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postgraduate thesis: Understanding ethnic multilingual learners at tertiary level : an ethnographic case study in Yunnan, China

TitleUnderstanding ethnic multilingual learners at tertiary level : an ethnographic case study in Yunnan, China
Authors
Issue Date2011
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Wang, G. [王革]. (2011). Understanding ethnic multilingual learners at tertiary level : an ethnographic case study in Yunnan, China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b4832947
AbstractExisting research on multilingual acquisition indicates that multilingual learners confront challenges not only in mastering new linguistic forms, but also in forming new identities, and especially when the languages concerned are socially and linguistically distant. This study shows that ethnic minority students in China (referred in particular as ‘ethnic multilingual learners’ or EMLs in this study) at universities can face more challenges than the ethnic majority, Han, when they choose to study English as their major subject. The Han’s content and method in English learning are straitjacketed upon them. The environment is unfamiliar to EMLs, and the EMLs are often regarded as “strangers” to the place. Their problems include the national examination system, medium of instruction, learning difficulties, psychological issues and cultural exclusion. The current educational policies in China intend to protect the educational rights of ethnic minorities, but ignore the role of education in inheriting and capitalizing their ethnic cultures. The current university curricula mainly focus on subject knowledge building and patriotic education. As a result, the “cultural self-consciousness” and “cultural capital” of EMLs are less emphasized and encouraged. Data are collected on two female ethnic minority students at Yunnan University of Nationalities (YUN) through ethnographic interview, autobiography, oral narrative, online chatting and field observation. It provides information at a micro level, on how the two students, who have successfully navigated through Chinese education system to the tertiary level, try their best to excel in the education system of YUN with English language as their major subject and construct their multiple identities, and what important factors are affecting such identity construction. The findings suggest that they negotiate their multiple identities successfully through their active engagements on and off the university campus to become legitimate participants in various “communities of practice”. These identities are shaped partly by their own heritage and partly by the present sociopolitical realities in China. Drawing mainly on poststructuralist and multicultural education theories, the study also examines the power relationship exercised in YUN and discusses the impact of this power relationship on the identities formation of the target informants. The national and local policies as well as the curriculum structures of YUN are analyzed to identify the implicit power relationship that mainly causes tensions to the education and language learning of EMLs. It is argued that multiculturalism, as a discourse of education, may help to ease the tension between being an ethnic minority and a Chinese national, and reduce the danger of assimilation and marginalization of these EMLs. To achieve the goal of multilingual education based on the notion of multiculturalism, a “collaborative” power relationship which facilitates the empowerment rather than disempowerment of EMLs should be the goal in China according to the framework of “ethnic diversity within national unity”. It is envisaged that with such multicultural mentality, EMLs will be more able to act not only as manpower for raising productivity of the country, but also as agents for social transformation and in the end become citizens of the cosmopolitan world.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectMulticultural education - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies
Minorities - Education - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies
Multilingualism - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies
Dept/ProgramEducation
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/193062

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorWang, Ge-
dc.contributor.author王革-
dc.date.accessioned2013-12-14T10:12:20Z-
dc.date.available2013-12-14T10:12:20Z-
dc.date.issued2011-
dc.identifier.citationWang, G. [王革]. (2011). Understanding ethnic multilingual learners at tertiary level : an ethnographic case study in Yunnan, China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b4832947-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/193062-
dc.description.abstractExisting research on multilingual acquisition indicates that multilingual learners confront challenges not only in mastering new linguistic forms, but also in forming new identities, and especially when the languages concerned are socially and linguistically distant. This study shows that ethnic minority students in China (referred in particular as ‘ethnic multilingual learners’ or EMLs in this study) at universities can face more challenges than the ethnic majority, Han, when they choose to study English as their major subject. The Han’s content and method in English learning are straitjacketed upon them. The environment is unfamiliar to EMLs, and the EMLs are often regarded as “strangers” to the place. Their problems include the national examination system, medium of instruction, learning difficulties, psychological issues and cultural exclusion. The current educational policies in China intend to protect the educational rights of ethnic minorities, but ignore the role of education in inheriting and capitalizing their ethnic cultures. The current university curricula mainly focus on subject knowledge building and patriotic education. As a result, the “cultural self-consciousness” and “cultural capital” of EMLs are less emphasized and encouraged. Data are collected on two female ethnic minority students at Yunnan University of Nationalities (YUN) through ethnographic interview, autobiography, oral narrative, online chatting and field observation. It provides information at a micro level, on how the two students, who have successfully navigated through Chinese education system to the tertiary level, try their best to excel in the education system of YUN with English language as their major subject and construct their multiple identities, and what important factors are affecting such identity construction. The findings suggest that they negotiate their multiple identities successfully through their active engagements on and off the university campus to become legitimate participants in various “communities of practice”. These identities are shaped partly by their own heritage and partly by the present sociopolitical realities in China. Drawing mainly on poststructuralist and multicultural education theories, the study also examines the power relationship exercised in YUN and discusses the impact of this power relationship on the identities formation of the target informants. The national and local policies as well as the curriculum structures of YUN are analyzed to identify the implicit power relationship that mainly causes tensions to the education and language learning of EMLs. It is argued that multiculturalism, as a discourse of education, may help to ease the tension between being an ethnic minority and a Chinese national, and reduce the danger of assimilation and marginalization of these EMLs. To achieve the goal of multilingual education based on the notion of multiculturalism, a “collaborative” power relationship which facilitates the empowerment rather than disempowerment of EMLs should be the goal in China according to the framework of “ethnic diversity within national unity”. It is envisaged that with such multicultural mentality, EMLs will be more able to act not only as manpower for raising productivity of the country, but also as agents for social transformation and in the end become citizens of the cosmopolitan world.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.subject.lcshMulticultural education - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies-
dc.subject.lcshMinorities - Education - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies-
dc.subject.lcshMultilingualism - China - Yunnan Sheng - Cross-cultural studies-
dc.titleUnderstanding ethnic multilingual learners at tertiary level : an ethnographic case study in Yunnan, China-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb4832947-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b4832947-
dc.date.hkucongregation2012-

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