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Quality Assurance in Education

School supervision and evaluation in China: the Shanghai perspective


John Chikin Lee, Daoyong Ding, Huan Song,
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QAE
16,2 School supervision and evaluation
in China: the Shanghai
perspective
148
John Chi-kin Lee and Daoyong Ding
Department of Curriculum and Instruction,
Received 25 August 2007
Revised November 2007 The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, and
Accepted January 2008 Huan Song
School of Education, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
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Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to discuss recent developments in school developmental
supervisory evaluation in the Pudong New Area of Shanghai in the Chinese Mainland.
Design/methodology/approach The main research approach is qualitative, using documentary
analysis and interviews of an inspector, principals and teachers from two primary schools.
Findings There were perceived positive and negative impacts of school supervision and
evaluation.
Originality/value The paper highlights the implications for fostering a shared school-government
community of school supervision and evaluation, promoting a dynamic approach for addressing
contextual differences as well as achieving better coherence among educational reform, supervision
and evaluation policies.
Keywords Schools, Quality assurance, Education, China
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
Concerns about quality education and measures to monitor, evaluate, supervise and
enhance school education have attracted increasing attention in many parts of the
world including China. It is, however, notable that there is a dearth of English
published papers on the current status and issues of school supervision and evaluation
in the Chinese Mainland. In this paper, we looked at quality assurance measures,
covering issues on school evaluation and school supervision, from both policy and
school perspectives in the city of Shanghai.
From 1984 to the present, the status of the educational supervision office has been
gradually upgraded from the Supervision Office under the Ministry of Education in
1984 to National Educational Supervision Group in 2000. In 1991, the Provisional
Regulations of Educational Supervision was issued by the National Education
Commission, stipulating the establishment of institutions of educational supervision
above the local county level and reinforcement of the administrative supervision of
Quality Assurance in Education educational affairs (www.pudong-edu n.d.). This was followed by the publication of
Vol. 16 No. 2, 2008
pp. 148-163 The Education Laws of the Peoples Republic of China in 1995, which stipulated: The
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0968-4883
Country implements a system of educational supervision and an evaluation system for
DOI 10.1108/09684880810868439 schools and other educational institutions (Ling and Liao, 2005, p. 15).
Shanghai was chosen as the place for study as it is recognized as the most affluent School
city in the Chinese Mainland and Shanghais educational innovations are often perceived supervision and
as displaying pioneering characteristics and a forward-looking model available for
replication in other regions in China. In terms of educational supervision and inspection, evaluation
the innovative experimentation of school developmental supervisory evaluation
(Xuexiao Fazhanxing Dudao Pinggu) in Shanghai has impacted upon, and attracted
attention, at the national level (www.moe.edu.cn n.d.). From the various districts that 149
constitute metropolitan Shanghai, Pudong New Area, established in the 1990s as an
experimental and exemplary base for innovations, was selected as the focus of study.
Pudong New Area was seen as the opening window of Chinas reforms and a
miniature of modernized constructions in Shanghai (Hu, 2001). As regards educational
supervision, Pudong has been a pilot area in exploring school developmental
supervisory evaluation since 1999 (Zhao, 2002) and has recently been engaged in a
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national-level project on school inspectors ranks and the inspection system (Liu, 2006a).

