Introduction– Studies of Immigrant Minority Education
"It is natural that you may encounter some difficulties at the start when you move into a new community. You are all young and adaptive, and with the benefit of the induction services provided, I am sure you would be able to settle into Hong Kong quickly, just as I did many years ago." Mrs. Anson Chan, the ex-Chief Secretary of the HKSAR Government, encouraged the new arrival children by making her migration to Hong Kong from Shanghai in the 1940’s comparable to the present new arrival children’s experience 1 .

The Background

Throughout human history, people from various ethnicities and cultures migrate to look for more life chances and hence better lives. People desire to settle down in a decent place, yet not all places are satisfactory for settlement, therefore they migrate. Owing to the outcomes brought about by industrialization since the 18th century, many opportunities and advancement were concentrated in cities and in “developed


See the April 10, 2000 press release by the HKSAR Government entitled “Acting CE visits new arrival

services centre” on the government’s web site Mrs. Anson Chan, who was the Acting Chief Executive that time, visited the Head O ffice of the International Social Services (ISS) Hong Kong Branch, a non-government organisation providing services for new arrivals.


countries”. People migrate from the periphery to the developed countries, or more exactly, to the developed nation-states. There are m than 130 million migrants ore worldwide nowadays. Immigration is rapidly transforming the postindustrial world.

Hong Kong is also a city founded on migrations. Immigration, as well as emigration, has been a prominent feature of Hong Kong society. Some may describe Hong Kong as a “refugee society”. Many people, especially Chinese from inland provinces, treat Hong Kong as home as well as a springboard to better life chances, or a gateway to a better world. Migrants constitute a substantial portion of the society.

Yet people do not migrate as freely as they want. Governments formulate their own immigration policy for their own reasons. For HKSAR Government, there have been sets of immigration policy to deal with the influx of Mainland Chinese into Hong Kong. These immigration policies facilitate people’s pursuit for better life chances on one hand, but have created social problems and interfere with the destinies of many individuals on the other. To have much more empathy with the Chinese immigrants, a historical overview of immigration control is necessary. (Tong2 , 2001)

In the early part of the 20th century, there was no territorial boundary between Mainland China and Hong Kong. Residents from Guangdong were allowed to migrate freely to Hong Kong, as well as back to the mainland. The governments of the two lands were happy not to enforce any sort of immigration control.


Timothy Tong is the Deputy Secretary for Security of HKSAR Government.


Social problems, however, demanded control. Due to the political and economic upheavals in the Communist Mainland as well as the Japanese Occupation in the 1930s, a swift influx of Mainland residents to Hong Kong occurred in the 1940s. This influx put enormous pressure on the provision of social services and created many sorts of social problems. Since 1950 the Chinese Government has therefore regulated exit from the Mainland through a permit system which then was known as the One-way Permit (OWP) scheme. A formal territorial boundary between Mainland China and Hong Kong has then been set up.

In the 1950s, 50 permits were issued per day to Mainlanders who might want to look for a better future in Hong Kong. By the late 1970s, the daily quota for OWP was increased to 75 when the number of residents from many parts of China wishing to settle in Hong Kong kept escalating.

After the signing of the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984 between British and Chinese governments, the colonial Hong Kong government had been busy with Hong Kong’s reintegration with Mainland China. The social and economic boundaries between Hong Kong and Mainland China became blurred, and there were more frequent migrations across the border. In response to this increase in migrations, the daily OWP quota was increased from 75 to 105 in 1993.

Currently, the social environment of the mainland, especially that of Southern China, has also attracted many Hong Kong people to work and live there. Most of these people are recent arrivals and are working in lower class jobs. Among these people, many of male who may wish to marry women from where they work or have leisure in China as they are more “attractive” in the eyes of Mainland women than in the eyes of Hong

Kong women.

From July 1, 1995 onwards, the intake of persons holding ‘single-transit permit’ has been raised to 150 per day, with a view to facilitating the admission of a large number of long-separated spouses and children born to Hong Kong permanent residents who would be eligible for right of abode under Article 24(2)(3) of the Basic Law. The 150 quotas are allocated with the following priority: (Tong, 2001: 3) 1. A daily sub-quota of 60 children of all ages who are eligible for right of abode in Hong Kong 2. A sub-quota of 30 for long-separated spouses (those separated from their spouses in Hong Kong for more than 10 years) 3. An unspecified sub-quota of 60 for other OWP applicants

In accordance with the HKSAR government’s statistics (Tong, 2001), there are about 54750 new arrivals, which constitutes 0.8% of the population, every year. And since the resumption of sovereignty in 1997, some 197,600 persons, including 85,412 eligible children and more than 80,600 separated spouses have entered Hong Kong for settlement.

The above figures show that more than half of the new arrivals are school age children. The decision of the Court of Final Appeal concerning the new arrivals issue on January 29, 1999 affirmed that the “eligible children” have the right of abode in the territory under the Basic Law and the right must not be restricted by reason of the Mainland’s one-way permit quota system. Later on June 26, 1999, the Natio nal People’s Congress standing committee interpreted some Basic Law provisions and estimated that the number of mainlanders eligible to settle in Hong Kong was 170,000.

The new immigrant or new arrival schoolchildren spent most of their childhood, including education, in Mainland China. Owing to different systems of mainland education and those of Hong Kong, as well as the different socio-historic backgrounds of children of the two places, immigration unquestionably becomes one of the determinants of the quality of their schooling as well as their school performance. Their adaptation to Hong Kong schooling has happened to be a concern of many local educators and social workers, as evidenced by a great deal of local surveys and discussions undertaken by those front- line workers.

The social implications of new arrivals into Hong Kong have been the split- family structure, making the new arrivals unable to live under the same roof with their parents and spouse (Kuah, 1999). As a result of the immigration policies, a normal family has become split into two sub- family structures, each living across the border of the other. Family reunion, therefore, remains the single most important goal of the policy on cross-boundary immigration control and regulation. For the betterment of immigration policy, “family reunion will continue to be facilitated at a pace with which socio-economic infrastructure and resources can cope”. (Tong, 2001:18)

In post-colonial Hong Kong, the historical, social and economic ties between the HKSAR and the Mainland have become closer. There has always been a high level of mobility of residents across the boundary. An average of 304,000 persons travel to and from the Mainland every day (Tong, 2001). The volume of cross-boundary traffic has risen at an annual rate of 12% over the past five years (Tong, 2001). Immigrations from Mainland China will continue to transform the post-colonial Hong Kong and its various sectors, including education.

Local Studies of New Arrival Students

Immigration has become a social issue when the influx of people impacted significantly on the society, or more specifically on the government’s policy bureaus and service departments. The Home Affairs Bureau shares the role of administering the

coordination and delivery of new arrival services provided by various Government departments and non governmental organizations (NGOs); the Education Department is to offer education services for new arrival students; whereas the Social Welfare Department comes to serve ne w arrival families and individuals to promote self-reliance in their adaptation to Hong Kong society. And the Labour Department is involved for the various employment services for the new arrivals. Many NGOs are actively giving their helping hands on the front line, as well as to evaluate the government’s services and polices regarding immigration.

Studies on new arrivals, or new immigrants as called in colonial period, were conducted mostly by NGOs and government departments in order to gauge predominantly the service needs of the new arrivals. Literature on new arrivals can be found from the early 1980s onwards. The early 1980s is the period when the discourse and

construction of the “HongKongese” identity were triggered. One study conducted in that period aims at getting a general picture about how the two ‘social groups’ of people i.e. the new immigrants and the local citizens view one another (Chinese University Student Union, 1982). Later in the mid 1980s some local social service agencies came


to serve the new arrivals and they were concerned about the profile of the arrivals and the problems they faced in adaptation. The research areas of these studies are very similar, in spite of the difference in report topics. These studies are predominantly surveys which identify the new arrivals’ adaptation problems faced in the adaptation process and hence their pertinent service needs in general. The studies furthermore evaluate the services provision and development as well as related government polic ies. Some explore the supportive network of the new arrivals also (Hong Kong Council of Social Service, 1982, quoted by International Social Service, 1997; Hong Kong Council of Social Service and Lingnan College, 1985).

As the services provided by the NGOs and governments have been specified, so were their studies. Although general surveys on new arrivals as a whole prevailed

(International Social Service Hong Kong Branch, 1997), studies in the 1990s had a kind of specification with respect to their client groups. Some welfare agencies did more studies on children, students and working youths (Chan, 1999; Chan, Yip, Yuen, 1997; Choi, Kim, Lee,1999; Ho, 1999; The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995), some on women (Chung, 1996; Lau, 1995), and some on families (Ho, 1999; The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1999). The Home Affairs Branch, the Education Department and the Statistics Department of the HKSAR Government started keeping the updated figures on new arrivals’ profile since the 1990s. Despite the uncritical positivistic nature, studies conducted within these two decades do contribute to future immigration researches by providing a brief profile of this migration of Chinese people to the territory.

In these survey reports, new arriva l children are commonly seen as one social group in

Hong Kong society as they share similar socio-historic background with one another, notably their experience of adapting to Hong Kong schooling. In the academic year of 1999/2000, there were 17,518 newly admitted students at primary level, whereas 2,614 were at secondary level3 . Respectively, these students constituted 3.56% and 0.58% of the total school enrollment. According to a quantitative research conducted by

International Social Service (Hong Kong Branch) in 1997, the majority of new arrivals (63.3%) are from Guangdong, followed by Fukien (17.7%) as the commonest origin of new arrivals 4 .

According to this research, 39.4% of 999 respondents live in public housing and their median monthly family income is HK$9920 (the sample size is 921 families) (International Social Service, 1997). Interestingly, many new arrival children perceive that they are from the middle class even though their monthly family income can hardly justify their perception. It is mainly because they claim so simply with reference to their life in the mainland where some of their parents are not offered a full-time job. However in the same family, the parents’ perception of class to which they belong is one or two levels lower than what their children perceive. The new arrival children, by the way, are comparatively more conscious of their family’s economic well being than local children are. (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995)

What new arrival children share most in common are probably the problems they encounter when they are adapting to the schooling in Hong Kong. Their problems are

These figures include children newly admitted to local ordinary day schools (i.e. excluding

international schools, schools operated under English Schools Foundation (ESF), special schools and evening schools). 9

summarized as follows: (Hong Kong Council of Social Services, 1999) 1. Overage (i.e. the “age-gap” with counterparts) in class 2. Inadequate proficiency in English, Cantonese and in using “traditional Chinese characters” 3. Discrimination in schools 4. Family cannot offer help regarding children’ studies s 5. Social life of low quality, as leisure time is used for staying at home or tutorial 6. For children aged 15 or above (who cannot enjoy free compulsory education), they need to be very self- motivated to utilize the available information and resources with a view to furthering their studies.

Notwithstanding the problems as summarized above, (Hong Kong Council of Social Services, 1999) immigrant status (that is whether people voluntarily immigrate or not) is the only one of the many factors that influences the school-adaptation patterns of immigrant minorities. (Ogbu, 1991) New arrival children see education as an asset to climb up the social ladder, so they are keen to grasp any opportunity for education. (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995; 1999) These research findings are consistent with the general argument that voluntary immigrant minority youths by and large like schooling and have positive attitudes about their teachers. The youths’ motivation and determination help them much in adapting to the host society, including school demands.

The adaptation problems which new arrival children face come from the inequalities they encounter. Such inequalities can be categorized into the unequal situation they


The sample size of the survey is 999 new arrivals from various age groups. 10

face in respect of age, daily use of language and possession of social capital as compared with their counterparts from the mainstream.

Age Overage in class is a serious pedagogic problem as we can see from statements made by the HKSAR Education Department in the Survey on Children from the Mainland Newly Admitted to Schools. The statements say: When compared with the primary pupils as a whole, considerable higher proportion of the newly admitted pupils from the mainland were found to be over-aged. While over-aged pupils constituted about 18% of all primary pupils, the proportion of over-aged pupils was as high as 77.6% among ne wly admitted pupils from the mainland (HKSAR Education Department, 2000) Similarly, in secondary schools 84.9% of the newly admitted pupils from the mainland are overaged whereas only 27.4% of the total secondary school population are over-aged. Over the past five years, the overage problem in both primary and secondary schools become more serious.

Being oddly over-aged in class poses great psychological distress to the new arrival children. One interviewee of a qualitative research conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups remarked: “I’m too ‘mature’ to repeat primary six. I am very pessimistic. I really regret that I didn’t study English well in the past… ” (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995)

In this research, 18 out of 43 interviewees need to be downgraded one level, while 10 have to be downgraded two levels. They feel very shameful because their value has

depreciated. Worse still, they feel the pressure to perform better than their counterparts. But they will not be proud of their better performance as they sense that they deserve to do better in others’ eyes. They are supposed to be big brothers or sisters in class.

One reason for this problem is timing. It is not fit for the children to start school immediately when they arrive at Hong Kong. Another point is that the new arrival children do not mind being downgraded to lower forms at all as long as they can still be admitted to schools. It is because they want to acquire a stronger foundation of English. All in all, the reasons for repeat or being downgraded are many, and the main one is the new arrivals’ poor level of English.

Language Though new arrival children should not be termed as a ‘language minority’ (because their mother tongue is Chinese also), changes in language usage do lead to communication barriers and hence adaptation problems. There are briefly three aspects of language change: 1. Using traditioal characters instead of simplified characters 2. Speaking Cantonese, or speaking in Hong Kong accent 3. Using English in studies and in school


Using English is the biggest obstacle in adaptation among the above three language changes. According to the comments made by teachers, 56.1% of newly admitted primary pupils from the mainland are weak in English, whereas for newly admitted secondary students from the mainland the figure is 51.9%. (HKSAR Education Department, 2000)

From the new arrival students’ point of view, 73.6% of the 360 respondents in a study expressed that English was the most difficult subject5 . (International Social Service, Hong Kong Branch, 1997) Consistently enough, their first priority need is English tuition class, while the centralized school place allocation system and comprehensive adaptation programmes follow as the second and third most urgent needs respectively. (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995)

Social Capital: Family, Peers and the Support System Teenagers are in the stage of self- identity seeking and they can not “form” their own self- identity by themselves alone. The y need others’ recognition and appreciation to construct a positive self- identity. According to developmental psychologists, teenagers need to expand their support system from family to peers (Rice, 2002). Yet their lack of social capital limits the choice of ‘others’ they have and weakens the support for theses people.

