Implementing education reforms: a multiple case study of Vietnamese primary schools

Ho, Linh Hong (2024) Implementing education reforms: a multiple case study of Vietnamese primary schools. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study investigates the implementation of Vietnam's Fundamental and Comprehensive Education Reform (FCER) through the theoretical lens of Complex Adaptive System Theory (CAST). While focusing on the Vietnamese context, it touches on a significant global issue in education: the challenge of implementing change. The study examines how the FCER's centralised-decentralisation approach in whole-system reforms which attempts to balance national educational goals with local autonomy might offer useful insights for reform implementation efforts worldwide.

Using a qualitative, multiple-case study approach, the study investigates three primary public schools in Central and Southern Vietnam. The schools are selected to represent diverse contexts in geography, socioeconomic background, and school size. This variety allows for an understanding of how different educational contexts respond to system-level reform policies. Research methods include interviews with school leaders and teachers, observations, and analysis of documents, including national policies, textbooks, and school-level documents.

The findings in selected schools indicate widespread compliance among educators with higher authorities' decisions to enact innovative practices. This system-level adoption brought some benefits, such as creating an initial momentum for change and reducing costs associated with change. However, as the FCER policies were gradually implemented, educators displayed more complex nuances in their interpretations and responses. While there were attempts to implement innovative practices, such as learner-centred pedagogy, formative assessments, the lesson-study model, and school councils, there was a tendency for these practices to be oversimplified and not fully integrated into schools' routines. The gaps between reality and the ideal were more significant in disadvantaged settings where aspects of schooling such as class size, facilities, teaching materials, students’ backgrounds, and parents’ collaboration were more challenging to address.

Empirical evidence from this study supports the usefulness of CAST as an analytical framework for studying reform efforts. Additionally, the study proposes original concepts, namely, Zone of Feasible Practices (ZFP), Zone of Expected Practices (ZEP) and Buffering Zone (BZ). These concepts contribute to the development of CAST, enabling more accessible and actionable implications of the theory in the field of educational change and reform.

In conclusion, the study highlights that the centralised-decentralisation approach in whole-system reforms could be an effective way to achieve consistency while allowing schools to develop ownership of the reforms and adapt to their local contexts. However, the effectiveness of this approach diminishes if schools are not adequately supported to develop their capacity for local adaptations. Without timely, concrete and context-sensitive guidance and support, schools and educators could be overwhelmed with additional responsibilities, causing frustration and limited transformations. The study advocates for an Adaptive Implementation Approach to complement the centralised-decentralisation strategy in whole-system reforms. This approach encourages collaboration between schools, higher authorities and other stakeholders in the community in tailoring reform objectives and pathways, taking account of the diverse and evolving contexts of schools.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Dimmock, Professor Clive and Nguyen, Professor Dong
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84275
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Apr 2024 13:40
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2024 13:44
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84275

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