Trends and approaches to school supervision and evaluation


In many developed countries, such as the United States and the United Kingdom (UK),
where basic education is fully implemented, in the context of educational supervision,
much more attention has been given to school inspection and school self-evaluation than
to administrative supervision. Some scholars have identified a spectrum of practices
ranging from greater emphasis on external school inspection in England to a sharper
focus on internal review in, for example, Victoria, Australia (Gurr et al., 2004; Kennedy
and Lee, 2008). In such countries there has been a trend towards educational
decentralization and school autonomy alongside an emphasis on the provision of services
and guidance (Yang and Guo, 2005). This echoes what Glickman and Kanawati (1998,
pp. 1248-50) have pointed out when they identified four trends for school supervision:
shifting from individual to group focus; shifting from a preoccupation with inspection and
evaluation toward a function of facilitating growth; shifting from a micro- to a
macro-conceptualization of supervisory content; and an emphasis on creating community,
both within the school and with the larger community which the school serves.
In a presentation to a seminar organized by the Asian Network of Training and
Research Institutions in Educational Planning (ANTRIEP), De Grauwe and Naidoo
(2004, p. 22) suggested that school evaluation involved an (internal and external)
assessment that encompassed all aspects of a school and the impact of these upon
student learning. School evaluation was envisaged as the first step in the process of
school improvement and quality enhancement. In that seminar, three main evaluation
tools, namely external review or inspection, examinations and school self-evaluation or
internal evaluation) were discussed. Educational supervision (including administrative
supervision and school inspection) was considered to be one of the key mechanisms or
tools for educational evaluation.
School supervision requires legitimacy and authority. Some scholars, including
Sergiovanni and Starratt (1998), refer to various sources of authority such as
bureaucratic, personal, technical-rational, professional and moral authority. They go
on to argue that supervision is a moral activity in which teachers are empowered and
schools function as communities of learners and moral agents. In a similar vein, there
has been a call in the evaluation profession for schools to become sustainable learning
communities in which greater inclusivity of information, people, and ideas, more
QAE democratic and consensual practices as well as more contemplative learning were
16,2 emphasized (Preskill, 2003, p. 371).
Given these trends, how far has the Chinese mainland, especially the modernized
city of Shanghai, addressed world trends in school supervision and evaluation? Our
study has been guided by two major questions:
(1) What are the characteristics and recent developments of school supervision and
150 evaluation activities in Shanghai, with special reference to Pudong New Area?
(2) What are the perceived impacts of these school supervision and evaluation
activities by principals and teachers?

Characteristics of educational supervision and evaluation in China


One of the salient characteristics of educational supervision in China is the combination
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of administrative supervision and educational inspection. Currently, a four-tier


administrative system for educational supervision (central/national, province, city and
county) has been established and more than 90 per cent of the cities (Ling and Liao, 2005;
www.moe.gov.cn n.d.)) have set up a Peoples Government Supervision Office to check,
monitor, direct and evaluate educational quality, especially the enforcement and
implementation of compulsory basic education. Such a combination of administrative
supervision and educational inspection is backed up and legitimized by laws and
regulations and each supervision office has its own manpower establishment, regular
budget and office requirements (Yang and Guo, 2005). The former Deputy Minister and
National Inspector Wang (2003) has pointed out that the key tasks for educational
supervision in major cities and developed areas should be reforming schools in
difficulty, narrowing the gap in basic education between urban-rural areas and between
schools, and enhancing the capacity of quality educational resources.
As regards educational evaluation, while some western countries, such as England,
make use of a combination of evaluation, inspection and school self-evaluation to help
enhance educational standards, school self-evaluation is still quite a new concept for
schools in the Chinese Mainland. Its implementation is likely to encounter difficulties
such as the lack of clear government guidelines, contextualized criteria, an established
indicator system and appropriate methodological tools (Yue and Zhu, 2004; Peng et al.,
2006). Given improving educational quality in schools as an increasing priority and
there being calls for using education supervision and evaluation to enhance school
quality in China, we now turn to the extent to which the recent Shanghai policies and
practices can address these issues.

Methods and background of schools


For this study, we have adopted a qualitative research approach, involving the collection
of qualitative data derived from policy documents from the web, school documents and
semi-structured, in-depth interviews. In addition to interviewing an inspector in the
Pudong Supervision Office, fieldwork was conducted in Pudong New Area (hereafter
referred to Pudong) of Shanghai in two primary schools. A case study approach for
adopted for this study because, on the one hand, it was suited to capturing the
participants viewpoint, or insiders perspective and, on the other hand, it allowed the
researchers to maintain their own perspectives as outsiders (Gall et al. 1996). The decision
to focus on two case study schools was made on the grounds that each case would yield
thick descriptions and hence the volume of data generated, while considerable, would be
manageable (Lee and Dimmock, 1999; Lee and Lo, 2007). Nonetheless, there was a School
limitation of the sample size, which made statistical generalization difficult. supervision and
One of the case study schools was renowned for school management, School 1, while
the other can be described as an ordinary school, School 2. School 1 was established evaluation
about 20 years ago and continues to be an outstanding public school with boarding
facilities, famous not only at the district and city levels but also at the national level. At
the time of our study it had some 150 staff (including 120 teachers), 1200 students and 151
46 classes. School 2 had been open for about eighty years with a staff size of around 50
(including 46 teachers), about 630 students and 20 classes.
In each school, interviews were conducted with the principal, vice-principal and
14-15 teachers. The criteria of selection were based on subjects taught and rank in the
staffing hierarchy or administrative duties. The selection of interviewees covered the
following subjects: Chinese language. English language, mathematics, nature/general
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studies, physical education, fine arts, and music. Some were senior teachers or panel
heads while others were ordinary class teachers. The selection of interviewees also
included teachers with varying teaching experiences. The following main questions
were asked in the semi-structured interviews:
.
What kinds of checks and evaluation are imposed on your school for quality
assurance for school education?
.
Do you think that these quality assurance measures affect the daily operation of
the school? Could they help enhance the improvement of school quality?
.
What has your school done to cope with the checks and evaluation? What are the
responses of school personnel? How do you view these quality assurance
measures?

