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postgraduate thesis: Neoliberalization and identity trajectories in China's education : a critical sociolinguistic ethnography

TitleNeoliberalization and identity trajectories in China's education : a critical sociolinguistic ethnography
Authors
Issue Date2015
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Huang, E. [黄恩谋]. (2015). Neoliberalization and identity trajectories in China's education : a critical sociolinguistic ethnography. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5719456
AbstractThis thesis examines how neoliberalization in China’s public education shapes recent changes in public schools in mainland China and how the various social actors involved go through different identity trajectories in relation to these changes. The theoretical framework combines critical sociolinguistic ethnography, as developed by Heller (2006, 2011) and Pérez-Milans (2013), with the analytical tradition focused on the study of trajectories of social identification, as informed by the work of Wortham (2003, 2006). This integrated framework conceptualizes institutional neoliberalization and identity trajectories as mutually constitutive across time and space, wherein particular forms of knowledge and identities are legitimated, sustained, and contested, leaving different social consequences for different social groups. A seven-month ethnographic case study was conducted in a suburban public junior secondary school in Foshan, Guangdong province. The data collection process focused on the interplay between the institutional level of change and the identity trajectories of one language teacher and four students who were children of internal migrant workers. Data analysis was mainly oriented to identifying (i) the institutional constructions of social/moral categories (“migrant students,” “good” students, “good” schools); (ii) socioeconomic considerations; and, (iii) how the involved teachers and students positioned themselves in relation to these constructions. Analysis shows that, in recent years, the case school suffered declining financial power, increasing numbers of students with migrant backgrounds, and declining social status. In response, it constructed score-based academic excellence as its most important resource and implemented performance-based accountability and delicate labor division of teachers’ work. Due to these changes, many of the school’s teachers and administrators encountered multiple pressures, difficulties, and dilemmas. Meanwhile, students with migrant backgrounds were homogeneously constructed as being of low “quality” (i.e., low academic achievers), inferior, and unwelcome. Nonetheless, the school’s ideological shift towards academic excellence was not found to control the focal language teacher’s pedagogical practices; rather, she implemented her belief in education for all-round development, albeit with difficulties, and contested exam-oriented education through her multiple ways of engaging with the discourses of exams. Lastly, along with the institutional transformations, the four focal students with migrant backgrounds went through four distinct identity trajectories, conditioned by their different academic achievement levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. These trajectories further show that neoliberal subjectivities (e.g., competition and self-entrepreneurship) and score-based assessment favored middle-class students and constrained the educational opportunities of lower-achieving working-class students; however, they also shed light on unexpected forms of mobility and discontinuities. Taken together, these findings imply that institutional neoliberalization is not a top-down process that determines every aspect of teachers’ and students’ teaching-learning practices or shapes their identification with neoliberal values and ways of doing. Further, it suggests some concrete mechanisms whereby institutional neoliberalization may contribute to creating and reproducing class inequality. Finally, this thesis suggests some directions for future research and for improved practices, with regard to mitigating the difficulties and dilemmas teachers and students may encounter under neoliberalization in China’s public education.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectEducation - China
Neoliberalism - China
Group identity - China
Dept/ProgramEducation
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/223577

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.authorHuang, Enmou-
dc.contributor.author黄恩谋-
dc.date.accessioned2016-03-03T23:16:34Z-
dc.date.available2016-03-03T23:16:34Z-
dc.date.issued2015-
dc.identifier.citationHuang, E. [黄恩谋]. (2015). Neoliberalization and identity trajectories in China's education : a critical sociolinguistic ethnography. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5719456-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/223577-
dc.description.abstractThis thesis examines how neoliberalization in China’s public education shapes recent changes in public schools in mainland China and how the various social actors involved go through different identity trajectories in relation to these changes. The theoretical framework combines critical sociolinguistic ethnography, as developed by Heller (2006, 2011) and Pérez-Milans (2013), with the analytical tradition focused on the study of trajectories of social identification, as informed by the work of Wortham (2003, 2006). This integrated framework conceptualizes institutional neoliberalization and identity trajectories as mutually constitutive across time and space, wherein particular forms of knowledge and identities are legitimated, sustained, and contested, leaving different social consequences for different social groups. A seven-month ethnographic case study was conducted in a suburban public junior secondary school in Foshan, Guangdong province. The data collection process focused on the interplay between the institutional level of change and the identity trajectories of one language teacher and four students who were children of internal migrant workers. Data analysis was mainly oriented to identifying (i) the institutional constructions of social/moral categories (“migrant students,” “good” students, “good” schools); (ii) socioeconomic considerations; and, (iii) how the involved teachers and students positioned themselves in relation to these constructions. Analysis shows that, in recent years, the case school suffered declining financial power, increasing numbers of students with migrant backgrounds, and declining social status. In response, it constructed score-based academic excellence as its most important resource and implemented performance-based accountability and delicate labor division of teachers’ work. Due to these changes, many of the school’s teachers and administrators encountered multiple pressures, difficulties, and dilemmas. Meanwhile, students with migrant backgrounds were homogeneously constructed as being of low “quality” (i.e., low academic achievers), inferior, and unwelcome. Nonetheless, the school’s ideological shift towards academic excellence was not found to control the focal language teacher’s pedagogical practices; rather, she implemented her belief in education for all-round development, albeit with difficulties, and contested exam-oriented education through her multiple ways of engaging with the discourses of exams. Lastly, along with the institutional transformations, the four focal students with migrant backgrounds went through four distinct identity trajectories, conditioned by their different academic achievement levels and socioeconomic backgrounds. These trajectories further show that neoliberal subjectivities (e.g., competition and self-entrepreneurship) and score-based assessment favored middle-class students and constrained the educational opportunities of lower-achieving working-class students; however, they also shed light on unexpected forms of mobility and discontinuities. Taken together, these findings imply that institutional neoliberalization is not a top-down process that determines every aspect of teachers’ and students’ teaching-learning practices or shapes their identification with neoliberal values and ways of doing. Further, it suggests some concrete mechanisms whereby institutional neoliberalization may contribute to creating and reproducing class inequality. Finally, this thesis suggests some directions for future research and for improved practices, with regard to mitigating the difficulties and dilemmas teachers and students may encounter under neoliberalization in China’s public education.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.subject.lcshEducation - China-
dc.subject.lcshNeoliberalism - China-
dc.subject.lcshGroup identity - China-
dc.titleNeoliberalization and identity trajectories in China's education : a critical sociolinguistic ethnography-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb5719456-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-

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