Centralization and decentralization : changing governance in education

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Education and Society

Publication Date






First Page


Last Page



James Nicholas Publishers, Pty. Ltd.


Globalization and the evolution of a knowledge-based economy have caused dramatic changes to the character and functions of education in most countries around the world. However, the impacts of globalization on schools and universities are not uniform though business-like practices have been adopted to cope with competition in the global marketplace. In the face of financial constraints and weakened state capacity in social policy provision, the pressure for restructuring and reforming education is increasingly driven by the growing expectations and demands of different stakeholders in society. In recent years, widespread concerns over widened access, funding, accountability, quality, and managerial efficiency are perceived as the prominent global trends related to education. Because of the divergent political, social, economic, cultural and historical backgrounds, national/local governments may adopt similar or different strategies in response to pressures generated by globalization. One popular public policy strategy commonly adopted by modern states is decentralization even though there is no consensus on whether a policy of centralization or decentralization is more effective to improve the organization and management of the public sector. This special issue, set in this policy context, examines the way the policy of decentralization has affected the running of education in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Shanghai and Singapore, with particular reference to strategies adopted in reforming the structure, mobilizing different societal forces to create more educational opportunities and devising new measures and mechanisms to assure quality in the education sector. One very significant consequence of the change in the role of the state in education is that the public-good functions of education, of which the state has taken the primary role of a reliable guarantor, have diminished. Nonetheless, the state’s role as a regulator and overall service coordinator has been strengthened rather than weakened under the policy of decentralization. Contributors in this issue not only examine recent educational developments in selected Chinese societies but also analyze such developments in the light of the global trend of decentralization in educational governance.



Print ISSN


Publisher Statement

Access to external full text or publisher's version may require subscription.

Full-text Version

Publisher’s Version



Recommended Citation

Mok, K.-h. (2001). Centralization and decentralization: Changing governance in education. Education and Society, 19(3), 3-16. doi: 10.7459/es/19.3.01