All interviews were recorded with a tape recorder, and verbatim transcripts were made
for later analysis of the interview data (Lee and Lo, 2007).

School supervision and evaluation in Shanghai: perspectives on policies and schools in


the Pudong New Area
In Shanghai, a synopsis of the indicators of school developmental supervisory
evaluation for primary and secondary schools was issued in 2003. It was based on four
principles: the developmental principle (encouraging schools continuous development);
the subjective principle (establishing the space for autonomous development); the
collaborative principle (emphasizing trust and collaboration); staged principle (paying
attention to school differences and diversity); and the stimulating principle (stressing the
longitudinal comparison of individual schools) (www.shmec.gov.cn n.d.).
The basic indicators of school operation are broadly divided into grades A and B
indicators. Grade A indicators, and B indicators (shown in parenthesis) are as follows:
school conditions (school campus area, facilities and equipment); school management
(management of school affairs (e.g., school development plans and goals), management
of teaching, management of moral education, management of personnel and
management of general affairs (e.g. finance)); and school quality (attendance and
consolidation rate, basic requirements (e.g. students participation in extra-curricular
activities). The document also contains guidelines on school development and covers the
following areas and elements of evaluation: school development goals (school operation
goals, goals for cultivation and management goals); construction of school curriculum
QAE (curriculum development, curriculum content, curriculum management and curriculum
16,2 evaluation); instructional reform and student learning (classroom teaching, approaches
to teaching and learning, motivation of learning, learning ability and evaluation system);
school moral education (work goals, work pathways, establishment of mechanism and
building up the workforce); building up school culture (cultural environment, cultural
activities), educational research (research directions, management of projects and
152 utilization of outcomes); building up the staff (school-based training, school-based
development, school-based management); student development (measures of nurturing
students, student quality, student growth); and co-construction of school and community
(interactive participation and sharing of resources) (Anon., 2004).
With specific regard to Pudong, while the professional work of the Supervision
Office (Dudao Shi ) is advised and directed by the Shanghai Peoples Government
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Supervision Office, its administration is directly managed by the Education


Department (Jiaoyu Chu), which is under the management of the Pudong Social
Development Bureau (i.e. Pudong does not have an Education Bureau). Under the
Education Department there are four Education Divisions (Jiaoyu Shu) (monitoring
affairs of more than 380 pre-schools, primary and secondary schools in four different
areas within Pudong) and the Research Institute of Educational Development (Jiaoyu
Fazhan Yanjiu Yuan). The latter is responsible for teachers professional development,
educational research and student assessment.
It is interesting to note that school developmental supervisory evaluation has
operated for two cycles in Pudong New Area. It is more elaborate than the Shanghai
guidelines. The first cycle operated from 1999 to 2005 while the second started in 2006.
Many schools, including the case study Schools 1 and 2, have not participated in the
second cycle. The main difference between the first and second cycle of evaluation is
that, for the former, the indicators and reference standards are designed by the
Supervision Office and, for the latter, self-designed indicators and standards by
individual schools have been emphasized.
In the first cycle (2001-2005), there was a progressive, systematic indicator system
as shown in Table I (Zhao, 2001, pp. 276-9) and Table II, comprising three indicator
sub-systems (basic, holistic and subjective) and three evaluation layers (educational
resources, school management and student development).
The developmental supervisory evaluation process places emphasis on school
self-evaluation, which is divided into two parts (Zhao, 2006). The first part relates to a
schools annual evaluation focusing on the working targets of the annual development
plan. The second part relates to school supervisory evaluation in accordance with the
governments guidance as shown in Table I. Using these indicators, schools could be
evaluated based on the grades assigned by status evaluation and developmental
evaluation. The classes of status evaluation refer to pass I and II, normative (guifan)
I and II, exemplary (shifan) I and II and special (outstanding schools). The grades
of developmental evaluation are A (fast development), B (relatively fast development)
and C (ordinary development) (Zhao and Zhu, 2004)
While there are external demands for monitoring, supervision and inspection,
Schools 1 and 2 responded slightly differently to these demands and they had their
own internal measures of evaluation and improvement.
School 1 had regular mechanisms for teacher evaluation and assessing student
learning. Every month and every Friday, the school would organize tests for gauging
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Evaluation layer (A) Assessment region (B) Main factor (C) Selected example(s) of reference standards

