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postgraduate thesis: Demystifying gaokao : cultural capital and university access of rural students in China

TitleDemystifying gaokao : cultural capital and university access of rural students in China
Authors
Advisors
Issue Date2017
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
Citation
Li, X. [李晓亮]. (2017). Demystifying gaokao : cultural capital and university access of rural students in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.
AbstractIn the age of mass higher education, rural teenagers in China are still disproportionately excluded from university admission or relegated to inferior university programs. The gaokao (the university entrance examination) has been widely believed to be a mechanism to ensure equality in university admission. Few studies note that rural teenagers actually maintain their poor university access exactly through the gaokao. This research aims to demystify the seemingly meritocratic gaokao and explore how the gaokao imperceptibly yet effectively disfavors rural students. In his empirical studies, Bourdieu conceptualized cultural capital as the brilliant relation to culture which bourgeoisie students received, largely by osmosis, from their favorable socio-cultural conditions. Thanks to the affinity between the scholastic criteria at school and the cultural practices at home, bourgeoisie students were usually deemed to be brilliant by their teachers as they commanded and utilized school knowledge in a casual and elegant manner. Schools in France contributed to consecrating and perpetuating social privilege, for they expected all students to have this brilliant relation to culture yet refused to overtly transmit it. This study explores how Bourdieu’s theoretical insights could be operationalized to unpack the mechanism by which the gaokao contributes to the transmission of privilege across generations in China. The fieldwork for this research was conducted in Beishan County, Henan Province. Between October 2013 and September 2014, I followed up with nine final-year rural students at the Lark High School. In specific, I interviewed rural students, their teachers and parents, observed on campus and off campus, and collected relevant documents. This research interrogates the (re)definition of gaokao excellence and discloses the social and ideological functions of the gaokao. As gaokao reforms increasingly depreciate mechanical learning strategies, the vague (re)definition of gaokao excellence confers primacy upon a flexible use of textbook knowledge. All families are expected to cultivate their children through selective readings, choice entertainments and cultural trips. Unfortunately, rural students at the Lark High School had to rely heavily upon mechanical learning strategies because their poorly-educated parents were preoccupied with manual labors. As rural students have poor university access for their mechanical command of textbook knowledge, the gaokao serves its social function and disfavors rural students due to their poor socio-cultural conditions. Thanks to the faith in the myth of meritocracy, rural students seems to deserve their inferior university access because of their low aspirations or inadequate efforts. As rural students’ inferior university access is not recognized as a product of their poor socio-cultural conditions, the gaokao actually serves its ideological function and conceals its preference for students from well-educated families. Avoiding mechanically employing Bourdieu’s theoretical constructs, this research sheds light on the mechanisms by which the majority of rural teenagers are continually prevented from excelling at gaokao and climbing up the social ladder. Moreover, this research informs how school pedagogy could be transformed and how gaokao excellence could be redefined so that rural students are less disfavored in university admission due to their poor socio-cultural conditions.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectEducation - China - Rural children
Entrance examinations - Universities and colleges - China
Dept/ProgramEducation
Persistent Identifierhttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/249842

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorWang, D-
dc.contributor.advisorPostiglione, GA-
dc.contributor.authorLi, Xiaoliang-
dc.contributor.author李晓亮-
dc.date.accessioned2017-12-19T09:27:29Z-
dc.date.available2017-12-19T09:27:29Z-
dc.date.issued2017-
dc.identifier.citationLi, X. [李晓亮]. (2017). Demystifying gaokao : cultural capital and university access of rural students in China. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR.-
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10722/249842-
dc.description.abstractIn the age of mass higher education, rural teenagers in China are still disproportionately excluded from university admission or relegated to inferior university programs. The gaokao (the university entrance examination) has been widely believed to be a mechanism to ensure equality in university admission. Few studies note that rural teenagers actually maintain their poor university access exactly through the gaokao. This research aims to demystify the seemingly meritocratic gaokao and explore how the gaokao imperceptibly yet effectively disfavors rural students. In his empirical studies, Bourdieu conceptualized cultural capital as the brilliant relation to culture which bourgeoisie students received, largely by osmosis, from their favorable socio-cultural conditions. Thanks to the affinity between the scholastic criteria at school and the cultural practices at home, bourgeoisie students were usually deemed to be brilliant by their teachers as they commanded and utilized school knowledge in a casual and elegant manner. Schools in France contributed to consecrating and perpetuating social privilege, for they expected all students to have this brilliant relation to culture yet refused to overtly transmit it. This study explores how Bourdieu’s theoretical insights could be operationalized to unpack the mechanism by which the gaokao contributes to the transmission of privilege across generations in China. The fieldwork for this research was conducted in Beishan County, Henan Province. Between October 2013 and September 2014, I followed up with nine final-year rural students at the Lark High School. In specific, I interviewed rural students, their teachers and parents, observed on campus and off campus, and collected relevant documents. This research interrogates the (re)definition of gaokao excellence and discloses the social and ideological functions of the gaokao. As gaokao reforms increasingly depreciate mechanical learning strategies, the vague (re)definition of gaokao excellence confers primacy upon a flexible use of textbook knowledge. All families are expected to cultivate their children through selective readings, choice entertainments and cultural trips. Unfortunately, rural students at the Lark High School had to rely heavily upon mechanical learning strategies because their poorly-educated parents were preoccupied with manual labors. As rural students have poor university access for their mechanical command of textbook knowledge, the gaokao serves its social function and disfavors rural students due to their poor socio-cultural conditions. Thanks to the faith in the myth of meritocracy, rural students seems to deserve their inferior university access because of their low aspirations or inadequate efforts. As rural students’ inferior university access is not recognized as a product of their poor socio-cultural conditions, the gaokao actually serves its ideological function and conceals its preference for students from well-educated families. Avoiding mechanically employing Bourdieu’s theoretical constructs, this research sheds light on the mechanisms by which the majority of rural teenagers are continually prevented from excelling at gaokao and climbing up the social ladder. Moreover, this research informs how school pedagogy could be transformed and how gaokao excellence could be redefined so that rural students are less disfavored in university admission due to their poor socio-cultural conditions.-
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.rightsThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.-
dc.subject.lcshEducation - China - Rural children-
dc.subject.lcshEntrance examinations - Universities and colleges - China-
dc.titleDemystifying gaokao : cultural capital and university access of rural students in China-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.date.hkucongregation2017-
dc.identifier.mmsid991043976594903414-

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