The social capital that children may possess depends much on their family and ethnic background. Newly arrived parents, notably the mothers from mainland, need a period


In the same study, Chinese was seen as the second most difficult subject, with only 3.7% of the respondents commented as such. 13

of time to settle down in Hong Kong and most of them need to work for long hours daily. In terms of time and knowledge, they are unable to provide emotional support for their children. In bringing up their children, new arrivals pay the most attention to not exposing the ir children to bad influences, as parents are skeptical of the new environment of Hong Kong. Their skepticism can be illustrated by a parent who was very prudent in responding to a researcher’s invitation for interview conducted by the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups (1995). This parent asked whether he might suffer any loss if he accepted the invitation.

Parents are also skeptical about allowing children to join social functions or to use community services. Community networks and relations therefore may play only a minor role in the school adaptations of these minority children. What parents expect from their children most, whether in inland or in Hong Kong, is studying hard at school. It is especially the case for staying in Hong Kong where better educational opportunities are provided. One parent stated that it was the global trend that higher educational level was demanded (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995).

New arrivals do not have many relatives in Hong Kong. One of their main activities in leisure time is visiting their homeland regularly. Hence the support system of new arrival children is at stake. They seldom seek help from parents when they have problems, even though they know that their parents love them. In the meantime, owing to their age, language and ethnic origin perhaps, they can hardly gain peer support from their counterparts in class. So they usually make friends with the other new arrivals of similar age. Good academic results can be an asset to develop fr iendship with

classmates, but it can also lead to jealousy and prejudice. (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995)

Social capital is the central concept of this thesis. We will look at this concept in more detail in the theoretical review section and this concept will be extensively used in conceptual analysis.

The Children’s Experience Personal experience can change a person’s perception towards something, and his value system as well. It is therefore important to describe and discuss the adaptation

experience of new arrival children, starting from the time when they first came to Hong Kong and sought a place in school.

When new arrival children are looking for a place in school, they often face many rejections and these bad experiences are likely to effect their adaptation in the future. To account for this phenomenon, we can study the policy issue in this regard. In the process of placement, Education Department simply acts as an agency for vacancy information, whereas decisions on admission rest in the hands of the principals of individual schools. And most schools do not welcome new arrival children at all as these children may increase the workload of the school. Therefore, the new arrival children are frequently discriminated by the staff of some schools when they are applying for admission to these schools.

There are various examples of the school’s unfair treatment of the new arrival children, and several are provided below (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995). Example 1: Once the staff had known that those who looked for school places were new immigrants, they would lie that there was no place Example 2: When a parent was consulting a principal of one famous school for school

place, the principal responded, ”if I give you an offer, that means my school will have one repeater. Do you think I will consider your application?” Example 3: When a parent was asking for application details at a school’s help desk, one staff commented bluntly: “you new immigrants should not be considered for admission”

In another case, a newly arrived child commented that they were treated like refugees in school place hunting. Under such circumstances, the children’s self-esteem will be badly affected especially if the school hunting duration is too long. In some cases, new arrival children have to stay at home for half a year or so, awaiting a place in schools.

Yet, compared with local schoolchildren, the new arrivals share a more positive attitude towards schooling. They understand one can hardly find a job without good

educational qualifications, so they treasure education which to them is an important asset to climb up the social ladder. Academic achievement is treated by the new arrival children as such a big issue that it has been attributed many meanings. Academic achievement is about their future, their self-esteem, their recognition from others and their responsibility for the family as well. One student experienced that when s/he came first in class, both teachers and classmates treated her/him better (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995). Schools also offer a site for them to establish social network with others (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995).

From the limited qualitative findings in the local literature on new arrivals (The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, 1995 which spares part the of report to qualitative findings), we can see that the new arrival students indeed attribute individual meanings to their individual experiences in the host society. And we can expect that there are

many new arrival students who view themselves in a way very different from how the local population and agencies view them. Government departments and

non-government organizations, for instance, try to offer them help. Their interest is to identify these new arrivals’ service needs and to locate those in need. Yet in this needs identifying and “needy people” searching process, the relationship between “a helper” and “a client with needs and problems” is formed. “New Arrival Students” would then be easily perceived as “Problem New Arrival Students”. Further, when these new arrival students are asked to fill in questionnaires as required by their teachers or welfare workers, their voices can hardly be fully and freely represented yet their identity as needy students is reinforced.

For effective and efficient provision of service, it is understandable that the government departments and NGOs would like to get quantitative data through repetitive surveys which see the new arrivals as one distinct social group. However, from the experience of many teachers and researchers (or ethnographers) who have really talked or worked with the new arrival students, we cannot justifiably consider all new arrival students as a homogeneous social category (for example HKSAR Education Department, 2000; International Social Service, 1997). Some new arrival students, for example, are not easily distinguishable from the local born students. Some new arrival students are so different from other new arrival students that it is unreasonable to view them as coming from the same group. This difference among new arrival students makes inadequate many services and polices which target the new arrival students as a whole. It also renders superficial many of the generalizations made by the survey studies of new arrival students.

General surveys or researches to investigate new arrival children as one group of

schoolchildren have yet to tell the complexities within these children. It is obvious that, however, ethnographic studies on new arrival children can inform people what these children share in common with one another, as well as how individuals’ identity and experiences, perception of future opportunities and school performance make them distinct. Sociological insights of this kind are helpful to enrich the local studies which have focused on surveys of the new arrivals. Legislators and policy enforcers should also listen to the new arrivals’ voice more so as to enhance the cultural sensitivity of the immigration policies and “assimilation packages” and hence truly empower the new arrivals.

Sociological researches on new arrival students are indeed rare. One pioneer study conducted by Leung entitled The Making of School Success and Failure: The Case of the New Immigrant Students from Mainland China provides a good start for this stream of qualitative research to be carried on. The study investigates the variability of school performance among new arrival students with reference to socio-cultural factors. It finds that the new arrival students’ school success is largely determined by the students’ past school experiences and student identity in interaction with their present socio-cultural environment, especially that of the school. Arguing from the

interactionist perspective, Leung suggests that student perceptions within the school context count more than any sort of structural determinants in the larger society in influencing the new arrival students’ performance. He maintains that such perceptions and self-confidence within the context of the school are more relevant than their beliefs about the opportunity structure of the present society in accounting for the school success and failure of the new arrivals. The quotations made in the last part of Leung’s study reflect the methodological and theoretical ground of this present research.


“This analysis leads us to re-emphasize a need for attention to the individual qualities of learners and their learning. It is important to recognize and ‘hear’ pupils’ individual perspectives … This process is particularly important where a child’s identity is distinct from, or in tension with, those of the mainstream peer or school culture … The interaction of socio-cultural contexts and learners is highly comp lex but extremely powerful … Individual capabilities are related to

perceptions and self-confidence in particular social contexts” (Pollard and Filer, 1999, p.166; quoted by Leung)

Theoretical Explanations of Differential School Performance

In modern societies, education is held to be the social institution that allows capable and hardworking people to gain their educational credentials which lead to better life chances and economic rewards. In actuality, school performance however is

attributable not only to students’ differential input of effort but also many other social and cultural factors. Educational inequalities occur in various contexts which lead to differential school performance. Some theoretical explanations originating from

critical educational studies are now reviewed to account for the differential school performance of minority students and among minority groups.

Education as Class Reproduction Informed by a commitment to equality of educational access as well as curricular knowledge in the 1970s, scholars like Althusser, Bernstein, and Apple suggest that school actually worsens social inequalities (Levinson, Foley, Holland, 1996). Althusser even argues that schools are among the most powerful “ideological state apparatuses”

of modern capitalism. As what these scholars claimed are a far cry from the common view at that time that education promoted social mobility, their views have been described as the “new sociology of education”.

By the end of the 1970s, “reproduction theory” emerged. The theory helps explain how schools serve to reproduce rather than transform existing structural inequalities. According to this theory, education is seen to pose little or no effect on social mobility.

Education as Cultural Reproduction Later on some social theorists found it necessary to refine and modify the reproduction theory. Following the theme of reproduction theory, another band of reproductionists, namely cultural reproductionists, put culture into their theoretical analysis and put forward the notion of cultural reproduction.

The leading figure of this school of reproductionists is Pierre Bourdieu. Furthering the structural Marxist formulation, Bourdieu and Passeron (1977) developed the concept of “cultural capital” and brought out cultural reproduction. Here cultural capital refers to a sort of symbolic credit, for instance “taste” and “intelligence” which are acquired through learning to embody and endorse signs of social standing. Such cultural capital is held to lead to better school performance, which in term contributes to the attainment of advanced academic credentials. Good tastes and high brow life styles – or high culture – is capital in the sense that it helps those who possess it to acquire benefits and privileges.

In essence Bourdieu’s arguments are as follows. This acquisition of high culture is important to education, as schools are where the value and content of the elite groups’

high culture are reproduced. In schools, the values and lifestyles of the elite groups are important ingredients of school curricular knowledge and official school culture.

On the basis of the above arguments, we can assume that minority and immigrant students posses less cultural capital than the children from the mainstream social groups. These immigrant minority students can be expected to face more difficulties and barriers in their school education. In response, these students cannot help but tend to develop a “sense of their social limits”, which becomes permanently marked in their own “habitus”. The students then tend to question their own abilities when they are accompanying others with greater cultural capital and of higher social standing.

This reproductionist explanation is seemingly inadequate, however. When the concept of reproduction is being critically assessed, we can find several inadequacies. The class-dominant perspective of reproduction theory assumes that class structure is the main determinant of students’ life chances. This explanation neglects the meso-level and micro- level analyses in schools and classrooms. Both students and teachers indeed can formulate their own coping strategies to deal with the official school demands and with one another.

Empirically, it is not rare that a number of high achievers of many countries are from working class or minority backgrounds. We will see, for instance, that one of the high achievers of the present study is sharing a flat with his neighbours and his parents are doing working class jobs. More significantly, the case that American Vietnamese who tend to have relatively low incomes show high rates of academic success also substantiates this claim (Bankston, Caldas, and Zhou, 1997). To take a further look at

such phenomena, we will soon turn to researches using cultural difference to explain the differential educational achievement of immigrant minorities.

Social Capital and School Performance Yet before we turn to the discussion on cultural difference explanation, we now take a look on the concept of social capital. As stated in the section of local studies review, social capital is the central concept of this thesis. In this section, we will briefly state how “social capital” is understood in this context, and how it has been used in sociological studies of student performance.

Over decades, there was a great deal of sociologists studying the conception of social capital and using it for social organizations studies. One of the renowned ones is James S. Coleman. Coleman (1990; quoted by Schneider, 2002) sees social capital as a set of relational ties that facilitates action. He defines social capital as inhering in the

structure of relations between persons and among persons. Schneider (2002) defines social capital from Coleman’s perspective as, “the social capital that comes about through relational exchanges helps to generate trust by establishing expectations, and creating and enforcing norms.”

Through the generation of norms and trust, social capital is formed. This formation of networks is to promote individual and collective interests like socio-economic advancement, civic engagement, or any kinds of personal well being. As social capital is created through relational ties; the denser and closer these ties are, more likely the information which acts as a basis for action will be communicated. The strength of social capital in a community depends upon the degree to which associates share norms and values and are capable of moderating self- interests for the common good

(Schneider, 2002:545).

James Coleman (1988) in his thesis “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital” claims that one important effect of social capital is on the creation of human capital in the next generation. This effect is brought about through the institution of family. The human capital creation process can be analyzed in two ways; one is through the social capital in the family while the other one is through social capital outside the family.

Coleman (1988) suggests that “family background”, being an analytic variable, is in fact comprised of three components: financial capital, human capital, and social capital. Human capital refers to parents’ education and it provides the potential for a cognitive environment for the child that aids learning. Social capital of the family is the relations between children and parents. Social capital within the family that gives the child access to the adults’ human capital depends both on the physical presence of adults in the family and on the attention given by the adults to the child. If the human capital possessed by parents is not complemented by social capital embodied in family relations, it is irrelevant to the child’s educational growth.

By providing encouragement and support for children’s learning and by involving themselves in learning activities, parents influence their children’s school performance positively (Epstein, 1987; quoted by Hao and Bonstead-Bruns, 1998). Coleman and Hoffer (1987) claims that a family with functional deficiency is the one in absence of strong relations between children and parents, despite their physical presence in the household.

Social capital outside the family, or between-family social capital as suggested by Hao

and Bonstead-Bruns (1998), is generated from the relationships between the family and other social institutions. Trustworthiness in an ethnic community and ethnic solidarity give rise to trust, enabling efficient distribution of economic and educational resources and among the members. Zhou and Bankston (1998) in their study of a Vietnamese community in New Orleans find out that preserving traditional ethnic values enables immigrant to integrate socially and to maintain solidarity in an ethnic community surrounded by undesirable neighbourhoods. Ethnic solidarity is especially important in the context where immigrants just newly arrive at the host society.

In her article “Social Capital in Chinatown”, Zhou (2000) examines how the process of adaptation of young Chinese Americans is affected by tangible forms of social relations between the community, immigrant families, and the younger generations. Chinatown serves as the basis of social capital that facilitates, rather than inhibits, the assimilation of immigrant children in the expected directions. Chinatown acts as a source of social capital, she says, [Chinatown community does] not only makes resources available to parents and children but serves to direct children’s behaviours. This type of social capital helps many of Chinatown’s children to overcome intense adjustment difficulties and unfavourable conditions, such as linguistic and social isolation, bicultural conflicts, poverty, gang subculture, and close proximity to other underprivileged minority neighbourhoods and to ensure successful adaptation. (Zhou, 2000:333) In furthering her claim that

Ethnic support provides impetus to academic success. Furthermore maintenance of literacy in native language also provides a form of social capital that contributes positively to academic achievement. Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) (quoted by Wong, 2002) found that bilingual students were more likely to obtain the necessary

forms of institutional support to advance their school performance and their life chances.

The Cultural Difference Explanation Ethnographic researches inform educational anthropologists and sociologists of the disproportionate school failure of some ethnic and racial minorities but the success of others. The cultural difference approach was then adopted to explain the phenomenon. By studying “differences”, “discontinuities”, “conflicts”, and “mismatches” as well as “similarities” between the mainstream school culture and the cultures of ethnic minorities, the educational performance of minority groups can be better understood (Levinson and Holland, 1996).

