Thursday, November 9, 2017

[Friday Seminar Recap] Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong


Date: October 27, 2017
Speaker: Chee Wai-Chi (Department of Education Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University)
Title: Migrant Youth Navigating Education and Identity in Hong Kong

Dr. Chee

What are migrant students’ opportunities and challenges in Hong Kong’s education system? How do they negotiate their identities and belonging? In this Friday Seminar, Dr. Chee Wai-Chi tried to answer these questions by looking into the academic trajectories and identity formation of two incoming teenage groups to Hong Kong – from mainland China and from South Asia (predominantly India, Pakistan, and Nepal). Dr. Chee started by outlining the context. For the South Asian group, ethnic minorities constitute about 8% of the whole population in Hong Kong. School attendance rates of ethnic minorities are significantly lower than those of the whole population, especially at the post-secondary level. The proportion of people working in elementary, non-skilled occupations, on the other hand, is much higher among the South Asians than among the whole population in Hong Kong. For mainland Chinese, from 2006 to 2016, 40,000 one-way permit holders entered Hong Kong every year. Yet, there are no statistics about their education and occupation since they are not categorized as a separate group in government census. Dr. Chee conducted longitudinal study of these two groups of teenage immigrant students in Hong Kong.

Dr. Chee found out that the Induction Programme (IP) plays an important role in the immigrant students’ academic trajectory. If the students can stay in the same school after IP, they usually develop strong bonding with that school, while those who have to leave experience a love-hate relationship with their IP school. Dr. Chee argued that the IP schools are like “green houses”, and that is why it feels particularly bad when students are denied a place in their original school. “It is their first experience of being rejected in Hong Kong, by a school that has been so supportive and reassuring, which may lead to resentment.” Whether a student can stay in the same school or not of course have to do with their individual performances, yet there are also structural reasons at play. Dr. Chee discovered that when a school has too many ethnic minorities students, the Chinese parents may withdraw from sending their children there. Therefore, the schools have to pay attention and keep ethnic minorities students within a limited proportion. Dr. Chee argued that finishing the IP is a turning point in the academic trajectories of many immigrant students. Paradoxically, while IP is a nurturing space for the students who are new to Hong Kong, it does not prepare them well for the larger educational realities of Hong Kong and may eventually fail them.

When it comes to the construction and negotiation of identity, Dr. Chee found that there is a predominant emphasis on Cantonese linguistic capital, be it at official level or in everyday encounters of individuals. The official term for immigrant students is “Non-Chinese speaking students”, which appears to be offensive by some. One student said, “Can I call you ‘non-English speaking’? Why not address it as a second language learning, or non-mother tongue learners?” In their daily life, fluency in Cantonese seems to open up another door for friends, career prospects and many other things, and the lack of it is a shame. One student said, “This is a school for ‘disabled’ people like me. We don’t speak Cantonese.” Another student reported being treated impolitely while working at McDonald’s because his Cantonese was not good. Dr. Chee argued that the major significance of Cantonese in the immigrant students’ construction of a Hong Kong identity is a rather new phenomenon. Several years ago, the students would use entitlement (the rights they enjoy in Hong Kong) and descent (their family members being Hong Kong permanent residents) to explain why they see themselves as Hong Kong people. Dr. Chee suggested that the rise of importance of Cantonese may have to do with the rising emphasis on local Hong Kong culture in recent years.


Dr. Chee looked further into the difference between the two groups. Many South Asian students feel that they have a “mixed” identity. One Indian student commented that she is a Hongkonger but she still has some Indian things since she grew up there, and it was not important to be a “full” Hongkonger, as long as she herself is comfortable with both parts of her identity. Another Nepalese student said that he could easily “switch” his identities depending on where he is, in Nepal or Hong Kong. The mainland students, Dr. Chee argued, embed their Hong Kong identity under their Chinese identity, as they mainly see themselves as a Chinese who is living in Hong Kong. Dr. Chee found that interestingly, their self-identification as “Hongkonger in/of China” (中國香港人) is heavily informed by a categorization of identity mainly constructed by the polling of the Hong Kong University Public Opinion Programme.

The Audience

在香港的教育體制之下,新移民學生面臨哪些機遇與挑戰?他們如何理解自身的身份與歸屬?在本次「星期五研討會」當中,徐渭芝博士重點考察了中國大陸與南亞新移民這兩個群體。少數族裔約佔香港人口
8%。他們的就學率明顯低於香港人口的整體水平,這在專上教育階段尤其如此;而從事較低技術職業的南亞裔人士比例則遠高於整體水平。從2006年到2016年,每年約有四萬名單程證持有人從大陸來港。由於政府統計中並無將大陸新移民單列一類,因此缺乏他們的就學率及職業分佈等數據。

徐博士對這兩個新來港群體中的青少年進行了縱貫性研究。她發現,「新來港兒童適應課程」在這些青少年的學術軌跡中起著重要作用。如果學生在完成適應課程後能留在原來的學習就讀,他們通常會與該學校建立起深厚的情感紐帶;那些要離開的學生則會與原先的學校發展出一種愛恨交纏的關係。徐博士認為,適應課程學校就像是一個「溫室」,為這些新來港青少年提供信心與支持。也正因為如此,當一些學生無法繼續留在原先提供適應課程的學校就讀的時候,他們會感到特別受傷害:這是他們在香港第一次遭到「拒絕」,而且還是來自於他們信任、依賴的學校。徐博士指出,弔詭地,適應課程提供的良好環境,反而使學生無法為香港教育制度的現實做好準備,最終可能令他們失望。而能否留在原來的學校就讀,當然與學生個人表現有關,但也受到其他結構性因素的影響。例如說,徐博士發現,當一間學校招收了太多少數族裔學生的時候,華裔學生的家長可能就會不太願意把他們的孩子送到這間學校去。因此,學校必須小心控制他們的學生族裔構成比例。

在身份認同建構方面,徐博士發現,粵語語言資本,無論是在官方還是日常層面,都非常受到重視。移民學生的官方稱謂是「非華語學生」,這讓一些人感覺受到冒犯:「我可不可以稱呼你為『非英語人士』呢?為什麼不能稱為第二語言或是非母語學生?」在日常生活當中,粵語似乎為友誼、職業以及許多其他機會打開了大門,而粵語能力的欠缺則讓人羞愧。一個學生說,「這所學校是為我們這樣的『殘疾人』而設的——我們不會說廣東話。」另一位學生表示,他在麥當勞打工時因為粵語不夠好而被很不禮貌地對待。徐博士認為,廣東話在新移民學生的身份認同構建中佔據重要地位,是一個新近出現的現象;在數年前,新移民可能會以法定權利和家族血統(而非粵語能力)來解釋為什麼他們視自己為香港人。徐博士猜想,這可能與近年來香港社會對於本土文化的強調有關。

徐博士亦探討了兩個群體之間的差異。她發現,許多南亞裔學生認為他們的身份是「混雜』的。一名印度裔學生說,她是香港人,但因為在印度長大仍然有印度的成分。只要她對自己身份中的兩個部分都感到自在,她是不是一個「完全』的香港人並不重要。另一位尼泊爾裔學生則表示,他可以根據自己身在何處「轉換』自己的身份。另一方面,大陸學生則往往把自己的香港認同置於中國認同之下,視自己為「中國香港人』。有趣的是,這一認同在很大程度上受到香港大學民意研究計劃的港人身份認同調查中的身份類別所影響。

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