Analysis of the Implementation of Teacher Education Policy in China since the 1990s: A Case Study
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China has at present the largest system of basic education and the largest teacher work force in the world. The teacher education system plays a critical role in preparing an enormous army of qualified teachers for the basic education system. Since the 1990s, China's teacher education has been undergoing radical transformations: The vision and mission of teacher education have changed significantly; teachers' roles are redefined in order for them to respond to the new demands of the dramatically changing society; the "market" for preparing teachers is shared by various competitors; new degrees, programs as well as curricula are designed for prospective teachers. The implementation process of the national policy of reform, however, has not been paid enough attention. This study looks into the complicated implementation process of China's teacher education reform policy since the 1990s from the rational and critical frameworks. It has been designed with a case study approach to investigate and understand how a higher teacher education institution has responded to the national policy of teacher education reform. The study focuses on changes in institutional goals, strategies the case university adopted, and examines communication channels of policy, conflicts among stakeholders, and barriers arising from internal and external factors for the implementation of the national policy of teacher education reform. The study serves as an explanatory instrument to understand what the national policy of teacher education reform in China is about, to explore how the teacher education policy was implemented in a higher teacher education institution, and to reveal the unique policy implications derived from the Chinese experience. The findings of this study reveal that the implementation of the national policy was a linearly developed process to resolve the substantial problems of the teacher education system by unitary policy players, viewed from the rational framework. The policy action was advanced and developed to meet the need of the rapidly changing society. The critical framework suggested that the stakeholders of the national policy were diverse conflicting groups who worked together to implement the national policy while at the same time they conflicted with each other on many fronts for their own legitimacy and benefits. The implementation process became a heatedly contested process for redistribution of political and economic benefits among the interest groups. In addition, this study identifies that there were severe institutional barriers accounting for the success or failure of the implementation of the national policy. These barriers include stakeholders' adverse attitudes, authoritarian traditional culture, and overlapping implementation of other national policies. Theoretical reflections are rendered from the findings for implementation studies. Specifically, the role of the cultural dimension in the implementation process is discussed. Finally, recommendations are proposed for implementation practices and for future research.