Some ethnic groups’ culture repertories place high value on education. Take the example of Chinese Americans. The traditional Confucian Chinese culture is very much compatible with the middle-class mainstream culture of American schools. Hence the Chinese Americans have disproportionate school success. Chinese parents also expect a lot from their children in school performance, for the pursuit of family honour. As a way to show their respect and love to the parents, Chinese children like to submit themselves to their parents’ expectation. motivated and diligent students. They are hence usually highly

The problem with the above explanation is that the same ethnic group can have different school performance when they are in different countries and different contexts. For example, the cultural difference explanation fails to account for the case that Korean Americans in the Untied States perform better than Korean Japanese in Japan (De Vos 1978,1992; Lee, 1991). Adopting class analysis, Lee (1991) notes that social

class differences distinguish the Koreans in Japan from the Koreans in America. Class background influences the Korean students’ perspectives on schooling. However, Gibson (1991) maintains that socioeconomic status cannot explain the school achieve ment patterns of the West Indian, Central American, and Mexican children in her study. She suggests that these minority children do better than “their

socio-economic condition would seem to justify”. The applicability of social and cultural reproduction theories to immigrant minorities is again questioned. Yet on the other hand, as we have seen, the cultural difference explanation has its own loopholes.

The Cultural Ecology Theory Instead of using the cultural traits of minority ethnic groups to explain their educational performance, John Ogbu (Ogbu, 1978, 1987, 1991, 1997; Gibson and Ogbu, 1991) has developed a comprehensive framework to explain differential school performance among various ethnic minority groups with reference to the socio-cultural contexts they face. This framework attempts to explain the differential school performance of

different ethnic groups in the same context, the differential performance of the same ethnic group in different contexts, as well as the within- group variability in academic achievement.

In Ogbu’s framework, immigrant minorities may differ from one another in that their ways of becoming minorities are not the same. Some migrate to a new place “Voluntary

voluntarily for better life chances for themselves and their children.

minorities”, as they are termed, usually have high hopes in the host society. They choose to “make the deal” so they are willing to pay the price of immigration which includes discrimination and barriers on their path of getting ahead. Those hardships may be anticipated before they step on the land of the host society yet because it is a

land of hope they face the hardships positively. In looking back at their even worse times in their homeland, they often find discrimination and other barriers for getting ahead in the host society to be simply the necessary cost for greater gains. In Ogbu’s terms, voluntary minorities in this sense have a positive dual frame of reference. In addition, they have a folk theory of success which holds that education plus hard work is a hopeful means to climb up the “social ladder”. Ogbu also points out that voluntary immigrants often take pride in their own cultural identity which insulates them from a sense of inferiority to the mainstream groups.

In contrast, “involuntary minorities” are groups involuntarily incorporated into the host society through conquest, colonization, or slavery. Owing to their history of subordination and oppression, the involuntary minorities do not think that the host society does the m justice or gives them hope. In actuality and in the minorities’ belief, the social institutions in the host society, including education, do not offer them fair opportunities for socio-economic advancement. The involuntary minorities do not think that educational credentials afford them equal access to good jobs or equal chances for promotion. To the oppressed, excelling at school symbolizes behaving like the mainstream “oppressors”. A decent life therefore means sustaining an oppositional identity rather than pursuing academic achievement. The minority peer group respect their counterparts who reject or resist school learning; and reject those who comply with the school authority.

Empirically, voluntary m inority students perform better at school than involuntary minority students of similar social-class backgrounds. It is the outcome of differential perceptions towards schooling and teachers. Voluntary immigrants – who Ogbu also refers to as immigrant minorities - by and large place high value on schooling and show

deference towards their teachers. In return, teachers like teaching immigrant students who have a sense of purpose and direction. The students’positive attitude put them into an advantageous position in the classroom. (Gibson, 1991) The contrary applies to involuntary minority students in their perception of schooling and teachers, and therefore in their treatment by teachers and in school performance.

Voluntary minority students’ positive attitude toward the host society’ social s institutions is due not to their “whole- hearted” deference to the host society and mainstream culture but to their instrumental view on schooling. Voluntary minority students attain good school performance not because they have assimilated the mainstream culture but because they have strong home cultures and a positive sense of ethnic identities. Indeed, minority cultures and identities help students’adaptation.

Gibson (1991) builds on Ogbu’ framework and points out that the kind of acculturation s adopted by voluntary minority students is an additive acculturation. acculturation as additive rather than subtractive and believe that They see

education can

empower them for greater participation in the host society, in honour of their ethnic communities. Given the support from the ir strong ethnic identities and from their family, voluntary immigrant students can develop an attitude of hope to transcend the discriminations and barriers in their adaptation process.

However, involuntary minority students adopt a subtractive view of acculturation. As the involuntary minority student perceive it, their acculturation process is subtractive in the sense that acculturation leads to a loss of ethnic culture and identities. They in general feel that they have to forgo either school achievement or ethnic identity and peer recognition. They often choose to retain their ethnic identity and pride and peer recognition, at the expense of school achievement.

Many educators today advocate multiculturalism which champions minority ethnic cultures and identities as a source of social and cultural capital (Bankston III; Caldas; Zhou, 1997), which serves to empower minority students in school adaptation. In contrast, an educational policy of assimilation assumes that minority students will attain good school performance if they integrate themselves fully into the mainstream culture. Such assimilation policy demands the students to abandon their ethnic identity. But a more workable educational policy is the one that supports and maintains multiculturalism. Positive acculturation, or accommodation, is a better way out than assimilation.

By and large, immigration is about parents’ hope for their children. Many scholars on immigration analyze why and how these parents migrate and pay little attention to the wishes of their children. The assumption that children think in the same way as their parents regarding immigration is too casually drawn.

Some Recent Theoretical Developments: Identity and Adaptation The American educational anthropologist M.M. Suarez-Orozco understands well the above inadequacy and has conducted a study focusing on the children of immigrants. His study dwells on these immigrant children’s experiences at school for he claims, “What is going on in the school environment is a good place to start trying to understand the problems facing the ethnic minorities. It is precisely in schools where many of the problems seem to begin.” (Suarez-Orozco, 1990:267) As part of his five-year longitudinal study – the Harvard Immigration Project, he published the book entitled Children of Immigration.


Suarez-Orozco (1990) also critiques Ogbu’s theoretical framework. He comments that the “voluntary minority” against “involuntary minority” categories are “heuristic typologies” in explaining minority students’ differential school performance. Children are usually powerless in family migration decisions and have few ideas about the host society’s opportunity structure, so it is not appropriate and justifiable to put minority children either in voluntary minority or involuntary minority categories.

Suarez-Orozco also critiques the typologies as “deterministic and self-perpetuating entities”. I may here use some of the findings in my study to illustrate the point. I met a high achiever who claims that he was not willing to come to Hong Kong at the very beginning but he changed his view after he has accommodated to the school life. Another student who was originally a “voluntary minority” later regretted when he discovered that Hong Kong education was not as good as his father had told him.

Both school success and school failure are determined by many variables during the students’ immigration experience. Carola Suarez-Orozco and Marcelo M

Suarez-Orozco (2001) suggest that there are multiple pathways that structure the “immigrants’ journeys into their new home”. These categories of adaptation pathways are useful for conceptualizing the experiences of immigrant students and explaining their schooling outcomes.

When the t raditional "straight-line assimilation" theory6 no longer holds, it is necessary to understand how different types of ethnic identity influence the immigrant children’s schooling experience and their subsequent adaptation to the host society. The Orozcos


The theory states that immigrants will experience upward social mobility and achieve educational and economic parity with the natives when they become more assimilated into the mainstream society and lose their own cultural traits (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001). 30

categorize three different types of identity; they are “ethnic flight”, "adversarial identities" and "transcultural (or bicultural) identities". Immigrants adopting an "ethnic flight" style of identity are those who abandon their own ethnic identity and imitate the dominant group. They strongly identify with the dominant mainstream culture and are willing to play the game of climbing the social ladder. However, immigrants choosing this identity have to pay their social and emotional costs. This adaptation pathway may lead to “ethnic betrayal”, marginalization and exclusion. There are also hidden costs of unresolved shame, doubt, and self- hatred. “Issues of shame and self-doubt are

interwoven in situations of cultural dislocation, ethnic prejudice, and social mobility.” (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001) But identification with peers and with one’s own social or ethnic group can avoid the danger of anomie and psychological alienation. Hence some immigrants choose to adopt "adversarial identities". Immigrants with "adversarial identities" construct their identity in opposition to the mainstream culture and its institutions. Students who find themselves structurally marginalized and culturally disparaged are more likely to construct identities around rejecting the institutions of the dominant culture. They tend to have problems in school. Like Gibson’s idea of subtractive acculturation,

immigrants with "adversarial identities" equate embracing aspects of dominant culture with giving up one’s own ethnic identity.

"Transcultural (or bicultural) identities" enable immigrants to develop adaptive competence in both and many cultures. “They creatively fuse aspects of the parental tradition and the new culture in a process of transculturation that blends two systems that are at once their own and foreign.” (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001:113) Bicultural individuals as creative agents who easily communicate and make friends with members of their own ethnic group and with people of other cultures. They do not

view success as complying with the mainstream society but as a way to “pay back” their family and ethnic community.

Focus of the Present Study

The present study is based on the belief that to understand the new arrival students, it is important to listen to their voices, and on the basis of their own accounts, to describe and interpret their experience of adaptation to their new socio-cultural setting. This research is to study the new arrival students’ experiences of immigration, to investigate how socio-cultural factors interact in ways that lead to divergent pathways of adaptation, and subsequently to explain their differential school performance. Throughout the thesis, many a concept and theory reviewed previously will be used in a flexible manner for any appropriate analysis. Cultural ecology theory and the concepts of social capital and cultural capital are the major ones.

Migration brings along lots of changes, and these changes bring opportunities and challenges. People need motivation and hope to keep going ahead for the opportunities and to overcome the challenges. Part of the motivation comes from the opportunity structure in the host society, but in the last analysis it is the individual who has to become motivated. With hope and support, people can be motivated and adapt well and transcend socio-cultural barriers. Without hope and support, immigration simply

means alienation, discriminations and hardships. I will therefore use hope and support as two major themes to understand our interviewees‘ various adaptation experiences and to explain their differential school performance as well as psychological well-being.


The Immigration Experience and Adaptations

“One night, I received a phone call from my mother and she told me to go to Hong Kong immediately after two days. I was extremely shocked and at once packed up my stuffs. When I was on the way to Hong Kong, I had too many things to think about. All were about lives and happenings in the homeland. I sometimes cried at night after I had arrived here.” A male new arrival student who could not choose but migrate for family reunion thus expressed his ambivalent feelings about immigration.

People have ambivalent feelings about changes. On one hand, people look forward to the change for the better, whereas on the other hand they fear that changes may bring too many uncertainties and challenges that may make life difficult.

Immigration, being a major life decision, costs much as it brings many changes. Immigrants, especially immigrant children, who follow their parents to migrate, face an uncertain future with the potential for both gains and losses. The impact of

immigration on new arrival students depends on the changes they are to experience and their subseque nt adaptation to the changes. People have to adapt to survive or at least to satisfy their basic personal needs when the socio-cultural and institutional environment changes. (LeVine, 1982:153)

As mentioned in the previous chapter, new arrival students cannot be seen as one

homogeneous group of students. They are different from one another in that the changes they need to face are different and hence the subsequent identities they form may be different. These students have come to a society with socio-cultural settings different from their homeland’s. Broadly speaking, they experience changes, or

challenges, in their language, lifestyles, and identities. Perhaps one most fundamental change for these students is the change in family relationships and family life.

Almost all of the new arrival students migrate to Hong Kong for the sake of family reunion, so there is a change in family life. Their families were a splitted one but now they are in union with their families. In most cases, they have lived their childhood in a mother-centred family in the Mainland. The mother is mainlander while the father is working in a lower-class job in Hong Kong. The mother usually gives birth to her children in the Mainland and plans to migrate to Hong Kong with the children thereafter. Both mother and children apply for the one-way permit at the same time, yet their applications are however not approved simultaneously. Usually, the children have to be left in the care of grandparents or relatives in the Mainland, or the children may have to live in a father-centred family in Hong Kong. In the latter case, the children are often neglected as most fathers have little time to spend with their children due to their job. Also, during the family migration process, the children are often separated from their siblings; some come to Hong Kong, some stay behind to wait their turn.

Yet the children usually enjoy their family life after reunion, as they can receive love and care both from the father and the mother. To the children this change is

consequently a good change. This change in family life gives the students impetus to do well at school so as to pay back the parents’ love. For instance, Cheung who is one of the interviewees of this research, remarks that the family warmth he is enjoying due

to immigration motivates him to work harder. HT(interviewer): Did your family life change much after you have come to Hong Kong? Cheung: I don’ need to take care of myself much in Hong Kong. In the past, one time t when I was sick in the school hostel in Shenzhen, I was in so much pain. I could not help but cried. But now my mother takes care of me when I am sick and supports me in my studies. HT: Does this better family life affect your academic results? Cheung: A little bit. I do want to study well to get a good job and then take good care of my parents in the future.

Family reunion, all the same, means leaving ones’ closest friends and relatives, as well as familiar places and lifestyle of the homeland. Immigration brings along gains and losses; it brings along ambivalent feelings indeed. Family reunion is a good change on the one hand, yet it incurs some loss on the other hand. It involves an emotional cost that new arrival students need to manage, not always easily, as the following example illustrates.

Chiu is a high achiever in Fukien Secondary School. During the interview, he said that he had adapted to the school and also the society after he had adapted to the teaching styles of Hong Kong teachers. But still his feelings about immigration were mixed. HT: Whom did you live with in the homeland? Chiu: I lived with my grandmother and played with my cousins. HT: Do you miss them now? Chiu: Yes. HT: If you could choose again, would you choose to come to Hong Kong? Or would you like to live with your grandmother and cousins in the homeland?

Chiu: It’ really good if they can come. But in fact they can’ come. I do miss them. If I s t were given a choice, I would still come here. HT: Why? Chiu: (He thinks for a while) I don’ know. t HT: Is it because of family reunion? Chiu: Perhaps.

