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Building education groups as school collaboration for education improvement: a case study of stakeholder interactions in District A of Chengdu


School collaboration has become a popular approach for education improvement in global education reform. This study examined the dynamics of stakeholder school collaboration in China to improve public education using a case study focused on an Education Group government initiative in Chengdu, China. Frist an introduction to a global reform for education improvement through school collaboration is given, followed by a review of global reform for school collaboration and Hargreaves and Shirley’s discussion on design and innovation for school networks and collaboration to visualize the framework for the interpretation of the stakeholders’ school collaborative interactions. Then, the school collaboration for education improvement in China is examined in detail based on 20 interviews with stakeholders from educational authorities, the lead and member schools involved in the establishment of the Education Groups in Chengdu, China. The interviews were designed based on a review of policy documents about construction of the Education Groups in Chengdu. The findings revealed that the establishment of the Education Groups in Chengdu was driven by both top-down initiatives and bottom-up innovations, and while there had been some success in improving education quality in the lower performing schools, the stakeholder interactions had been hindered by the lack of policy coordination within and beyond the education reforms. It was concluded that a collective institutional context was needed to foster the shared values and trust needed between all stakeholders and promote the sustainable reform of the Education Groups to ensure education equity and quality.

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Fig. 1

Source: Author, based on Hargreaves and Shirley (2009, pp. 99–101)

Fig. 2

Source: Author

Fig. 3

Source: Author. Data collected from School B of Education Group A on May 23, 2018

Fig. 4

Source: Author. Data collected from School B of Education Group A on May 23, 2018


  1. Zhong (2013) reported that the original Counterpart Support Policy practice was a collaboration between factories in urban areas and a People’s commune in the rural area of Shanxi Province. Through the collaboration, the factory provided technical assistance for the commune’s maintenance of agricultural machines, and fostered technicians and support for facility construction.

  2. CCP refers to Chinese Communist Party.

  3. The city education authority had already established group management, exchange of staff, construction of educational community, effect of special program, and other innovative practices criteria for evaluating the Education Group achievements (information collected from interviews with staff at the Chengdu City Education Bureau on April 27, 2018).

  4. Information is based on interview with staff of Chengdu City Education Bureau on April 27,

  5. The interviews with two teachers of School B were conducted on May 23, 2018.

  6. According to the principal of School B, this community used to be the largest community of internal migrants in Chengdu before becoming a newly-established residential area in 2008. This is why Fig. 4 shows there were more internal migrant children than local children at the beginning. With the rapid urbanization, an increasing number of local children moved into this school. Gradually, it became an educational nest accommodating both local children and migrant children (Interview with principal of School B conducted on May 23, 2018).


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This work was supported by the MITSUBISHI Foundation, Japan (ID: 30209).

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Correspondence to Jing Liu.

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Liu, J. Building education groups as school collaboration for education improvement: a case study of stakeholder interactions in District A of Chengdu. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. 22, 427–439 (2021).

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  • Education improvement
  • School collaboration
  • Education Groups
  • Interaction
  • Policy coordination
  • China