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A comparative study of educational decentralization in China and Korea, 1985–1995: Motives, actions, and results

Yeon Han Chung, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Theoretically, the benefits of decentralization include the enhancement of democratic participation and managerial efficiency, and the reduction of financial deficiencies. Empirically, however, there is little consistent evidence supporting this premise. The consequences of reform vary in accordance with country-specific conditions: they appear to be successful, mixed, or failed. This study seeks to shed light on how the goals, strategies, and consequences of decentralization interact with each other. It focuses on educational governance reform in China and Korea, which have different historical, economic, and political backgrounds. Two main themes are identified in this work: how different problems were addressed by the same policy instrument, decentralization, and how the results differed depending upon environmental conditions. This led to three areas of investigation: the motivating forces for the decentralization of education, the manners of actuation, and the consequences in China and Korea between 1985 and 1995. A comparative approach was used involving a mixture of longitudinal (vertical) and cross-sectional (horizontal) analyses, which had been proposed and developed subsequent to the work of Bereday, Hilker, and Noah. These longitudinal and cross-sectional analyses identified several isomorphic and idiosyncratic aspects of the educational governance reforms in China and Korea. The major similarities found include: (1) the economic and political crises as motivating forces, (2) the establishment of legal infrastructures, and the utilization of the incremental and asymmetric vi approaches in the manner of reform actuation, and (3) some positive consequences of reform such as increased educational funds and local educational autonomy. However, coupled with these similarities were three important differences: (1) the key objectives to be solved: the financial problem in China versus the political problem in Korea, (2) the major actuation strategies: restructuring fiscal authority by decentralization and diversification in China, versus rearranging political power for public education between the central and local governments in Korea, and (3) the main consequences of educational decentralization: improved fiscal efficiency in China, versus enhanced political autonomy in Korea. Both countries experienced some side-effects or limits of decentralization such as financial disparities in education among regions in China, and rhetorical decentralization and citizen apathy regarding local educational autonomy in its early stage in Korea.

Subject Area

School administration

Recommended Citation

Chung, Yeon Han, "A comparative study of educational decentralization in China and Korea, 1985–1995: Motives, actions, and results" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3315537.