Not all interviewees experience the pain of separation. Another high achiever named Man finds his adaptation process “smooth”. He has assimilated into the Hong Kong mainstream culture and society without missing his homeland Zhong Zhan much. Man came to Hong Kong only because his mother needed to select one between two of her sons to come. Finally Man was chosen by drawing lots. He obeyed yet he was not so willing to leave his homeland. His attitude has however changed over time. HT: You mentioned that you were not willing to come to Hong Kong at first but did your attitude change over time? Man: Now I think immigration is not a big change as I can visit my homeland several times a year. Immigration doesn’ make much difference. Also my homeland is just t nearby. HT: Has your ethnic identity changed after you have moved to Hong Kong? Man: Not at all. In fact, Zhong Zhan and Hong Kong are similar in culture.

It can be seen that new arrival students often differ in their experiences and perceptions after they arrived in the host society. Because of this, they have various paths of adaptation. It is mainly the extent of cultural difference they encounter in the host society that accounts for these different adaptations. In general, students coming from origins with insignificant cultural difference from the host society have an “easier”

adaptation than those from origins with greater cultural difference. Culture, comprising beliefs, ideas, values and norms, is deeply embedded in the personality of the people those who share that culture. People’s everyday behaviours are mainly grounded in culture. Hence, what by and large shapes and structures the students’ adaptation is the cultural difference which they face in the host society.

Culture and Identity: The Importance of Ethnic Support Networks

Although it is argued that Hong Kong people share a kind of “Hong Kong culture”, there are various ethnic cultures in the society. Kuah and Wong (2001) suggest that people speaking the same dialect share a similar culture as well as similar ethnic identity, and form their own ethnic community. They view dialect associations as “cultural and identity brokers” that help new arrivals adapt to the mainstream Cantonese culture on one hand, and maintain the bond with their homeland culture on the other. This idea of “cultural and identity brokers” can illustrate how cultural difference, or ethnic difference, to a significant extent determines which adaptation paths the new arrivals adopt.

In their research article entitled Dialect and Territory-Based Associations: Cultural and Identity Brokers in Hong Kong, Kuah and Wong (2001) highlight the role which dialect and ethnic culture play in the new arrivals’ social and cultural lives in Hong Kong. The article says, ” Even as Hong Kong proclaims itself to be a multicultural society in which all groups are free to express their own ethnicity and cultural identity, there continues to be what Guldin terms as ‘Cantonese chauvinism’ in the

interrelationship between the Cantonese-speaking and other dialect groups.” (Kuah and Wong, 2001:205) In this regard new arrivals have to ensure their mastery of Cantonese so as to adapt to the society of “Cantonese chauvinism”. Nevertheless, their “submission” to the host society may be instrumental. The new arrivals remain highly conscious of their dialect and ethnic identity. Thus, in trying to meet the new arrivals’ needs, the Hong Kong Government and the non governmental organizations (NGOs) have to seek help from the dialect associations (tongxiang hui) which can offer opportunities for the new arrivals to socialize and interact with people who speak the same dialect (Kuah and Wong, 2001:205).

In this regard, we can expect dialect and ethnic culture to be important in structuring the new arrival students’ adaptations to the host society. New arrivals were born in their homeland, learnt their dialect as mother tongue, chatted with peers in their dialect and were brought up with them in the ethnic culture. The ethnic culture has been deeply embedded in the students’ personality. Giddens (2001) points out that people’s

behaviours are influenced, to a significant extent, by the cultural settings in which they were born and come to maturity.

Hence owing to the change of socio-cultural environment due to immigration, social identity and self identity, or personal identity, becomes the main challenge in the process of adaptation to the host society. Students, especially those who face linguistic change, will become more conscious of their own dialect. If they cannot receive ethnic support during their adaptation process, their social identity and self identity are at stake. Ethnic support does not only provide social support for the students to fare better in the social structures, it also offer a field for their cultural capital to be activated

(Lareau and Horvat, 1999). New arrival students may face identity frustration if the support for them is not adequate and appropriate. Identity frustration can affect their psychological well-being and dampen their motivation to do well at school. We can briefly consider the case of Wai as an illustration.

Wai had high hopes in Hong Kong’s education originally. While he was adapting to life in the new society, he encountered too many cultural and value conflicts that made him regret having come to Hong Kong. Without adequate support from the school and community, he cannot accommodate into Hong Kong society and cannot keep his ethnic identity. Immigration has brought him identity frustration and he is in the social condition of anomie. HT: What do your homeland neighbours think about you after your family has come to Hong Kong? Wai: I think I am still a Chiu Chow person but I have a problem. I can’ speak the t CORRECT Chiu Chow dialect. Meanwhile I can’ speak Cantonese. So I don’ know t t any dialect. HT: What do you think about this situation? Wai: I don’ think it’ a great problem but it does bring me some disadvantages. For t s instance, I would get my marks deducted in all oral exams. HT: Is English oral exam included? Is it because your accent is not so westernized? Wai: (He laughs) Exactly. I thought that I could do alright in HKCEE last year but it’ s not so (only a E grade). It should be due to my accent. HT: Do you think you are fairly treated? Wai: I can’ say if it’ fair or not. I feel that it’ a bit unfair to me but I accept my fate. t s s Things are not what you want them to be. If you need to talk about fairness, you will find it impossible to define fairness.

HT: When did you find you lost your Chiu Chow accent? Wai: My neighbours told me so when I first came back to homeland for a visit. They also said that I had changed to become “Hong Kong Yan”.

Over time, cultural capital is turned into a habitus, or durable schemes of perception and action (permanent dispositions) (Madigan, 2002) Accent is one of these schemes. When we listen to the voices of the new arrival students more carefully or more sociologically, we discover that the language and social adaptation courses provided by the Government and various agencies to help the new arrivals to assimilate do not get to the heart of the problems that these students care about most. Underneath the linguistic, academic and peer relations problems are the issues of culture and identity. As will be demonstrated later in the present study, the degree of proximity of the new arrival students’ ethnic culture and Hong Kong mainstream culture is a strong factor affecting their path of adaptation and involvement in school work. In his article “The Forms of Capital” Bourdieu (1986) claims that “.. the scholastic yield from educational actions depends on the cultural capital previously invested by the family. Moreover, the economic and social yield of the educational qualification depends on the social capital, again inherited, which can be used to back it up.” (Bourdieu, 1986:48)

Along with the themes of hope and support mentioned in the last chapter, linguistic and cultural differences are the other theme central to the understanding of the new arrival students’ differential adaptation pathways and differential school performance. It is on the basis of these themes as well as the theories and concepts previously reviewed (especially the concepts of social capital and cultural capital) that I have constructed the conceptual framework for the present study of the new arrival students’

adaptation and school performance in Hong Kong.

Modes of Adaptations: The Conceptual Framework of the Research

Putting the two themes hope and support as well as linguistic and cultural differences on two axes, I have constructed the table below. Here we have four modes of

adaptations, namely transitional adaptation, instrumental adaptation, bicultural adaptation/ accommodative adaptation and marginality. They are used to describe and analyze the various pathways that the new arrival students undertake in Hong Kong. These adaptation pathways are the ideal types in Weber’s sense; and as such they do not provide accurate representations of the reality. Nevertheless they offer a valuable conceptual tool to make sense of and understand the new arrival students’ adaptation experiences.


Table 1: Modes of Adaptation Students experiencing insignificant linguistic Students experiencing significant linguistic and

and cultural differences cultural differences Receiving sufficient support and with hope Transitional Adaptation With Ethnic Support: Bicultural Adaptation

With Non-ethnic Support: Accommodative Adaptation Receiving insufficient support and without hope Instrumental Adaptation Marginality

Transitional Adaptation For Transitional Adaptation, adaptation means simply transition involving some “technical” adaptations to the change in social structural variables such as an educational system and a curriculum which differ from those of the homeland. Positive perceptions and hope towards the opportunity (i.e. educational and occupational) structure of the host society motivate the students to overcome the structural barriers. Linguistic and cultural proximity with the mainstream society enables the students to receive support and recognition from peers, teachers and the local community easily. Having undergone the process of adaptation, these new arrival students can assimilate well into the mainstream society. They are just like the locally-borns both in their own eyes and from the views of their teachers and peers. They do not find “Hong Kong identity versus their homeland identity” a big issue.

Students experiencing insignificant linguistic and cultural differences, say those from Cantonese-speaking origins with similar culture as Hong Kong culture; and are enjoying support and recognition from their peer group, school or local community

generally view the Hong Kong society, especially its opportunity structure, positively. Immigration means a “hopeful” change to them and it has a positive effect on the students’ motivation to do well at school. Family reunion can also be viewed in a positive light.

Instrumental Adaptation Students adopting Instrumental Adaptation are those from linguistic and cultural backgrounds similar to those of Hong Kong but they do not receive, or have not yet received, sufficient support from the host society. Their “cold” experience upon their arrival to Hong Kong, sometimes even a discriminative ones, makes difficult the formation of positive perception toward Hong Kong society and its future. They are skeptical about taking root in Hong Kong whole- heartedly. Given the close ties between Hong Kong and the Mainland, they tend not to see post-colonial Hong Kong and other places in China as too culturally and socially distinct. These students tend to justify their immigration experiences by perceiving their m igration to Hong Kong instrumentally. They view the ample educational opportunities afforded by Hong Kong and the high transferability educational credentials gained in Hong Kong as a good justification for their hardships along their adaptation process. They view Hong Kong less hopefully than students adopting the Transitional Adaptation, but they see immigration as an instrument, for achieving a good education and perhaps thereafter getting a decent salary from a Hong Kong job, for the sake of their future socio-economic advancement.

Their adaptation is termed Instrumental Adaptation because their concern is about how they can utilize the opportunities available during their stay in Hong Kong. It is a flexible adaptation strategy and they try to make use of what they find attractive in both

Hong Kong and their homeland. They may consider having a lifestyle such as working hard for a job in Hong Kong during weekdays and enjoying life during week-ends back in their homeland or other places in the Mainland.

Accommodative Adaptation Students adopting Accommodative Adaptation are those coming from linguistic and cultural origins different from those of Hong Kong but have sufficient support from peers, schools, religious organizations or local community centres in Hong Kong. These support sources are not ethnic in nature but they provide social, academic and emotional support to the new arrival students in need.

These students are helped to accommodate to social life in Hong Kong, but their ethnic identity, their attachment to their places of origin, and their ambivalent feelings about immigration are seldom taken care of. They tend to develop a mono-ethnic perception of Hong Kong culture and society and feel that they are culturally marginalized as compared with the mainstream students. Although they receive support and acceptance from the mainstream society, they find their value system not fully compatible with that of their Hong Kong peers. But they are confident that the Hong Kong opportunity structure can better their welfare. They adopt the accommodative adaptation pathway as they can accommodate to the social structures; but they hold the view that the Hong Kong lifestyle is less desirable than their lifestyle in the homeland. Owing to their cultural experience in Hong Kong, they do not perceive Hong Kong as a home that accommodates their own values.

However, for students experiencing significant linguistic and cultural differences in Hong Kong, yet receiving support and recognition from schools with a similar ethnic

background or from their ethnic community, their perception of “cultural Hong Kong” is positive. These students adopt another kind of adaptation, that is Bicultural Adaptation.

Bicultural Adaptation Adapting in a supportive socio-cultural context, students experiencing linguistic and cultural differences adapt to Hong Kong biculturally. The students’ experiences in the contexts of such “ethnic” schools or communities give them the perception that Hong Kong can accommodate their va lues and ethnic culture. They view Hong Kong as “multicultural” more than the students of Accommodative Adaptation do. Instead of assimilating fully into Hong Kong society, students adopting Bicultural Adaptation find it comfortable to have high achievements in the mainstream society on one hand while keeping their ethnic identity and way of life on the other. This adaptation is a kind of “additive acculturation” (Gibson, 1991). These students consider Hong Kong their new home.

Marginality Students who are marginalized in their adaptation experiences usually lose motivation in learning and interest in the opportunity structure of the host society. They miss their life in the homeland and find it superior to the life in Hong Kong but they are powerless to decide where they can stay. They feel as if they had no norms to follow and no goals to pursue. They feel powerless, normless and aimless due to immigration. Using Durkheim’s term, they are in the social condition of “anomie”. The cause of this condition is a lack of support, love and care, and the consequences are depression, deviant behaviour and other kinds of psychological disturbance. Students experiencing significant linguistic and cultural differences in Hong Kong, and yet receiving

insufficient support and recognition from peers, school and family. By and large fail to adapt positively to the host society and find themselves in the situation of anomie. Such “marginalized” students often suffer from low self-esteem and this has a negative impact on their student identity. The consequence is usually poor performance in school.

The above mentioned is a brief description of the different modes of adaptation. We will discuss this typology in more details in chapter 7. Now we move from conceptual and theoretical issues to matters relating to methodology and research design.

Methodology and Research Design: Some Theoretical Considerations

This research is an interpretive research. It is framed and implemented in the domain of symbolic interactionism which sees human behaviours as a series of interactions, especially the interactions in terms of symbols. The ground of symbolic interactionism is that people have the ability to think and interpret as well as to attribute meanings. The variations of human behaviours depend much on the meanings individuals attribute to actions, people and events. In the view of interactionists, culture is composed of symbols. Rather than responding to something by instinct, people respond to them by the “significant symbols ” which are learnt through socialization. Many symbols are shared and this enables smooth social interactions. These learned symbols collectively make up a culture or subculture.

Notwithstanding its focus on individuals, symbolic interactionism is not solely a psychological process. Thomas (1928) explains that “it is the interpretation that counts

as far as outcomes are concerned, and therefore man’s thoughts and rationality, not instinct, nor the ‘objective’ reality of the situation.” (quoted by Woods, 1977:24). This is a process determined by social factors, psychological factors and self- indication process. (Woods, 1977)

In summary, there are three basic postulates in symbolic interaction. (Woods, 1977) Firstly, people inhabit two diffe rent worlds, which are the “natural”

world and the social world. In the “natural” world, people are seen as organisms of drives and instincts, and the external world can exist independently of them. The social world comprises symbols that enable people to give meanings to objects. The social world is the world of subjective meanings and it is the domain where people act towards things based on the meanings of the things they attribute.

Secondly, people ’s actions are not due to one single meaning attributed. Action results from a continuous process of meaning attribution. Such a process is also a process of negotiation, rather than a “summation” of all meanings involved.

What is meant by “negotiation process" leads to the third postulate. The process of meaning attribution necessarily takes place in a social context. Each individual

regulates his action to that of others, which means everyone has certain “roles” with respect to other people in the context. Being dynamic, this concept of “role” entails the construction of how others intend to act in a certain situation, and how the individual might act, or react as a result.

