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The politics of 'lifelong learning' in post-1997 Hong Kong

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This article is concerned with the politics of lifelong learning policy in post-1997 Hong Kong (HK). The paper is in four parts. Continuing Education, recast as 'lifelong learning', is to be the cornerstone of the post-Handover education reform agenda. The lineaments of a familiar discourse are evident in the Education Commission policy documents. However, to view recent HK education policy just in terms of an apparent convergence with global trends would be to neglect the ways in which the discourse of lifelong learning has been tactically deployed to serve local political agendas. In the second part of this paper, I outline what Scott has called HK's 'disarticulated' political system following its retrocession to China and attempts by an executive-led administration to demonstrate 'performance legitimacy'--through major policy reforms--in the absence of (democratic) political legitimacy. Beijing's designation of HK as a (depoliticized) 'economic' city within greater China must also be taken into account. It is against this political background that the strategic deployment of a 'lifelong learning' discourse needs to be seen. In the third section of this paper, I examine three recent policy episodes to illustrate how lifelong learning discourse has been adopted and has evolved to meet changing circumstances in HK. Finally, I look at the issue of public consultation. The politics of education policy in HK may be seen to mirror at a micro-level, the current macro-level contested interpretations of HK's future polity.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 November 2004

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