Beyond Pedagogy: language and identity in post-colonial Hong Kong

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The society of Hong Kong objected strongly when the government instructed schools to change their medium of instruction from English to Chinese at the junior secondary level soon after Hong Kong was reunited with the People's Republic of China in 1997. This paper tries to make sense of the objection to this piece of politically correct and pedagogically sound policy. It analyses the situation from Bourdieu's ideas of habitus and various types of capitals. The paper argues that the government's effort to persuade Hong Kong society to accept mother-tongue education on pedagogical grounds alone was to no avail because the English language has not only become a habitus of society; it also serves to distinguish Hong Kong people from mainland Chinese. The failure of the government was partly due to its insensitivity to the nature and social functions of language.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2002

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