As symbolic interactionists’ interest lies in the process of subjective meaning attributions, there is no way for the researche r to investigate the subjectivity of certain

groups of people without getting close to those people. Ethnography hence evolves as one of the symbolic interactionists’ research method.

Ethnography refers to the study of a way of life. Ethnographers get close to the people they intend to study by talking, dining and living with them in certain circumstances. One reason why sociological research is unable to get a true-to-life picture of people ’ s lives is that the se people being studied are too conscious of “being researched” in the course of data collection. They will act like the subjects to be researched, rather than act naturally as in everyday life. Yet the longer the researcher stays and engages in more in-depth talk with them, the more likely those being studied will forget about the researcher’s presence and the more likely they are to act naturally. Ethnography is therefore an effective way for studying culture and identity, at least for listening to people talking about life histories and lifestyles. Ethnography also enhances the researcher’s empathic insights and ability to comprehend the meanings in the subject’s actions. Researching students’ experiences is one of the main tasks of school


In ethnographic research, the kind of data generated are not completely under the researcher’s control. The strength of ethnography does not lie in testing hypotheses or an “a prior” theory. Ethnographers produce theories which are grounded in the data and in the real social world; they attempt to generate theories from the observations and to ground them in the facts.

In respect of fieldwork, both observations and interviews are commonly adopted by ethnographers for data collection. Such interviews are usually “unstructured” and “in-depth”, aiming at probing stories, views, values and feelings. Ethnographers hope

to immerse themselves in data and to gain some “insights”. Ethnography as a kind of “qualitative” research is crucial in sociology because it is claimed that qualitative research may be practiced as an exercise in the use of the sociological imagination (Mills,1959).

A Brief Account of My Fieldwork

Informed and inspired by symbolic interactionism, I attempted to implement the research as an ethnographic study. Since most of the previous studies on new arrival students simply provide statistic figures and a very general picture about the students, I could not derive from them a good understanding of how the students’ adaptations differ from or resemble each other. Neither could I find a starting point for explaining the differential school performance among them. To overcome my research problems, some preliminary studies were hence carried out in pursuit of the most appropriate method for researching the students’ experiences.

I was first invited by a social worker friend, who was working in a special school for recently arrived students, to a civic education camp. The social worker team of the school attempted to instill the civic consciousness of being a “good Hong Kong citizen” through many kinds of games in the camp. I acted as an “overt” participant observer, sitting aside whilst doing observation. I observed that the students were playing joyfully and actively together, sometimes causing troubles that kept the teachers busy with maintaining the order. They were more eager to win the games than to pay attention to what were taught. When the students were not involved in the “official” games, they would speak to each other in a dialect that I did not understand (it should be

Fukienese). Although the campsite was on Hong Kong Island, I felt that I was in a milieu other than in Hong Kong. I was indeed a foreigner in that unique community.

Having stayed in the camp for a half day, I found my visit interesting. But keeping my “status” overt, I can only observe the students’ behaviours outwardly but could not understand why they behaved as such. Without “coming out” and talking with them, I could not know their inner (and ambivalent) feelings about immigration, the ir life histories, perceptions, adaptation strategies and what was in their heart. My conclusion from the visit was that observation alone could not answer my research inquiries.

I did another observation later in another context teaching basic English to ten Form one new arrival students in classroom. Again I did not cover up my identity as a student researcher. I taught them English once a week for a month in a special tutorial class. I could develop a teacher-student relationship with them so I could get closer to the students. I talked with them about English and also their school life. Inconsistent with the claim made by many survey reports, not all the new arrival students were motivated in learning. In that particular context I could clearly see the gender difference in learning motivation; in spite of their weak foundation in English, the girls were especially attentive in class while the boys just enjoyed playing or doing their own things (just like my teaching experience in a mainstream class before). Male students considered English very boring and difficult and their concern was much more on making themselves somebody in class. One time when Christmas was approaching, I taught them some vocabularies about Christmas. Immediately after the class, one boy came to the blackboard and wrote the words “Merry Christmas” many times like signing his name until there was no more space on the board. That inspiring teaching experience informed me of the importance of taking gender into the explanation of

differential adaptations and school performance. Still, without talking with them in more depth, I could not know the meanings attributed to being playful, being attentive or signing “Merry Christmas” on the blackboard in that context.

I tried to find some new arrival students with whom I could really sit down and talk thereafter. I later found two female secondary school students through an internet friend. We had a meeting in a fast food restaurant but because it was my first time meeting them, we were not able to talk freely and naturally. The two girls were conscious of being interviewed (in order to help their friend to help me). I tried to ask them questions one by one, in the presence of my internet friend and the other girl. I obtained some brief ideas about their immigration experiences, discovering that they were in many ways different from their Hong Kong counterparts such as their perceptions of Hong Kong society, their school performance, and their outlook in life. I could not ask more in-depth questions, and they were not so willing to reveal more personal feelings, owing to the presence of the two other persons. I started evaluating my research methods after that interview experience.

Whilst evaluating my research methods, I went through a collection of articles (Fukien Secondary School, 2000) which new arrival students wrote concerning immigration. The book was indeed a collection of feelings and experiences, filled with hopes and frustrations, as well as laughers and tears. Every new arrival student’s adaptation experience is a unique story. This convinced me again that to understand these new arrival students’ adaptation to Hong Kong, I have to study them individually and tell their many stories by conducting one-to-one in depth interviews.

As conversation is made between two individuals in one-to-one interviews, it is easier

to build rapport, as well as to ensure confidentiality. Respondents can concentrate on the interview as there is no other interviewee who may distract them. One-to-one interviews also allow the interview to be in-depth. The unique characteristics of one-to-one in-depth interviews can be illustrated by the following citations from Chan’s (1996) Making Gender: Schools, Families and Young Girls in Hong Kong which is a study based on in-depth interviews of twelve schoolgirls. “I feel so glad and relaxed. Why? I am so happy that I can speak out my feelings, my worries and my anxieties. Can you share these with your family, or your teachers, or your friends? No, I won’t. They won’t listen, and they cannot understand.” While I was on the field talking with the new arrival students, at the end of the interviews some students thanked me for giving them the chance to express their inner feelings, as they had too few opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings about the immigration issue. I came to realize that ethnographers not only listen and study, they can also provide a venue for the respondents to release their frustrations and voice their innermost feelings.

Compared with participant observation which is very time-consuming, interviews can usually cover a wider variety of subjects in less time. In-depth interviews also generate data from the perspectives of social actors; in our case the experiences and feeling of the new arrival students from their viewpoints. New hypotheses and theories not anticipated or otherwise thought of may be generated through this data collection method.

Interviews can take many forms and can be classified into structured interviews,

unstructured ones, and “ semi-structured” ones. In practice, yet, all interviews should be termed as semi-structured as they are different from one another by the degree to which they are structured. To determine how “structured” an interview is, we need to see the extent to which the interviewer sets and follows the interview agenda. In a

completely structured interview, the interviewer simply takes the role of asking questions pre set in a questionnaire and guiding the interviewee to answer. In more unstructured interviews, the conversation can develop naturally unless the interviewees talk about something outside the scope of the interview’s concern.

I finally chose to use semi- structured in-depth interviews to probe the new arrival students’ feelings, views, and perceptions about immigration in one-to-one meetings. Twelve students aged from 13 to 18 7 were selected for the interviews which were conducted from December 2000 to November 2001. The students taking part in the research are all secondary school students; except two of them who are from primary school. Their arrival time varies from half a year to 9 years. Two more students who have arrived for about 10 years were also studied in order to explore the factor of time on adaptation experiences. These 14 respondents were all from working class family background.

I was referred to the se students by their teachers and social welfare workers. For the sake of the students’personal safety, the teachers did not refer female students to me (a male researcher) who would talk with them personally. Hence these 14 cases turned out to be all boys. This is in a way a limitation of this research, yet on the other hand, this limitation enabled me to eliminate the variable of gender to simplify the analysis. The

Too young students from primary schools should not be chosen as the respondents should be reflexive

and eloquent in talking about schooling experiences. 53

table below tabulates the basic information of the 14 new arrival students involved in this study.

Table 2: Basic Information of the Respondents Student’s Y ears Name Ping Shing Chiu Cheong Man Kin Wing Ka Wai Kim Yung Wah Ban Shan Arrival 2 years 3 years 3 years 4 years 5 years 5 years Shan Mei, Canton Hoi Ping, Canton Fukein 15 15 15 of Ethnic Origin Age Present Level of School Performance Education Secondary 4 Secondary 1 Secondary 3 Secondary 4 Secondary 4 Secondary 4 Secondary 3 Secondary 3 Secondary 6 Primary 5 Primary 5 Secondary 1 Secondary 3 Secondary 1 Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent Good Average Below Average Below Average Poor Poor Good Average Poor

Kong Mun, Canton 15 Chun Shan, Canton 16 Chiu Chow, Canton 16

3 months Shen Zhen, Canton 18 3 years 9 years Fukein Chiu Chow 15 18 15 14 11 15 13

1.5 years Hoi Fung, Canton 1.5 years Hoi Fung, Canton 7 years 11 years 11 years Guongzhou Fukein Chu Hoi

In the interviews, I employed a “strategy” to warm up the interviews such as a chit-chat, and also to build rapport with the students. I would let our conversation flow from where it started at the beginning of the interview, with a view to listening to the students’ particular concerns in school life. The interview questions were not

structured and yet I made sure some areas would be covered. All the questions were about changes due to immigration and the meanings which the students attributed to those changes. Those changes included the changes in peers, school, family,

perceptions towards the opportunity structure of the society, language used, identities

and also school performance. A clear plan was kept in my mind to see what had not been mentioned and what questions I should raise before the interviews ended. In every interview I requested the permission to tape-record the interviews, and fortunately I had the permission from all of the students. Transcripts were done soon after the interviews for data analysis.

Limitations of this Research Method

Hall and William (1970; quoted by Haralambos and Holborn, 2000:1016) claim that retrospective studies which ask people to report on past events in their lives rely upon unreliable or deceptive human memories. “Human beings naturally seek for causes

and may unconsciously fabricate or exaggerate something to account for the present state of affairs.” (Haralambos and Holborn, 2000:1016) Data obtained from interviews are all what interviewees say, and the accuracy of the data can hardly be controlled. The response given in interviews may not be accurate and may not reflect the real behaviour of the interviewees.

Interviews are in fact a kind of social context. It is likely that interviewees define an interview by the type of interview that they perceive, and also by the interviewer ’ age, s ethnicity, language, accent, gender, or even clothing. Interview questions are

responded to according to the way the interview situation is defined.

“Interview bias” may also result in that the interviewer directs the interviewee towards giving certain types of response. Interviewees then respond to what interviewer wants to hear rather than express what they truly believe. In the present research, when I

asked some “difficult” questions which were not about their everyday life, say questions about opportunity structure, the students would respond as if they were assessed in an oral exam. Here I quote one example from my interview with a respondent named Kin. I was raising a “difficult” question about getting ahead in Hong Kong society. HT: What factors do you think are essential for a person to become successful in Hong Kong? Kin: Haha.. Such a difficult question! I think both the social environment and one’ s own ability are essential. In fact if one has the ability, he can make money in Hong Kong easily. Hong Kong provides lots of opportunities than mainland does, whether educational or occupational opportunities.

On top of that, this research can hardly claim to produce any generalization about the new arrival students’ adaptations and school performance, for the sample is small and unrepresentative. As a preliminary study of immigrant children from Mainland China, this research attempts to offer insights and hypotheses on factors leading to different types of adaptations and differential school performance. Certain kinds of new arrival students such as those who are deviant, and those not from working class background are not studied in this research. Survey studies with a large representative sample would be necessary if we intend to make generalizations. Longitudinal studies can also provide more accurate data over time.

In this research, I started with a preliminary conceptual framework which offered me some guide in the first stage of data collection. I continued to refine and modify this conceptual framework in the process of collecting data. Finally, I came up with a consolidated conceptual framework for data interpretation on the basis of the data and

transcripts which I had prepared. In other words the process of data collection and construction of an analytic framework in this research has been an interaction between two, with each informing the other. I am going to present the 14 case studies according to the following framework in the forthcoming chapters.

Analytic Framework

As the analytic framework develops through an exchange with the data, the 14 cases can be neatly categorized in the framework as follows: Table 3: The Analytic Framework Students experiencing insignificant linguistic and cultural differences Receiving sufficient Man , Shing, Shan, Wah Students experiencing significant linguistic and cultural differences Chiu

support and with hope (Transitional Adaptation) (With Ethnic Support: Bicultural Adaptation)

Cheong, Kin, Ping (With Non-ethnic support: Accommodative Adaptation)

Receiving insufficient support and without hope


Wai, Ka, Kim, Yung, Ban

(Instrumental Adaptation) (Marginality)

Now we will come to the next section of this thesis. Chapters 3 to 6 will examine the 14 cases with reference to the conceptual framework, as well as elaborate on what these four types of adaptation are about. I will go through the se four types and the cases in each type in the following sequence: transitional adaptation, instrumental adaptation,

bicultural adaptation, accommodative adaptation and finally marginality. We will look at transitional adaptation in the next chapter.



Passage to a New Home - Transitional Adaptation

Among the five modes of adaptation in this thesis, “transitional adaptation” can be seen as an “easy” type of adaptation. To students undergoing transitional adaptation, adaptation means a process that simply takes time. They, after an “adaptation period”, will get themselves well into the culture and society of Hong Kong. After all they are willing to stay behind in Hong Kong for family reunion and for their future. In this chapter, I will illustrate what this type of adaptation is about in terms of the adaptation experiences and perceptions of the students undergoing transitional adaptation. Generally they are students from families speaking Cantonese and from a homeland with a culture proximal to that of Hong Kong. Cultural proximity as one form of cultural capital enables them, over time, to have easy access to information channels, networks with institutional agents, and many kinds of institutional help in the host society. In other words, these students possess both social capital and cultural capital. In Hong Kong they are able to activate these capitals, that is to convert the capitals for their welfare or for accumulation of capitals in other forms, including economic capital. Here the concepts of social capital and cultural capital are the main analytic tool used to understand how the students’ socio-cultural background make their adaptation “transitional”. The cultural ecological framework will also be reviewed with reference to these cases of transitional adaptation.


