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Testing the Spaces of Discretion: School Personnel as Implementers of Minority-Language Policy in China

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Schnack, Hans-Christian

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Abstract Following international trends to reform school management, the Chinese government has proposed school-based decision-making as a measure to raise the “quality” of education, but at the same time it has imposed new institutions of accountability for teachers and school administrators. In order to understand how this inter-play between accountability and discretion affects Chinese educational reforms, this paper analyses policy implementation through the lens of decision-making by principals and teachers as street-level bureaucrats. In the case of minority-language education in Xishuangbanna, a subject where institutions provide comparatively large spaces for discretionary decisions, I argue that the current institutions on accountability in minority-language education in China trigger processes by which implementers must interpret vague institutions in order to make decisions for their classroom. These purposefully wide spaces of “interpretational discretion” enable the party-state to make good on its promise to support local diversity, without threatening its own authority to prescribe educational goals. (author's abstract)
Keywords China; educational reform; school policy; school; decision making; curriculum contents; teacher; minority; minority policy; minority rights; language instruction; political institution; decision making leeway; Far East
Classification Macroanalysis of the Education System, Economics of Education, Educational Policy; Curriculum, Teaching, Didactics
Document language English
Publication Year 2016
Page/Pages p. 43-74
Journal Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 45 (2016) 1
Issue topic Policy Implementation in the New Socialist Countryside
ISSN 1868-4874
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-NoDerivs