Educational Research Journal

Competition — A Double-Edged Sword in Educational Change in Mainland China

2010.第25卷第2期(Vol. 25 No. 2).pp. 211–240

Competition — A Double-Edged Sword in Educational Change in Mainland China

Li-Fang TANG, Chi-Chung LAM, & Yun-Peng MA(唐麗芳、林智中、馬雲鵬)


The need for continuous reform in education to meet the challenges in changes to society, to the economy and to different political situations is widely acknowledged. However, the issue of what the lever and change strategy should be remains unresolved. Education authorities in many places have resorted to accountability among schools as policy levers. Underlying the accountability movement is the belief that under a competitive system, schools will become more receptive to change and become more effective. Some academic researchers doubt the effectiveness of such a movement and warn of undesirable side effects such a movement may bring about. This paper reports the case of a junior secondary school in a large city in Mainland China where market forces and competition were adopted as the lever to build up the drive for change and achieve better results. In the case school, it was found that teachers responded to the pressure of market force and competition in adopting change and achieving the goals set. Students’ performances in public examinations and inter-school extra-curricular activities were impressive which was seen as of prime importance by the school management and parents. However, behind this rosy picture was an absence of a collaborative culture among teaching staff, and the loss of moral purpose, both are essential for the long-term sustainable development of quality education.

Keywords: education policy; China; education change