The Two Cases of Transitional Adaptation: Man and Shing

Among our 14 respondents, Man and Shing are the two new arrival students who undergo transitional adaptation. They share many things in common: they came from a Cantonese-speaking “homeland” background (though they have their dialects); they have closer relationship with both parents after family reunion; they have made many good friends (including local born peers) in Hong Kong; they receive adequate support from the school; they excel academically; and they are actively involved in school activities. After a certain period of “transition” time, they felt that they had already adapted to Hong Kong.

Man8 , who is a Form 4 student, attains the best school results as compared with the other 13 respondents. Studying in a band-one “English as medium of instruction” (EMI) school in Homantin, Kowloon, he came first in class from Form one to Form three. In Man’s case, it seems that family or class background is not a prime factor in determining school performance. Man’s academic success is certainly not due to a well off family background. Instead, both of his parents have low status jobs. His father is a construction worker while his mother is an assistant of a shop near his home. All three members of his family are living in a rented room, with other homeland neighbours (tung heung) in the same flat. When he was asked about his family monthly income, he could hardly tell as his father’s salary was not stable.

John Ogbu (1978, 1987, 1991, 1997; Gibson and Ogbu, 1991) claims in his cultural

In a very strict sense, Man is not a new arrival because he had been in Hong Kong for about five years at the time of the interview. But without other easily available respondents, he is included in our discussion and he should be qualified “marginally” as a new arrival in this thesis. Also in the interview, not only his present perceptions but many of his adaptation experiences were recalled. 60

ecology theory that “immigrant minorities” migrate to a new place voluntarily for better life chances and they have high hopes in the host society. They choose to “make the deal” so they are willing to pay the price of immigration which includes discrimination and barriers on their path of getting ahead. They have a positive dual frame of reference in that in looking back at their even worse times in the homeland, they often find discrimination and other barriers for getting ahead in the host society to be simply the necessary costs for greater gains. In their folk theory of success,

immigrant minorities believes that education plus hard work is an instrument to realize socio-economic advancement for themselves.

However Man excels in school not because he chose to come to Hong Kong voluntarily and planned to achieve success at the very beginning. His immigration decision was involuntary but interesting. HT: Why did you come to Hong Kong? Man: My mother made an application for me to migrate here. She was only allowed to bring one child so she brought me. HT: Why did she bring you? Man: It is because both my younger brother and I were not eager to come. Then we were told to draw lots and I was selected. Man was not so willing to come Hong Kong at first as he did not want to leave his homeland and come alone. “transitional” adaptation. Man: Now I think it’ not a big deal as I visit my homeland several times a year. There’ s s not much difference. Also my homeland is so nearby. HT: If you could choose again, would you choose to move to Hong Kong? Man: It’ hard to imagine if I have choice; either my younger brother or I was to come… . s

Yet his attitude was changing over time during his

But I may choose to come as I could have a chance to see how Hong Kong looked like.

Man’s smooth adaptation and outstanding school performance can be accounted for by the social capital which he gained during his adaptation process. Arriving in July 1996, Man sought help from the Education Department for a school place. He found no difficulty in getting a school place in a band one primary school. As his English standard was lower than his Hong Kong counterparts, he accepted having to study primary six again. Yet when his primary school teachers knew that he was a new arrival, they gave him free tuition in English. Closer relationship with both parents especially reunion with his father also offers great encouragement to Man in his studies.

Although Man can hardly be defined as immigrant minority (as he did not come to Hong Kong voluntarily), he possesses a positive dual frame of reference (Ogbu, 1978, 1987, 1991, 1997). He compares Hong Kong favourably with his homeland and thinks that Hong Kong provides more educational and occupational opportunities. He believes that through schooling he can enrich himself and acquire more skills for his future career. As a science student, he plans to work in the computer-related fields in Hong Kong. He plans to stay in his present school until his A- level (which is an open examination for university admission in Hong Kong) and then go to university.

His academic results have not changed much over time. The greatest change was in primary six, shortly after he had arrived in Hong Kong in July 1996. Despite the fact that he came first in class in the homeland, he ranked only around 90th among about 250 primary six pupils in his first “Hong Kong examination”. Improvement however

followed after that sudden drop in performance. He could manage to come 14th in the next examination. When he was promoted to Form one, he came first again in the form.

He said that he needed to keep his excellent academic results as he was clear that his main competitors were several local born students.

Man is studying well with a clear and realistic goal in future academic success. He hopes that he can get 6 or 7 “As” in the Hong Kong School Certificate Examination. When I asked why he did not aim at straight “As”, he explained that he did not expect to get an “A” in English as he was not very good at it. Although he is not hoping for an “A” in English, he is devoting more effort to reading and listening. Man has a strong sense of belonging to his present school and finds it a nice school that can help him attain future academic success.

Overall speaking, he is happy wit h his schooling in Hong Kong. One merit about Hong Kong education that he finds is the many extra-curricular activities organized in school. Man is also an all-round student and he actively participates in extracurricular activities. He is a school prefect, as well as a committee member of Art Club and Orienteering Club. Man has several very good friends in his class. They play ball games together and live in the same district. Some of his good friends are local born students, some are new arrivals. He finds his Hong Kong friends as good as his old friends in the Mainland. He does have good friends with whom he can talk deeply, for example about goals and visions in life. Having fully assimilated into a mainstream peer group, which is conforming and well-behaved, Man is enjoying recognition and support from his friends and classmates. He remarks also that his peer group has positive influence on his academic results as good peers can study together and encourage one another.

He however criticizes the Hong Kong examination system as encouraging students to learn only for tackling examinations. All the same, he manages to get excellent results

in examination.

Shing, aged 15, is another student who has assimilated well into Hong Kong society and has adapted well to his peers and the school here. He came to Hong Kong in 1998, and he said that he had adapted to Hong Kong society within six months upon his arrival. After three years of smooth adaptation, he was ranked within the top ten in his Form one class when I met him for research interview in 2001. Shing has a positive student identity and a very strong sense of belonging to his school.

Just like the majority of other new arrival students, Shing immigrated to Hong Kong for family reunion. His family is of a decent socio-economic background, living in a self-owned flat in Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon. His father is a postman at Radio Television Hong Kong (the radio and television station of HKSAR government) whist his mother is working as a cook. He comments on his family life after arrival that he is now with his father and grandparents who love him and yet are strict with him. Having promoted to secondary school, Shing as the only son in the family has been expected and pressured by his loving parents to do well at school.

As he can speak Cantonese and his cultural background is close to that of his Hong Kong peers, he can make friends easily and gain support as well as recognition from them. “I feel Hong Kong friends are better than the Mainland’s. I can get to know more friends in Hong Kong than in the Mainland as there were not so many activities for making friends in the homeland,” he remarked in our interview conversation. Colourful peer group life facilitates and enriches his transitio nal adaptation.

Shing made his friends in basketball grounds and his church. He has been going to

church for two years since he came to Hong Kong but he made his best friends at school. Friends help him in his studies too, as he said, “I find it really hard to study without friends around.” He believes that friends can encourage one another in studying and they learn more things through discussion. When he encounters studying problems, he will ask peers for solutions. He still keeps in touch with his homeland friends meanwhile.

Having briefed the socio-cultural background of Man and Shing, we are now going to understand their “transitional adaptation” by investigating the possession and activation of both social capital and cultural capital in their adaptation in family, school, peers and other community life such as the church. The relationship between

transitional adaptation and good school performance will also be examined.

Within-family social capital

In J. S. Coleman’s (1988) renowned thesis “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital”, he points out that one important effect of social capital is the creation of human capital in the next generation. Here social capital refers to the “within- family social capital” which provides children access to the parents’ human capital. The success of this transmission of human capital depends both on the physical presence of adults in the family and on the parents’ attention given to the children (Coleman, 1988). Parents can exert positive influence on their children’s school performance by providing opportunities, encouragement, and support and by involving themselves in learning activities. (Epstein, 1987; quoted by Hao and Bonstead-Bruns, 1998)


Many new arrival students come to Hong Kong for family reunion and the majority of them come to meet their fathers. In the cases of Man and Shing, they both enjoy the closer relationship with parents upon arrival (for example Man chats with his father more in Hong Kong) and they experience “family warmth”. In spite of the fact that they may not fully assimilate into every part of the Hong Kong lifestyle, they are very delighted about the warmer family life in Hong Kong, with closer ties with parents and other family members. In other words, due to immigration they are offered greater within- family social capital. The following records what Man said about how he benefited from family reunion. HT: Do you think your role in family has changed? Man: There’ no big change. I chat with my father more in Hong Kong. s HT: Do you rely on your family more as your father is in Hong Kong? Man: Yes, to some extent. HT: Do your parents have great expectation on you? Man: Not really, but they encourage me to work in a computer profession. HT: Do they reward you for your good results? Man: They will praise me. They seldom blame me.

Social capital embraces social relations that can constitute useful capital resources for individuals (Coleman, 1988), including capital resources for making school success. Coleman constructs three forms of social capital which consist of 1. Obligations, expectations, and trustworthiness 2. Information Channels 3. Norms and effective sanctions He states that “if A does something for B and trusts B to reciprocate in the future, this establishes an expectation in A and an obligation on the part of B.” (Coleman, 1988:84)

The relationship between new arrivals students and their parents after family reunion can be seen in the same way. Man’s parents encourage him to work in a computer profession. By seldom blaming him yet praising him for good results, his close relationship with parents is reinforced. On the other hand, Shing views his family life after arrival as having a father and grandparents who love him and yet are strict with him. He as the only son has been subject to the high expectations and pressure from his beloved parents especially when he reached secondary school. The parents of Man and Shing had high expectations on their sons and therefore the sons feel obliged to study hard.

Within- family social capital is about the transmission of human capital from parents to their children. Because of the rich within- family social capital Man possess, his father’s human capital can be effectively transmitted to him; as such this explains his excellent school performance. Although his father has only completed primary school and is now working as a construction worker, he possesses much human capital in that he has a sound knowledge of science and a strong learning motivation. Man in the interview said that his father would do further studies if he had the money to afford it. Man’s father always encourages Man to study more.

Man’s good relationship with his brothers also motivates him to study well. His elder brother is now studying at Tung Nam University (in the Mainland) while his younger brother is studying in a famous secondary school in Chung Shan (in the Mainland), and will go to university next year. This culture of learning in Man’s family offers him cultural capital for adaptation to Hong Kong school. Having known the outstanding academic achievement he made, I asked him which his best subjects were. He

answered “Mathematics and Physics” and added, “Indeed my family members like my

father and cousins are all good at science and mathematics.” With cultural capital he excelled in Mainland schools, he thus adapted easily to the Hong Kong curriculum and is now making academic success in Hong Kong.

Cultural capital is essential for achieving success in school, and it is more essential for students from low socio-economic status family background. Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) claim that “Among working-class and low- income minority youths, cultural information, including language assimilation, status expectations, and school performance, is important for predicting which students are most likely to form supportive relations with institutional agents. Cultural information is more important than mere socioeconomic status.” Compared with other types of adaptations, trans itional adaptation is one in which new arrival students adapt extremely well. Man and Shing’s good command of Cantonese, expectations from their parents, and good school performance work as their cultural capital, enabling them to transcend class inequalities and form supportive relations with institutional agents for the attainment of social capital. In the following sections, we will see how their supportive relations with peers, school and local community can benefit them in the adaptation process.

Social Network with Peers

For new immigrants such as the students in this study, the building of social capital depends on the formation of supportive relationships between minorities and institutional agents. Institutional agents are individuals who have the capacity to

transmit institutional resources and opportunities, say information about the school curriculum, tactics for tackling teachers’ assessments etc. There are a handful of groups which act like institutional agents. The most important ones are teachers, social welfare workers and community leaders. Peers, especially the mainstream and middle-class peers, who usually have more informational resources, are one significant and influential kind of institutional agents. In a developmental psycholo gists’ sense, it is pointed out that adolescents will shift the sources of their social and emotional support from family to peers (Rice, 2001). The social network of new arrival students with peers therefore plays a major role in determining the students’ path of adaptation.

Man and Shing can speak Cantonese with the correct “Cantonese accent”. Among the 14 cases of this study, it is found that in learning Cantonese upon their arrival some new arrival students (for instance Wai and Ban in the “marginality” category) nevertheless retain their “homeland accent” and therefore can accommodate to but not assimilate into the “Cantonese chauvinist” Hong Kong. They have language accommodation yet not language assimilation as they could only master the use of Cantonese but could not acquire the Cantonese accent. We will discuss the issue “command of Cantonese as a form of cultural capital” in chapter seven when we talk about “marginality”. For the “transitional” case of Man and Shing, by the way, they can still speak their mother tongue in daily lives in Hong Kong and hence they are in a way “automatically” assimilated into the Hong Kong Cantonese speaking society. Whilst some other new arrival students with the “homeland accent” encounter discrimination such as being called “mainland guy” ( ¤ j ³ ° ¥ J) when they communicate with the local born

counterparts in Cantonese, language assimilation, as cultural capital, permits Man and Shing to form supportive networks with peers including local born peers.


Transitional adaptation is characterized by its temporal nature. After a certain period of adaptation time, students undergoing transitional adaptation will find themselves well adapted to Hong Kong culture and society. The duration of this period is by and large determined by how long it takes the new arrival students to form the social networks with peers. The case of Man can illustrate this point. HT: Did you find it hard to adapt to the life in Hong Kong? Man: Well, only in the first several months. After that, I got to know some friends in primary school and I found my life okay.

Man indeed has several very good friends in his class. They play ball games together and live in the same district. Some of his good friends are local born students, some are new arrivals. He finds his Hong Kong frie nds as good as his old friends in the Mainland. He also has good acquaintances with whom he can talk deeply, for example about goals and visions in life. Having fully assimilated into mainstream peer group, which is conforming and well-behaved, Man is enjoying recognition and social support from his friends and classmates.

