eds.), Citizenship for the 21st century: An international perspective on education (pp. 115–134). London: Kogan Page.Google Scholar
  24. Lashway, L. (2006). Political leadership. In S. C. Smith & P. K. Piele (Eds.), School leadership: Handbook for excellence in student learning (pp. 266–281). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  25. Law, W. W. (2006). Citizenship, citizenship education and the state in China in a global age. Cambridge Journal of Education, 36(4), 597–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Law, W. W. (2009). Culture and school leadership in China: Exploring school leaders’ views of relationship- and rule- based governance. In A. W. Wiseman (Ed.), Global contexts and international comparions (pp. 303–341). Bingley: Emerald Publishing.Google Scholar
  27. Law, W. W. (2012). Educational leadership and culture in China: Dichotomies between Chinese and Anglo-American leadership traditions? International Journal of Educational Development, 32(2), 273–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lee, W. O. (1997). Changing ideopolitical emphases in moral education in China: An analysis of the CCP Central Committee documents. In W. O. Lee & M. Bray (Eds.), Education and political transition: Perspectives and dimensions in East Asia (pp. 99–114). Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  29. Lee, W. O., & Gu, R. (Eds.). (2004). Guoji shiye yu gongmin jiaoyu: Xianggang ji Shanghai zhongxue zhuangkuang diaocha [Global citizenship education: A survey on secondary schools in Hong Kong and Shanghai]. Shanghai: Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Press.Google Scholar
  30. Lee, W. O., & Ho, C. H. (2005). Ideopolitical shifts and changes in moral education policy in China. Journal of Moral Education, 34(4), 413–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li, G., & Wang, B. (2000). Zhongguo jiaoyu zhidu tongshi (1949–1999) [The history of Chinese educational policy (1949–1999)]. Jinan: Shandong Education Press.Google Scholar
  32. Lin, J. (1993). Education in post-Mao China. Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  33. Lin, J. (2000). Reform in primary and secondary school administration in China. In C. Dimmock & A. Walker (Eds.), Future school administration: Western and Asian perspectives (pp. 291–309). Hong Kong: Chinese University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Merriam, S. B. (1998). Qualitative research and case study applications in education (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.Google Scholar
  35. Ministry of Education. (1998). Zhongxiaoxue deyu gongzuo guicheng [Regulations of primary and secondary school moral education]. Accessed 1 March 2010.
  36. Osler, A., & Starkey, H. (2003). Learning for cosmopolitan citizenship: Theoretical debates and young people’s experiences. Education Review, 55(5), 243–254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pike, M. A. (2007). Values and visibility: The implementation and assessment of citizenship education in schools. Educational Review, 59(2), 215–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Remy, R. C., & Wagstaff, L. H. (1982). Principals can exert a leadership role in citizenship education. NASSP Bulletin, 66(454), 55–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. (2003). Shanghaishi zhongxiaoxue dangzhibushuji duiying xiaozhang zhiji biaozhun pingding fangan [The plan that corresponds to principal prosessional level for assessing party secretaries in primary and secondary schools in Shanghai municipal]. Accessed 27 January 2013.
  40. Smith, S. C., & Piele, P. K. (2006). School leadership: Handbook for excellence in student learning (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.Google Scholar
  41. State Education Commission. (1990). Guanyu kaizhan zhongxiaoxue xiaozhang gangwei peixun de ruogan yijian [Guidance on principals’ training]. In D. He (Ed.), Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyao jiaoyu wenxian (1976–1990) [The important educational documents in People’s Republic of China (1976–1990)] (pp. 3000–3002). Haikou: Hainan Press.Google Scholar
  42. State Education Commission. (1995). Zhongxue deyu dagang [The outline of secondary school moral education]. In D. He (Ed.), Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyao jiaoyu wenxian (1991–1997) [The important educational documents in People’s Republic of China (1991–1997)] (pp. 3778–3782). Haikou: Hainan Press.Google Scholar
  43. Sun, C., Tao, G., Qiu, Z., Li, R., & Chen, X. (1988). Jianchi shiyan, jiji tansuo, zhubu shenru, buduan wanshan: Shanghaishi “xiaozhang fuzezhi” shidian qingkuang diaocha [Persistent experiment, active exploration, gradual penetrantion and continuing improvement: The investigation on the experiment of “Principal Responsibility System” in Shanghai]. Shanghai Jiaoyu Keyan [Shanghai Research on Education], 4, 32–35.Google Scholar
  44. Tao, Z., Liu, G., & Yi, X. (1988). Tantan zhongxue de dangzheng fenkai wenti [On the separation of administrative power and party power in middle schools]. Renmin Jiaoyu [People’s Education], 6, 19–20.Google Scholar
  45. Teng, T. (1988). Zai quanguo zhongxiaoxue deyu gongzuo huiyishang de baogao [Remarks addressed at the national education conference]. In D. He (Ed.), Zhonghua renmin gongheguo zhongyao jiaoyu wenxian (1976–1990) [The important educational documents in People’s Republic of China (1976–1990)] (pp. 2759–2761). Haikou: Hainan Press.Google Scholar
  46. Walker, A., & Dimmock, C. (2002). Cross-cultural and comparative insights into educational administration and leadership. In A. Walker & C. A. J. Dimmock (Eds.), School leadership and administration: Adopting a cultural perspective. New York: Routledge Falmer.Google Scholar
  47. Wiersma, W. (2005). Research methods in education: An introduction (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  48. Wong, K. C. (2005). Conditions and practices of successful principalship in Shanghai. Journal of Educational Administration, 43(6), 552–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Xiao, Z. (1984). Zhongxiaoxue neibu de lingdao tizhi yingdang gaige [Primary and secondary school leadership system should be reformed]. Renmin Jiaoyu [People’s Education], 9, 16–17.Google Scholar
  50. Xiao, Z. (2000). Xiaozhang fuzezhi de tichu ji neihan [The proposition and meaning of Principal Responsibility System]. Zhongxiaoxue Guanli [Primary and Secondary School Administration], 11, 2–5.Google Scholar
  51. Zhang, L. (2004). Xuexiao zuzhi de duoyuan maodun ji dui xiaozhang fuzezhi shishi de yingxiang [The school multiple contradictions and influences on the implementation of Principal Responsibility System]. Jiaoxue Yu Guanli [Journal of Teaching and Management], 7(5), 72–76.Google Scholar
  52. Zhang, Z. (2006). Xiaozhang fuzezhi: Fazhan licheng yu wenti pouxi [Principal responsibility system: History and problems]. Zhongxiaoxue Guanli [Journal of Primary and Secondary School Administration], 10, 11–14.Google Scholar
  53. Zhao, Z., & Fairbrother, G. P. (2010). Pedagogies of cultural integration in Chinese citizenship education. In K. J. Kennedy, W. O. Lee, & D. L. Grossman (Eds.), Citizenship pedagogies in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 37–52). Hong Kong: Comparative Education Research Centre, The University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  54. Zhong, M., & Lee, W. O. (2008). Citizenship curriculum in China: A shifting discourse towards Chinese democracy, law education and psychological health. In D. L. Grossman, W. O. Lee, & K. J. Kennedy (Eds.), Citizenship curriculum in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 61–73). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhu, X., & Feng, X. (2008). On the development of citizenship education outlook in China. Frontiers of Education in China, 3(1), 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationSun Y at-Sen UniversityGuangzhou China
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationThe University of Hong KongHong KongChina

Personalised recommendations