A1 Disposal of educational B1 Education funds C1 Allocation of funds from the Education funds per student meeting the requirements
resources top
B2 Area of school campus C2 Special teaching rooms Special rooms (e.g., library, language room, nature
laboratory, technological activity room, and etc.) meeting
the requirements
C3 Area per student Referring to the requirements stipulated in 1990
B3 Technological facilities C4 Teaching facilities Two machines and a projection screen per ordinary
classroom
C5 Books, newspapers and 20 books per student (range: 20, 15, 10); 60 types of
magazines newspaper and magazines per student (range: 60, 50, 40)
(1999 standard)
B4 Deployment of teachers C6 Job qualification Percentage of qualified in-service teachers (100%); Meeting
qualifications target rate of qualifications (100%)
B5 Social environment C7 Bases outside the school Stable educational center outside the school and good
schools neighboring environment
C8 Family support Setting up a parents committee
A2 Schools routine B6 Administrative work C9 Running a school plan Three-year school plan matching the reality
management
C10 Institutional operation Clear layered management, smooth communication
channels
C11 Rules and regulations Establishing and implementing rules and regulations that
match the schools reality
B7 Teaching team C12 Job ethics Formulating norms of teachers ethics
B7 Teaching team C13 Job training Have a teachers professional training plan; Nurturing
novice and young teachers
B8 Education and teaching C14 School moral education Paying attention to infusion of moral education
C15 Order of education and Strictly executing stipulations related to reduction of
teaching burden ( jian fu)
C16 Management of Sound teaching research system, activities implemented
instructional process
C17 Audio-visual education Coverage of audio-visual education (range: 30%, 28%,
and experiments 26%); Offering experiments rate (range: 95%, 90%, 85%)
(continued)
evaluation

of school developmental
School

Pudong New Area


supervisory evaluation in
Basic indicators system
supervision and

153

Table I.
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16,2

154
QAE

Table I.
Evaluation layer (A) Assessment region (B) Main factor (C) Selected example(s) of reference standards

C18 Education & teaching Developing research projects based on realities of


research classroom teaching
C19 Norms of language Language work incorporated in school plan
B9 General affairs C20 Use of funds Book funds not less than 10% of public expenditure (range:
10%, 8%, 6%)
C21 Management of financial Sound financial system and capital management system
resources
C22 School environment Referring to the requirements stipulated in 1992
A3 Student level of basic B10 Moral behavior C23 Behavioral norm Good school ethos and academic atmosphere
development
C24 Criminal cases No criminal cases
B11 Cultural knowledge C25 Level of generality School attendance rate 100%; Graduation rate greater than
99%
C26 Knowledge capability High passing rate of all subjects in all grades; Students
having a certain level of capability in hands-on
experiments
B12 Condition of physical C27 Physical education and Passing rate of physical education lessons higher than 95%
ability health (range: 95%, 93%, 90%)
C28 Meeting targets of physical Passing rate of physical training higher than 90% (range:
training 90%, 88%, 86%)
B13 Aesthetic level C29 Music and art Passing rate of music and fine arts lessons higher than
achievements 95% (range: 95%, 93%, 90%)
C30 Artistic activities Normal implementation of different types of artistic
activities in various grades with quite good effects
B14 Labour activities C31 Labour, science and Active participation in science and technological activities
technology under teachers guidance with quite well completed works
C32 Attitudes towards labour Senior grade students participating in community labour
or social services not less than 20 hours per year
Source: Adapted from Zhao (2001, pp. 276-9)
students performances. Students who revealed learning difficulties would be provided School
with counseling and remedial education. The school had the practice of observing supervision and
teachers without notification by senior management followed by review and teachers
written feedback. In cases where the lesson was not well taught, the teacher concerned evaluation
would receive follow up advice and support. In addition, a teachers lesson preparation
would be monitored and peer observation was encouraged. The school had also
prepared clear lists of responsibilities for different posts in a document titled Collection 155
of Rules and Regulations (Guizhang Zhiduhuibian) and every member of the teaching
staff was assigned clear responsibilities linked with objectives, that would be assessed
as part of the staff appraisal procedure at the end of the school year.
School 2 also had regular procedures for collecting information for preparing
self-evaluation reports and for monitoring teaching and student learning. With regard to
monitoring teachers teaching practices, there were checks on lesson preparation
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together with regular and random checks of teachers lesson plans and students works.
This was undertaken through teachers self-monitoring combined with monitoring by
the grade coordinator, the teaching research coordinator and the academic studies office.
In addition, there was a procedure called my weekly harvest where a test paper and
scores were distributed to parents on a weekly basis to gauge their childrens progress in
learning. Where a class had declining student performances, senior colleagues would
talk to the class teacher and then lesson observation would follow. Moreover, the school
had adopted an objectives management approach in which teachers objectives, in
terms of class ranking and rates of passing and excellent grades, were set according to
the class taught and teachers linked actions with objectives. In this way the attainment of
objectives became the basis for evaluation and reward as well as adjustment and
improvement of practices. The school also emphasized teaching research and
school-based projects supported by external experts and teaching research officers
from Pudongs Research Institute of Educational Development (RIER) to enhance
teachers professional development and quality of teaching and learning, which in turn
boosted the schools overall performance.