When they were asked to comment on school policies’ on new arrival students, both Man and Shing provided similar answers, pinpointing what was conducive to their smooth adaptation. HT: If you were a school principal, what would you do to help new arrivals’ adaptation? Man: I would organize more activities for new arrivals to have more contacts with Hong Kong students. Once the new arrival students have made more friends in class, they can adapt easily. Shing: If I were the school principal, I’ll provide more extra-curricular activities to

students. I spent 2 hours to choose my activities. There are too few choices. Shing has joined scout and drawing courses this year. It seems that he wants to involve himself more in school life. schoolmates for an hour. Every day after school he plays basketball with

Leung argues that new arrival students adopt a dual frame of reference but not in the same way as suggested by Ogbu. The article says, “the students in my study did have a dual frame of reference, but what appears to have the most bearing on their current school performance was the dual reference they made to their experiences and opportunities as students, rather than the dual reference to opportunities for success in the larger society.” The new arrival students adapt to Hong Kong with reference to their homeland in regard to their everyday lives in school instead of the opportunity structure of the larger society. Shing does not think that Hong Kong will offer more and better occupational opportunities than Mainland does, however he likes Hong Kong because he is able to know more friends here. “I feel Hong Kong friends are better than the Mainland’s. I can get to know more fr iends in Hong Kong than in the Mainland as there were not so many activities for making friends in homeland,” he remarked. The many

extracurricular activities provided by Hong Kong schools work as an agency to empower new arrival students with social capital. Shing in actuality made his very best friends in Hong Kong school.

One context in which the social capital of peer network can be activated is through the formation of study groups. Man remarked that peer group had positive influence on his academic results because good peers could study together and encourage one another. Shing furthermore admitted, “I find it really hard to study without friends around.”

Apart from institutional resources and emotional support given by peers in a study group, a culture of learning can also be cultivated among the students, who are therefore empowered with more cultural capital.

Schools and Local Community as Agencies of Social Capital

From the track record of Man’s school performance, we can see that although he was a high achiever in his homeland school, he experienced a sudden drop in academic results upon his arrival in Hong Kong. After one year of adaptation, however, he could manage to come first among the students in all form one classes. His case offe rs interesting insights into our understanding in immigration and school performance. In the interview I raised the following issues. HT: Why was there a change in academic results? Man: It is because my English had improved a lot. I was especially hardworking in primary six in learning English. Afterwards, I kept reading English books and learning vocabulary. HT: Does teachers’help matter regarding your improvement in English? Man: It mattered when I was in primary school. My primary school teachers were very helpful and supportive. I think being hardworking is more essential now. He mentions that when his primary school teachers knew that he was a new arrival, they gave him free tuition on English. “Indeed at that time, I paid full attention to learning English so I didn’t have time for (worrying about) other matters,” he told me frankly. Their help was really very crucial for his further adaptation, including studying in an English-as-Medium-of-Instruction school. Through this good learning experience he got used to English gradually and therefore kept his positive student identity. He admits

that his English result is quite good now. He also claims that he had already adapted to life in Hong Kong when he was in primary school.

In his study of school success and failure of new immigrant students from Mainland China, Leung (2001) concludes that student’s school performance is very much “the product of the complex interaction between their present school experiences and their past student histories and identities”. This study attempts to supplement this argument by considering this “complex interaction” as the acquisition, possession and activation of social capital and cultural capital in the students’ school experiences in Hong Kong. In this connection, the students’ past schooling histories, student identities and school performance are treated as cultural capital; whereas the present school experiences are regarded as the field where their cultural capital can be activated, and where new social capital and cultural capital can be acquired. Being agencies of social capital, the school and the local community convert the students’ cultural capital into instrumental relations with institutional agents and hence activate and materialize the capital. Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) maintain: “The process of inclusion in mainstream institutions is aided when cultural and linguistic capital are converted into instrumental relations with institutional agents who actively transmit valued resources, special privileges, and personal assurances of future institutional sponsorship.” (Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch, 1995:120)

Man’s cultural capital in the form of positive student identity and past academic success was activated when his primary school teachers gave extra support for his studies. He could therefore keep his high learning motivation in the free English tuition class. His acquired proficiency in English in turn became his cultural capital of great value for

further studies. On top of that, his high achiever identity helps him win recognition from teachers and peers. This positive identity facilitates the formation of closer ties with the institutional agents. Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch (1995) find out that Mexican high school students with higher grades and higher status expectations will generally have greater social capital than their counterparts with lower grades and expectations. Positive student identity creates opportunities for establishing

relationships with nonfamilial institutional agents.

Similar findings can also be observed in Shing’s case. He commented that Hong Kong teachers were sincere and taught with patience, while he thought that Mainland teachers only worked for money. With sufficient social support provided by school and his church, he did not encounter any serious adaptation problem. He just felt he had adapted to Hong Kong gradually within half a year. Now he has a very strong sense of belonging to his present school. Sense of belonging to the school contributes positively to his school performance. HT: How do you think about your school? Shing: I like my school very much. The only disadvantage of my school is that we need to walk through a sloping road in order to get there. It’ really wonderful to have trees s on a city school campus.

Man also has a strong sense of belonging to his present school and finds it a nice school that can help him attain future academic success. HT: With your excellent school performance, you can change to another more prestigious school. Have you ever thought of changing to another school? Man: No, I find this school quite good. Whether I can go to university in the future depends much on my own effort.

HT: You find this school a famous school, don’ you? t Man: It’ quite good. s

Besides making school success, social capital and cultural capital empower students with the capacity to transcend the differences they come across during adaptation. Man criticizes the Hong Kong examination system for its examination- led orientation, encouraging students to learn only for tackling examinations. Taking the example of Chinese language, he remarked that students were simply assessed by how well they memorized texts but not the real Chinese standard that they had. However interestingly, he could still handle it and manage to get a prize in Chinese. He believed that he could get even better results if the examination format could be changed. On the other hand, Man prefers the Mainland educational system for its higher level of curriculum. Yet he adds that the greater educational opportunities in Hong Kong can compensate for the lower level of the Hong Kong curriculum.


Concluding Remarks

This chapter attempts to understand “transitional adaptation” in terms of the new arrival students’acquisition, possession and activation of social capital and cultural capital in the their adaptation experiences in Hong Kong. Capitals here refer to “accumulated capital” bearing the potential capacity to produce profits and to empower individuals, including immigrant minorities, to be active social agents. Three “fields” of capital acquisition and activation namely the family, the school and local community, and peers have been examined to illustrate how the students undergoing transitional adaptation experienced and adapted to social life and school life in Hong Kong. The positive relationship between transitional adaptation and good school performance has also been studied. It is found that the students’ good command of Cantonese (serving as a proxy for the accumulation of cultural capital (Stanton-Salazar and Dornbusch, 1995) ), close ties with parents, and sufficient support from school and local community enable them to transcend environmental differences, form supportive relations with institutional agents and subsequently assimilate into Hong Kong culture and society.

Interviewing Man and Shing is just like a causal conversation with an ordinary Hong Kong secondary school student. They neither have special feelings about immigration, nor struggles in adapting to life in Hong Kong. During the interviews, I found that the both the students’ outlook and well-being are a far cry from the image of “new immigrant children” that Hong Kong people commonly have. They are also very different from the ‘marginality’ type of new arrival students whom I will examine in a later chapter. To Man and Shing, immigration means a “hopeful” change and it has a positive effect on the students’ learning motivation and the motivation to achieve.


However not all new arrival students experience transitional adaptation. In the next chapter, we are going to look at another mode of adaptation – “instrumental adaptation” -which involves more challenges and obstacles than transitional adaptation.



Overcoming Social Barriers through Achievement Instrumental Adaptation

In the previous chapter, we have examined the transitional type of adaptation. Students who experience transitional adaptation possess significant cultural capital i.e. having proficiency in Cantonese and having a cultural background very similar to Hong Kong’s. Having arrived in Hong Kong, such students are also fortunate enough to have received social support from their family and other institutional agents such as the school, peers and the local community. Because of this, their cultural capital can be activated. They are therefore able to adapt to school smoothly, and also to perform well at school.

Now we are going to examine another type of adaptation – instrumental adaptation – in which the new arrival student possesses adequate cultural capital but lacks social capital. The case of Wing, which I will look at below, can inform us of how new arrivals with cultural capital but deficient in social capital (in the sense of having no effective connections with the institutional agents) will adapt instrumentally. The cultural capital possessed by him is not complemented by social capital embodied in the relations between himself and the social institutions outside the family. Because of this, his adaptation is obstructed. However it is expected that the possession of cultural capital can enable him to fare as an active agent acquiring social capital, and subsequently to have his cultural capital activated. The school is the site where he can build supportive networks with the institutional agents.


Wing’s father sneaked across the border between Shenzhen and Hong Kong in the 1970s, and has been living and working in Hong Kong for more than twenty years. Wing’s mother and elder brother joined the father by migrating from Shenzhen to Hong Kong in 1997. Four years later, Wing came to Hong Kong voluntarily for family reunion. Now his father is a supervisor in a construction site whereas his mother is a housewife. His elder brother has returned b ack to Shenzhen to run his own “cyber pub” business there.

Wing’s father in fact told him to immigrate to Hong Kong when he was ten years old but he did not follow suit as he had many good friends in the homeland. However after his first visit to Hong Kong in 1999, he has discovered the positive side of Hong Kong: cleaner environment, more prosperous society, and more educated citizens than Shenzhen. Hence he came here in 2001, not solely for family reunion but with positive expectations. At the time of the interview, he has come here for three months.

What he never thought of, unfortunately though, is the discrimination he faced immediately after his arrival in Hong Kong. Having finished Form Three in Shenzhen, he hoped that he could enter Form Four in one of the Hong Kong schools. In the two months following his arrival, he searched for a place from a total of eleven schools but his effort was in vain. He encountered many obstacles in his attempt to get a school place. One time he was told by a school to sit for a written test within two weeks. He was waiting with hope yet he did not receive a response two weeks later. So he went to the school again and consulted the school staff about the date for the written test. But they replied that he should wait fir another two weeks. So he patiently waited for a total of four weeks but his hope finally turned to despair. The staff of the school later simply

informed him that he failed in that application without further explanation. Another time he received a letter from the HKSAR Education Department and was informed of a temporary offer but it also turned out to be futile. Later he tried studying Form Four in a night school whilst waiting for a place in a day school. To Wing, Hong Kong society does not provide special social support to him as a new arrival; it rather treats him indifferently and coldly. Wing: I thought I was qualified to study Form Four, but I was repeatedly told that I wasn’ so. I thought it might be due to my “new immigrant” status… During that time, I t was really confused and anxious. How could they treat a student like that? It was too unfair… I think the “new immigrant” label will make people lose self-esteem. When I thought I was a new immigrant at the time I first arrived, I couldn’ lift my head and t look at peers of my age.

Finally he could not choose but was allocated to Fukien Secondary School (a school for new arrivals) in Kwun Tong, Kowloon and started his study on April 4, 2001. He explained his success by saying, “my result of that application test was quite good since I was assessed on the basis of what I had learnt in Shenzhen.” It seems that his cultural capital of past academic achievement has finally been activated.

In spite of this discriminatory and unpleasant experience, Wing did not lose his hope and confidence in faring better in Hong Kong. Instead due to the discrimination, he is motivated to equip himself with better educational qualifications which guarantee more job opportunities and other better life chances in the future. Wing can be classified as “voluntary minorities” with reference to the Ogbu’s framework. He voluntarily chooses to “make the deal” of immigration so he is willing to pay its price which includes discrimination. In looking back at the worse off opportunity structure of the Mainland,

he finds discrimination a necessary cost for greater gains. This positive dual frame of reference can explain Wing’s higher learning motivation in Hong Kong.

It is obvious that as compared with the students undergoing transitional adaptation, Wing has not received sufficient social support from institutional agents. To him, the Education Department and the principals of many schools did not offer him support in his school searching exercise. Now living in a rental flat in Tai Po with his family, Wing needs to take a one-hour bus ride to school and back home every day. But when he lived in the dormitory in a Shenzhen school, he could commit himself fully to school life as it just took a few minutes to walk from the dormitory to classrooms. Wing considered this change to be a hindrance to his adaptation to school life, making it difficult for him to form a supportive network with the institutional agents of peers and teachers. Thus his source of support is from his family and not other institutional agents.

Wing’s lack of social support is also evident during the interview. Wing was very expressive and at the end of the interview, I asked if he might have anything to tell me. Then he actively sought help from me for information about schools in Tai Po. It is apparent that he could not receive help from teachers, community or peers regarding his school transfer. So he needed to ask somone whom he met just for the first time. The lack of social support differentiates Wing’s adaptation pathway from the other cases of transitional adaptation like Man’s and Shing’s. All the same, Wing grasped every opportunity to establish supportive networks with institutional agents.


Positive Dual Frame of Reference

Immigration brings many challenges including discrimination to new immigrant students. But for the students adapting with a positive dual frame of reference,

immigration can act as a source of motivation for schoolwork. The experience of immigration helps Wing to see clearly that what he wants is educational credential. So he decided to study harder after his arrival. He regards having a good educational qualification an instrument for him to get ahead in the mainstream society. It can also help him to ove rcome discriminations and to get respect and status in Hong Kong. Although Wing was ranked average in his class in the last examination, he admits that he needs will spend all his efforts in studying in the coming semester, and he wishes to get full marks in Mathematics. HT: Why do you study harder in Hong Kong? Wing: I think I was too lazy in Shenzhen in the last two years and I didn’ have any t motivation for studying hard. At that time I didn’ know why I should study hard. But t now the environment has changed, I know if I don’ study hard, it will be very difficult t for me to find a good job. Whether I work on construction sites as a worker or in law firms as a lawyer all depends on whether I study hard or not. I know what I want and have a clearer picture in my mind now. I need a good credential; people will respect me when they see my credential. Wing’s theory of success is education plus hard work, is identical to those of the “voluntary minorities” in the cultural ecological theory. He treats education highly not solely because better educational qualifications (as cultural capital) lead to better job opportunities. Like the majority of new arrival students who view the school as the most common channel for making new friends (Commission on Youth Hong Kong, 1999), Wing also sees school life as a social agent through which he can establish close

networks with local born peers, teachers and welfare workers. For this reason he wants to change to a school near his home so that he can stay behind on campus for greater involvement in school activities.

