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Explaining variations in the local implementation of a national policy: Inclusive education in four Beijing schools

Kai Yu, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The problem this study addresses is the gap between tracking—grouping students by ability, a practice that stems, in part, from a prevailing meritocratic ideology—and inclusive education—grouping students heterogeneously, a practice that the central government has adopted as official policy. The goals of this study are to (1) discover attitudes, strategies, tactics, and other behavior (embraced or engaged in by school principals, teachers, and other actors) that support and inhibit the government's policy of dismantling the tracking structure, and (2) to explore their causes and consequences. The literature review begins with a discussion of how meritocracy and a tracking system were successfully institutionalized in China and why they are in trouble today, mainly from the perspective of ideological change in China. The second section of this review summarizes the effects of tracking system on students' academic achievement and personal and social development, and explores the complex interaction between tracking, meritocracy, and social inequality. The last section discusses existing policy implementation theories, especially the institutional perspective. Based on the policy processes in China, this dissertation proposes an analytical framework for a centralized system. The primary data collection method is interviewing, supported by reviewing documents and observing. Data analysis is guided by procedures that have been developed to create "grounded theory." The data analysis is divided into five main sections. The first section describes the policy settings, including the state context, an overview of basic education in Beijing, the general school context, policy mandates, and theory of action. The second section presents a panorama of the teachers' reflections on the implementation process of the detracking policy. The third section draws on data from principal interviews, observation, and reflection logs to present coherent implementation stories for the four schools. The fourth section constructs categories of cross-case analysis and reports on dimensions of attitudes and beliefs, instructional and pedagogical practices for implementing inclusive education programs. The final section provides a summary that reflects upon my research questions and general interpretations of the interviewees' responses. Using causal links among the existing categories, the dissertation study discusses different implementation instruments and outcomes—specifically, pathfinding, selective compliance, skeptical and reluctant compliance, and resisting. In conclusion, this study provides recommendations for the improvement of policy process from the political, cultural and technical perspectives.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Yu, Kai, "Explaining variations in the local implementation of a national policy: Inclusive education in four Beijing schools" (2008). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3336992.