Discussion: issues and challenges


Different checks, supervision, evaluation and monitoring activities for schools
From a survey of more than one hundred schools in five districts conducted by the
Supervision Office, the Education Commission, Shanghai Peoples Government, the
results revealed the following problems: excessive checks and too many types of

Educational resources School management Student development

Basic Disposal ( peizhi ) of Schools routine (changgui ) Student level of basic


( jichuxing) educational resources management development
Holistic Improvement ( youhua) of Schools system (xitong) Student level of
(zhengtixing) educational resources management holistic development Table II.
Subjective Development (kaifa) of Schools innovation Student level of active Progression in evaluation
(zhutixing) educational resources (chuangxin) management development of resources,
management and
Sources: Liu, 2006a, p. 55; 2006b, p. 22) development
QAE comparative evaluation conducted by various government units, causing overlaps; a lack
16,2 of coordinated management and difficulty in coping with evaluation and checks by
schools; most evaluation and checks lacked feedback and guidance for improvement, not
helping to promote schools self-development; most evaluation and checks were based on
documents, which have caused falsification of evidences and images (www.shjydd.net n.
d.). In the case of Pudong, schools have to meet the demands of different checks,
156 supervision, evaluation and monitoring activities from different agencies such as:
.
check on preparatory work during summer vacation;
.
check on collection of educational fees;
.
check on safety management;
.
evaluation on constructing a healthy, advanced unit;
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.
evaluation on a National Defense Characteristic/Distinctive School;
.
evaluation on a Psychological Experimental School;
.
evaluation on Aesthetic Education Characteristic/Distinctive School;
.
evaluation on Language Exemplary School;
.
evaluation on Quality Education Experiment School;
.
evaluation of three-level collaborative lesson preparation groups;
.
developmental evaluation supervision;
.
teaching research observation activities; and
.
check and evaluation of school based projects.

A physical education panel from School 1 head remarked that some of the feedback
from the external evaluation was neither concrete nor helpful for improvement, which
was in line with Shanghais Supervision Offices observations. He further commented
that Could the checking departments communicate with each other and consolidate
these checks? One check today followed by another check tomorrow. . .for the teachers
it will increase their burden . . . Too many and too frequent repetitive checks will, to a
certain extent, affect the schools normal teaching. At the same time, it will to some
extent damage teachers self-confidence.

Perceptions of different internal and external evaluation and supervision measures by


