Work stress of kindergarten principals under 'school-based management' and moderating effects of social support: Hong Kong kindergarten principals under the voucher scheme

Year: 2012

Author: Cheuk, Wai, Wong, Tricia

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In the light of the adverse effects of work stress on the principals and the schools (e.g., Buss; 2009; Lim, 1999; Reilly-Chammat, 2009), it is important to identify how stressful school principals find their work, how they cope with job difficulties, and factors that can moderate the adverse effects of work stress.

The launching of the school-based management in Australia, Britain and the USA beginning in the 1980s, despite variations in features from countries to countries, proved to be particularly stressful to the primary and secondary school principals (e.g., Oplatka, 2001).   Would kindergarten principals find their work as stressful as their primary and secondary school counterparts if school-based management is implemented at the kindergarten level?  The Government of Hong Kong launched a voucher subsidy scheme in 2007 to subsidize children's school fees in attending a kindergarten in the territory, with kindergartens being mandated to follow a host of specifications, which resemble, in substance, the features of school-based management, including external assessment, marketing the kindergartners to attract children, and involving parents and teachers in operating the schools.  We showed that even before the voucher scheme, kindergarten principals in Hong Kong (Cheuk, Wong & Rosen, 2000) found their work to be moderately stressful.  The present study was conducted to assess whether kindergarten principals found their work to be more stressful following the launching of the voucher scheme.  We were also interested in whether support from one's supervisor and support from family would reduce the adverse effects of work stress on job satisfaction and personal well-being of the principals.  A three-year longitudinal study was conducted with data collected in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and report here are the data collected up to 2010.  Four hundred and sixty-seven principals in Hong Kong responded to a questionnaire in 2009 and 2010, with the questionnaire containing measures of work stress, job satisfaction, personal well-being, support from one's supervisor and support from family. 

The results showed the principals to be much more stressful and the level of stress was maintained over time, with dealing with external assessment and involving staff members in operating the kindergartens to be particularly stressful.  Informational and emotional support from one's supervisor moderated the adverse effects of work stress on job satisfaction and personal well-being, while emotional support from family moderated the effects of work stress on personal well-being but not on job satisfaction.     Implications on factors mediating work stress is discussed.