Autonomous and Control: The Dilemma of Minban Education Reform in China

Marketization, decentralization and socialization have been the key strategies of contemporary social welfare reforms in China. Minban (private) secondary school is one of those experiments. They provides alternative types of education, and can enjoy greater autonomous from government control. Nevertheless, in the new institutional environment characterized by controlled-decentralized governance reform coupled with increasing popularity of the market principles in its economic reform, such autonomy is not without limit. Within that boundary, the schools have to be active in constructing their strategies to defend and expand their autonomy. Based on an original in-depth analysis of eight school cases covering four major types of minban school in China, this paper explored and categorized their strategies as 'capitalization', 'advocacy', 'avoidance', and 'isolation'. The degree of autonomous obtained was very much depended on their resources, protection and support acquired from the local governments and consumers, through different strategies. This paper argued that, given the reforms for decades, the government still maintained substantial control on education and schools, through the established bureaucratic structure and successful re-penetration into the new institutional environment via new forms of governance. To certain extent, this hampered the possible contribution of the minban schools in China.