principals and teachers, dependent on school contexts
As regards external evaluation and supervision measures, dependent on school
context, principals and teachers accorded different priorities of importance. In the case
of School 1, which is in the top-tier and is highly reputable, school management, which
already operated a rigorous monitoring mechanism, tended to set even higher
standards than the Pudong indicators in order to shift from being good to being
excellent. In the case of School 2, an ordinary school in terms of reputation and
resources, the school management strove hard to meet the requirements of the Pudong
indicators in order to survive and attain higher status.
Our observations suggested that School 1 tended to have a more cohesive,
collaborative culture than School 2 and this, to some extent, affected the expectations and
perceptions of standards to be achieved by teachers within these schools. Our findings
revealed that while principals were inclined to care more about overall school
performance, status and implicit ranking in connection with the school developmental School
supervisory evaluation, district-wide student assessment for Grades 4 and 5, as well as supervision and
an evaluation of a school as a civilized unit (wenming danwei ) (an honourific
recognition by the government), teachers tended to pay much more attention to teaching evaluation
practices and performance of certain aspects of the external supervisory requirements.
The principal of School 1 paid great attention to the suggestions based on the
supervisory visits and made substantial changes for school development (mathematics 157
panel head, interview). The principal affirmed that while he and the teachers were both
concerned about whole school development and overall performance, teachers did not
necessarily find that every supervisory requirement had relevance to him/her
(interview). Instead, a Chinese language teacher opined that peer lesson observation
and internal evaluation of teaching performance helped enhance her competencies and
prepare her for external inspection. Another mathematics teacher commented that he
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only needed to prepare one lesson well for external inspection and that lesson tended to
be more interactive than normal.
In School 2, the principal commented that in addition to caring about the quality of
teaching and learning in a school, the school management paid attention to the overall
reputation, financial and environmental conditions, issues about which teachers might
lack interest. Teachers, while concerned about the overall direction of development and
the attainment of objectives, not surprisingly, tended to focus on their own classroom
teaching and achievements. A language teacher echoed:
For teachers, the main [concerns] are still in the area of teaching. But for the school, it will be
issues such as the supervisory check. [The supervisory check] will ask questions on school
leadership particularly concerning the school management, [such as] whether the school has
become open, transparent and democratic and so on.
In addition, there existed gaps in expectations between the school management and the
teachers. While the principal perceived that the school set higher standards than the
external, governmental requirements, some teachers of School 1 felt that the
government set relatively high expectations on school performance. There could be
unrealistic assumptions about teachers capabilities, assuming them to be perfect
human beings who did everything well. Such high expectations would make the
principal, teachers and parents feel very tired (mathematics panel head, interview). In
School 2, the adoption of an objectives management system encountered difficulties.
While the school would like to set higher level of objectives to drive improvement,
teachers would like lower levels (vice-principal, interview). This required continuous
communication between the senior management and teachers.

Perceived positive and negative impacts of different evaluation and supervision


measures by principals and teachers
Findings from interviews and our observations reveal that participation in supervision
and evaluation activities had caused a substantial increase in workload with
concomitant anxieties. It had also generated some positive impacts, including
opportunities for self-reflection as well as instructional and organizational improvement.
For the principals and the teachers, the school developmental supervisory
evaluation had created anxieties, despite the school having a rigorous monitoring
mechanism for teaching and learning effectiveness. The English panel head from
School 1 mentioned that:
QAE [If there is] a check from the top, teachers must feel anxious. It is because it is not only a
check on you but also a reflection of the school. Your performance is directly linked with the
16,2 school evaluation . . . [you] will certainly remind yourself to do your things better.
The physical education panel head remarked that:
. . . in order to handle checks from different units, [we all] feel tired and there is a lot of
information to accumulate. For example some checks need lesson observation. After all,
158 teachers will try hard to earn a school reputation, continuously preparing and trying out their
lessons so that better lessons could be provided.
While the school developmental supervisory evaluation created more work and
generated some anxieties for principals and teachers, the advice from the inspectors
provided clear directions for school improvement (mathematics panel head, interview)
as well as opportunities of learning from other schools experiences (fine arts panel
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head, interview).
The vice-principal from School 2 commented that
Certainly it [the checks] will increase our burden. On the other hand, it will help find our
deficiencies. This will help teachers improve . . . Teachers will feel pressurized. After all it is
an external check, which will raise our own expectations.
A language teacher described the supervisory check as like a carpet search,
involving different methods ranging from lesson observations, reading documents to
handling discussion sessions with teachers and students.
This may not be an experience unique to the informants in Schools 1 and 2. Another
school principal in Pudong Tao Delin shared his experiences on the web:
Recalling the images of three days supervision and the tiring past months, the feelings are
deep. Frankly speaking, accepting such a carpet holistic supervision is tiring, tough and
somewhat fearful. Nonetheless . . . [it] enables me and colleagues in a specific evaluative
context to know things more authentically and objectively, analyze things and at the same
time understand myself more clear-headedly and rationally . . . (www.edu.sh.cn n.d.).
While the results of the district-wide student assessment for Grades 4 and 5 were not
publicized, principals, vice-principals and teachers from Schools 1 and 2 felt somewhat
uneasy about the monitoring mechanism. It classified student performance into four
bands from A to D and reported the percentages of students of different bands for each
school. For example, a language teacher from School 1commented that the
territory-wide assessment imposed more pressure on teachers as the results affected
the schools reputation. The principal of School 1 added:
The results are not reported externally but the super-ordinate units know exactly [these
results]. The Research Institute of Educational Development (RIER) under the Education
Bureau is responsible for monitoring this aspect of school quality. After all, the test paper is
set by teaching research officers [from RIER]. The way that teaching research officers see
schools will shape how the school will become.
The principal of School 2 echoed this:
We would ascertain the status of our own school according to these percentages. This kind of
reporting is not a dynamic evaluation. For better schools, it would have high expectations [on
having higher percentages of band A students]. For schools that are worse, it will be falling
behind forever.
The vice-principal remarked: School
. . . if from the perspective of schools ranking, we can know how well we have done. The supervision and
Research Institute of Educational Development (RIER) would talk to us. We will have some evaluation
measures.
A panel head felt that the assessment would pressurize schools and teachers because of
the implicit ranking. Another panel head agreed, suggesting that after each assessment, 159
the measures for some schools were to stay in their schools to help improve their work
[dundian ]. They will observe every lesson. Students and teachers are nervous.
Nonetheless, some colleagues such as a mathematics teacher remarked that children
needed some checking, as long as the frequency of checking was not too high.
In addition to school developmental supervisory evaluation and district-wide
student assessment for Grades 4 and 5, some teachers had anxieties about having
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lesson observations by teaching research officers. These lesson observations were


