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Review of research on school principal leadership in mainland China, 1998-2013: Continuity and change

Allan Walker (Faculty of Education and Human Development, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China)
Haiyan Qian (Department of Education Policy and Leadership, Hong Kong Institute of Education, Hong Kong, China)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 6 July 2015




The purpose of this paper is to review English-language publications about school principalship in China published between 1998 and 2013 and to present an overview of the authorship, topics, methodologies and key findings of these publications.


The methodology includes an exhaustive review of journal articles and book chapters about Chinese school principalship published in the English language. In total, 39 articles and 17 book chapters are identified for the 1998-2013 period. Qualitative analysis is conducted to determine the basic patterns of authorship, topics, methods and key findings. The changes or continuities in these patterns during the study period are also discerned.


The paper identifies several continuous and discontinuous patterns in each of the review categories and provides a better understanding of on-going research into the practice of school principalship in China. The results also suggest areas that require deeper exploration.


This paper explores the landscape of school principalship in China as reflected in the international literature and indicates the ways that this landscape has changed or remained the same over the years. As such, the paper contributes to the thin knowledge base concerning school principalship in China and sheds light on the enduring local-global tension in the evolution of education systems.



The authors wish to acknowledge the funding support of the Research Grant Council (RGC) of Hong Kong for its support through the General Research Fund (GRF841512).


Walker, A. and Qian, H. (2015), "Review of research on school principal leadership in mainland China, 1998-2013: Continuity and change", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 53 No. 4, pp. 467-491.



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