sometimes randomized and arranged at short-notice, generating pressures on schools
and teachers (Teacher, School 2, interview). Nonetheless, these observations would be
followed by the sharing of ideas, suggestions for improvement and experimentation in
other classes, bringing about positive effects on teachers improvement.

Challenges and concerns about different evaluation and supervision measures as


perceived by principals and teachers
Findings from our interviews revealed that there were several areas that generated
challenges and concerns. One area was related to student performance and assessment.
In School 1, there were concerns about students with average performances who tended
to be neglected, as the system emphasized both passing rates and credit/excellent grades
(vice-principal, interview). In School 2, students with special needs were still assessed
according to the same threshold, which was unfair to them (mathematics teacher,
interview). Also, it appeared that it was difficult to strike a balance between a cultivation
of students holistic quality as advocated by the rhetoric of the education reform and the
enhancement of students academic performances as demanded by territory-wide
assessment and inter-school competition (mathematics panel head, School 1).
In School 2, one of the challenges was the cultivation of a team spirit as some
teachers tended to be self-centred. This requires the school to strike a balance between
flexible evaluation taking into account personal idiosyncrasies and measures for
promoting teacher development (principal, interview). Another challenge was the need
to seek parental understanding and support in helping student development. A
mathematics teacher commented:
. . . through the assessment, parents know the weak areas of their children but why we should
not take it seriously. [It is because] the effect of every teaching method is not the same for
different children. Some children have weak reception ability and the effect [of instruction]
may not be very good. The key is the co-operation of the parents.

Future directions for educational supervision


While administrative supervision, instead of helping schools review their own
strengths and areas of improvement, may still be emphasized in many places on the
Chinese mainland (Kam, 2006), the innovative Pudong experiences in Shanghai shed
light on current advances and issues in school supervision and evaluation. We would
QAE like to offer our critical reviews and put forward our proposed future directions for
16,2 educational supervision as follows.

Fostering a shared school-government community of school supervision and evaluation:


there is a need to strengthen professional and moral authority
The school developmental supervisory evaluation in Shanghai with special reference
160 to Pudong, according to the official rhetoric, intends to promote a schools autonomous
development and to draw insights from a qualitative evaluation approach (Pian, 2002).
Nonetheless, the interview findings and our observations suggest that in practice
school developmental supervisory evaluation tended to rest mainly upon
bureaucratic authority, technical-rational authority and partly upon the professional
authority of both educational inspectors and school practitioners. Many informants in
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our interviews referred to the Supervision Office and the government agencies as the
top/above (the higher authorities, the higher-ups) (shangmian). This, to some extent,
reflects bureaucratic authority and refers to teachers respect for hierarchy, rules and
regulations and the government officers reliance on predetermined standards and
direct supervision to ensure a schools compliance. In addition, the supervisory
evaluation relies on evidence and hard data, reflecting an influence of technical-rational
authority in which beliefs, values and preferences of school practitioners are much less
taken into consideration (Sergiovanni and Starratt, 1998, pp. 46-8). Nonetheless, during
the preparation of annual evaluation reports and supervisory reports, both the
educational inspectors and school practitioners were given opportunities to exert
professional authority, engage in discussion and formulate consensual views on the
evaluative results (Zhao and Zhu, 2004).
On the other hand, internal evaluation within a school tended to be based on
personal authority and technical-rational authority and partly based on professional
authority and lightly on moral authority, dependent on school contexts. As regards
personal authority, principals and teachers were willing to comply partly because of
the congenial school climate and partly because they would be appraised and rewarded
based on their performances, which are partly linked with external supervisory
requirements. For moral authority, which depends on shared community and values, it
is highly dependent upon the shared leadership of principals and a collegial school
culture emphasizing interdependence. It appeared that while Schools 1 and 2 shared
some initial characteristics of a professional learning community through peer
observation, self-evaluation and teaching research, teachers responses still tended to
be driven by externally imposed supervisory measures rather than by internally
reinforced shared values and commitments in autonomous development or
school-based autonomous supervision (Fu, 2006).
Facing these checks and under a Chinese centralized system that stresses
accountability and performativity, it is mindful that schools and teachers would be
likely to develop a follow the order mentality. As asserted by Lai and Lo (2007, p. 63),
. . . teachers were moulded to work as technicians, strictly following the directives of
defined evaluation systems, which reflect the dominance of bureaucratic authority
and technical-rational authority.
In future, it is advisable that more efforts should be devoted to fostering professional
authority and moral authority on the part of both the school and the Supervision Office
(and related agencies). On the one hand, there is a need to promote school-based
management with a participative and shared leadership within the school sector (Fu, School
2006). On the other hand, if a large community bringing together school and government supervision and
with shared values of developmental supervisory evaluation could be formed, teachers
and schools performances would be expansive and sustained with less need for rigorous evaluation
external monitoring. Moreover, soliciting parental support and promoting home-school
communication could be seen as a partnership for fostering such a community.
161
Promoting a dynamic approach to evaluation, taking into account contextual differences
in terms of school and student characteristics
Currently, the first cycle of school developmental supervisory evaluation in Pudong
tends to be static using the same threshold or benchmark for assessing schools. This is
disadvantageous to some backward schools or schools with fewer facilities.
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Gradually, the gap between good or poor schools would be greater than before, leading
to educational inequalities. For ordinary schools like School 2, with less promising
student intake, there is an aspiration to move towards a dynamic approach to
evaluation, which the second cycle of evaluation in Pudong will highlight.
While the schools responses and the effects remain to be seen, the second cycle of
evaluation (or new scheme of evaluation) has three sets of indicators: normative
development (Guifan Fazhan); distinguishing development (Tese Fazhan); and
autonomous development (Zizhu Fazhan). This is an improvement on the basis of
the indicators sub-systems of holistic development and subjective development in
the first cycle (Liu, 2006b). It may be desirable that more attention to, and space for,
collaborative dialogue between the government and the school could be given to the
history and trajectories of school development for individual schools so that contextual
differences in terms of school and student characteristics could be fully addressed.

Enhancing coherence in educational reform and educational supervision and evaluation


policies and co-ordination between supervisory units with less repetitive checks
The emphasis on accountability and the quest for excellent performance may be
somewhat against the educational reform direction, which promotes reduction of
[students] burden ( jian fu). Taking the district-wide student assessment for Grades 4
and 5 as an example, schools and teachers paid attention to raising students academic
performances, which might defeat the purpose of reducing pressure on students. More
coherence in terms of consistency between rhetoric and practice (such as putting more
weight on students holistic development and assessment) among educational reform
and educational supervision and evaluation policies is therefore called for. In addition,
our observations showed that there were still many checks from different government
agencies, which disturb the rhythm of schooling and teachers work. To facilitate
future development, a reduction of checks with more reliance on schools
self-evaluation should be one of the priorities.
In the second cycle of evaluation starting in 2006, the focus was to be on the internal
conditions, including the strengths and weaknesses, of a school. The upcoming
evaluation exercises in Pudong, Shanghai would consolidate and generalize a schools
success with the reasons and propose concrete, operational suggestions for
improvement. Future research is called for to examine and learn from their experiences.
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Corresponding author
John Chi-kin Lee can be contacted at: jcklee@cuhk.edu.hk

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