Wing adopts a dual frame of reference with regard to the opportunity structure of Hong Kong and Mainland China. opportunity structure. He considers Hong Kong that has a much fairer

Wing points out that he needs to have the right kind of

relationships (or guanxi) if he wants to attain success in the Mainland, whereas in Hong Kong a certain level of educational qualification is in correspondence with jobs of a certain level. On top of that, Wing’s dual frame of reference is also about the “quality” of educational qualifications. He believes that Hong Kong’s educational qualification is a kind of cultural capital which is of higher value than that of the Mainland because Hong Kong’s educational qualification is recognized in many places. Wing: If I stayed in Shenzhen, I could only find a job there. But when I study in Hong Kong, I can have an alternative choice; I can either develop my career in Hong Kong or in Shenzhen. It depends on the economic condition of the two cities in the future. HT: Your elder brother is running a “cyber pub” in Shenzhen. Do you think you are suitable for doing business? Wing: Not really. I think at my age I need to concentrate on studies in the present but not future business. Yo u need to have qualifications say educational qualifications if you want to choose your career. If you don’ have good qualifications, it’ pointless for t s you to talk about choices. So I think doing well in education is very important.

All in all Wing adapts a positive dual frame of reference with regard to Hong Kong’s opportunity structures. In his mind, Hong Kong society can better provide him with cultural capital (mainly educational qualification), social capital and later economic

capital for the socio-economic advancement of his own self and his family in the future. Wing is therefore highly motivated in schoolwork and expects to excel in education. In the following we will investigate how within- family social capital reinforces his positive dual frame of reference and we will explain why within- family social capital is not a sufficient factor for smooth adaptation.

Within-family social capital and non-familial support

Similar to the cases of Man and Shing, family reunion brought by immigration gives Wing within- family social capital. He finds his family role changed due to immigration. When he compares his independent and sometimes- lonely life in dormitory in Shenzhen with the present family life, he loves his family very much for his parents’ support and warmth. He admits that warmer family life has positive effect on his academic results as well. HT: Did your role in the family change after you came to Hong Kong? Wing: I don’ need to take care of myself much in Hong Kong, so I am a bit lazier in the t family. Yet I do like to be a bit lazier! Haha.. In fact, one time when I was sick at the school hostel in Shenzhen, I was in great pain and I cried. But now in Hong Kong my mother does take good care of me when I am sick and she also gives me support in my studies. HT: Does this warmer family life affect your academic results? Wing: A little bit. I do want to study well to get a good job so I can take better care of my parents in the future. Family reunion facilitates the development of trust among his family members. Wing’s parents care about Wing and trust him to reciprocate in the future; this establishes an expectation of his parents and an obligation on him. Wing told me in the interview that

his father did have great expectation on him. In return, he felt obliged to study hard for the socio-economic betterment of his family, as a way to pay back his parents’ love and care.

Nevertheless within- family social capital is not a sufficient factor that ensures smooth adaptation. As we consider the cases of Man, Shing and Wing together, we see that all of them have decent possession of within- family social capital but Wing adapts not as desirably as Man and Shing does. What delineates the difference between transitional adaptation and instrumental adaptation is the availability of non- familial social support from institutional agents. Having a network of support from the institutional agents is vital for smooth adaptation in the host society.

Because Wing was not offered social support from institutional agents upon his arrival, he spent a total of four months just to get a school place. As mentioned previously, this school is far away from his home so it is not easy for him to establish a supportive network with the institutional agents through involvement in school life. Yet like many new arrival students, Wing treats the school as an instrument for him to acquire the social capital from institutional agents. One point worth noting is that Wing has only arrived in Hong Kong for three months at the time of the interview. It is expected that with the effect of the within- family social capital and the cultural capital that he possessed, he can build supportive network with institutional agents over time. In other words, I expect that his instrumental adaptation will one day transform into transitional adaptation and then he will assimilate into the host society.


Cultural Capital, Social Capital and their Activation

Despite the fact that local institutional agents do not actively support Wing’s adaptation, his cultural capital supports him to fare as an active agent to acquire social capital, and subsequently to have his cultural capital activated. The significant cultural capital that Wing possesses is his proficiency in spoken Cantonese and his socio-cultural background proximal to that of Hong Kong. In Shenzhen, Wing used Mandarin at school while he spoke Cantonese at home. All the people in his homeland in fact speak Cantonese. Talking about lifestyle, he said he was gaining confidence in accommodating himself to the new socio-cultural environment when he realized the similarity between Hong Kong culture and Shenzhen’s. HT: What do you think about the lifestyle of Hong Kong? Wing: Before I came to Hong Kong, I wondered if I could get along with Hong Kong people. But since I arrived here, I could accommodate to the lifestyle of Hong Kong without any great difficulties.

But without institutional support, Wing’s cultural capital cannot be fully utilized. His past academic results were not recognized in his school place searching process so he was not in any advantageous position but was required to repeat Form Three. He explained, “The principal of one school turned down my application and explained to me that he could not recognize my past academic results. He might think that academic qualifications acquired in Hong Kong were more ‘reliable’ than those acquired in Shenzhen.” Even when he is now studying at his present school, he does not receive sufficient social support from teachers. His teachers do not provide him with special help though he is a new arrival. Therefore when he encounters problems in his studies, Wing usually tries to solve them by himself. Take the example of English learning, he

overcame the problem by reading more English and watching English television programmes more. “In fact, you can learn a lot English vocabularies in the MTR and the train,” he said.

In different situations or fields of interaction, the “new arrival student” identity bears different meanings and values. One of our respondents Man, who had transitional adaptation, was offered special tuition on English when his teachers know that he is a new arrival. For Wing, however, the “new arrival student” identity seems to have been a “liability” in his school hunting experience. He said, “I think the ‘new immigrant’ label will make people lose self-esteem. Once I thought I was a new immigrant at the time I first arrived, I couldn’t lift my head and look at peers of my age. ” He also claimed he got no special support from his school though it is a school for new arrivals.

Wing knows well that if he is to get ahead in the mainstream society, he needs to integrate himself into the mainstream peer groups in school. In the interview he emphasized that the main concern of his student career is to change to a “better” school so that he can adapt better to life at school and in Hong Kong. A better school to him means a school near his home in Tai Po. He is also confident that he can adapt well in a non-new arrival school. His past experience of active school life provides him with cultural capital to get along with the mainstream peers. HT: The greatest adaptation problem of yours is finding a school place, isn’ it? t Wing: Yes. You know, this school is too far away. To me, I want to get better results in Form three and change to a school near my home in Tai Po. At present, it’ impossible s for me to stay behind at school to play ball games and take part in other school activities. HT: What type of school do you prefer? Do you want to study in a school with more

new arrival students? Wing: Well, I don’t have this preference. But I want to study at a good school. You know there are band one schools and band five schools. I may like a band two or three school. HT: What do you expect if you have changed to a school where the majority of students are local born? Wing: It should be very different. I think students there will use a language mixed with more English and they will follow new trends and fashions more closely, like talking about trendy fashions. Mainland students are not like that. HT: Do you expect you will become like such local born students when you are in that kind of school? Wing: Yes, I think so. You need to adapt to the env ironment. For instance, my classmates in Hong Kong are more active and talkative. So, I adjust myself according to their minds and behaviors and talk more with them. I think I can cope with them. HT: Have you thought about how you will prepare for the HKCEE? Wing: I will prepare for it step by step. But the first thing is to change to a better school.

Wing is in fact very interested in sports. He received basketball training in Shenzhen for many years. When he lived on campus in Shenzhen, he played basketball every day. However he claims that since his arrival in Hong Kong he does not have much leisure time because he has to spend most of his time on travelling and doing homework. “I can’t retain this habit (playing basketball) now as I have no one to play with near my home. I am not sure if people will play with me and I don’t know what sort of people are playing on basketball courts near my home. So I swim in the swimming pool nearby. Sometimes I visit my friend in Mongkok and play there,” he told me. This friend is a classmate from his Shenzhen school and his only companion in Hong Kong.

He completed a course in a technical vocational school and he is now working as a technician intern. From Wing’s account, we can conclude that Wing’s lack of active support from local supporting groups results in his isolation in social life. His cultural capital as a result remains only largely as a potential asset. He needs the support of social capital in the form of a network of social relationships in order to get the cultural capital activated.

Concluding Remarks

The school provides a site where new arrival students can establish supportive networks with the mainstream social groups and institutions. It also empowers students with educational qualifications making them more competitive in the opportunity structure of the host society. Students undergoing instrumental adaptation view education and school performance as an instrument or capital for them to advance in the host society. Having discovered the instrumental value of schooling, Wing studies harder now in Hong Kong. In order to sum up the instrumental adaptation of Wing, I quote one of his statements: “If you don’ have good educational qualifications, it’ t s pointless for you to talk about choices. So I think doing well in education is very important.” Success is indeed determined by how substantial the capital you possess, and how well you can activate the capital.

However instrumental adaptation could be just a temporary phase in the process of adaptation. Soon after the students (of instrumental adaptation) have acquired their social capital, very likely they will experience transitional adaptation. Yet, if the new arrival students’ failure to establish a supportive network of social relations continues, they will probably feel that they are not ‘full’ members of the host society; they will

may also continue to view the host society as one just offering them the instrumental opportunity to make a better living. To become ‘full’ members of the society, it is not sufficient that they feel culturally at home; they must also feel socially accepted and supported. The case of instrumental adaptation is a testimony to the importance of supportive social relationships at school and in the wider community – social relationships which constitute social capital – for the adaptation of new arrival students to social life in Hong Kong.

In the course of his adaptation to life in Hong Kong, Wing has not received adequate support either from peer groups with his “ethnic” Shenzhen background or from the Hong Kong community. As a result, searching for his new social identity becomes a challenge for Wing in his adaptation. HT: Do you think you are a Hong Kong person or a Shenzhen person? Wing: I have asked myself this question many times. I really can’ answer this question t as I don’ know these two identities well enough. t HT: Do the people back in your homeland think you are a Hong Kong person or a Shenzhen person? Wing: They make me feel that my status has been upgraded. I don’ know why. I don’ t t want them to see me like that as this would make me a “rebel” against my homeland. Now I don’ know how to communicate with them and they say that I have changed to be t an arrogant person. However I feel inferior in Hong Kong especially when I recall the time when I was searching for a school place. But anyway, these views may change over time as I have been here for only one year. Maybe after several years, I will be able to feel myself as a Hong Kong person. HT: Does the identity issue matter much regarding your studies? Wing: It doesn’ matter much in my present school (which is a school for new arrivals). t

Maybe I need to find out my real identities if I am in a school where the majority of students are local born students.

It seems that Wing’s ambiguous identity does not pose too serious a problem for him. Given the close ties between Hong Kong and his homeland and other major cities in China, Wing tries not to see post-colonial Hong Kong and other places in China as too culturally and socially different. Discussing about the linkage with his homeland, Wing points out that the traveling time for going back to his homeland is comparable to that for going to his school in Kwun Tong. Now he goes back to She nzhen about once a month. He perceives that a desirable lifestyle in the future should be the one like working hard for a challenging job in Hong Kong during weekdays and returning back to his homeland for leisure during weekends. HT: What do you see to be the difference between Hong Kong’ lifestyle and s Shenzhen’ s? Wing: Hong Kong’ lifestyle is tense with fierce competitions. Shenzhen’ lifestyle is s s good for having a holiday and “recharging energy”. HT: What kind of lifestyle do you plan to lead in the future then? Wing: For developing my future career, I prefer Hong Kong to Shenzhen, because the salary and medical benefits provided by the companies in Hong Kong are more attractive than those in Shenzhen. But for vacation, I enjoy staying in Shenzhen as I grew up there and therefore I have a sense of belonging to that place; Shenzhen is my home. I feel much more comfortable when I live there. For instance, if you were born in Hong Kong, and later you migrate to Canada as a new immigrant, no matter how good your living environment in Canada is, you still think that Hong Kong is your home and you have a sense of belonging to Hong Kong.


These words of Wing suggest that instrumental adaptation may well turn out to be a lasting pattern of adaptation for many immigrants from Mainland China. It would be instrumental in that such immigrants would be looking for what they view to be the best of both worlds. They look for a better material life in Hong Kong, but return to the Mainland for leisure and recuperation, and to renew their roots there.



From Assimilation to Multiculturalism Accommodative Adaptation and Bicultural Adaptation


I have investigated how the availability of social support differentiates “Transitional Adaptation” from “Instrumental Adaptation” for new arrival students coming from cultural and linguistic background proximal to that of Hong Kong. We now come to examine those new arrival students who do not share similar culture, value, lifestyle and identity as those of the mainstream Hong Kong people; and whose mother tongue is not Cantonese. Putting cultural difference and availability of social support together in analysis, we can identify three more types of adaptation, namely “Accommodative Adaptation”, “Bicultural Adaptation” and “Marginality”.

Many people think, and hope that, immigration is a “linear” process and that over time immigrants can naturally get assimilated and acculturated into their host society after they have adapted. But it is not always the case. The culture embedded in people’s selfhood makes adaptation not always “linear”. Here culture means value, lifestyle and identity which are acquired through socialization in the family, peer group and community life. Despite the fact that new arrival students from Mainland belong to the same Chinese race as the other local born students do, due to the different socialization processes that many of the new arrival students have undergone there are cultural differences between them and the mainstream local students. Culture is the key

analytic theme of this and the next chapter.

One task of these two chapters is to view (and review) the cultural ecological theory from a cultural perspective. According to the cultural ecological theory, education is seen by “voluntary minorities” as an institutional instrument for climbing up the social ladder, also for positively tackling discrimination in adaptation. This is the

instrumental value of education; and indeed many local Hong Kong students also hold this value in the examination-oriented and bookish education system of Hong Kong. However some new arrival students do not treat education in every respect as an instrument for achieving high status life and making money but view education itself as having its intrinsic value. In a number of cases in my study, this is the orientation the new arrival students have brought with them from the Mainland. Valuing this Mainland students’ culture, they cannot easily accept and get assimilated into the mainstream Hong Kong student culture which they are inclined to see as a kind of “lower” student and school culture. Given sufficient social support from school and other institutional agents, they can conform to the school’s official culture and excel in education but they can simply be said to be accommodating to the Hong Kong school life as a whole. These students still lack some socio-cultural agencies such as ethnic communities or ethnic peer groups that value their cultural orientation to education, sustain their social identity, and facilitate the activation of their cultural capital. At the end of this chapter I will suggest that multiculturalism is what Hong Kong schools should pursue for providing to the new arrival students the kind of education that will help to develop their full potential. I will now look at the case of Kin who falls into the category of accommodative adaptation.


Accommodative Adaptation: The Case of Kin

Again like many other new arrival students, Kin came to Hong Kong for the sake of family union. There are three sons in his family. According to laws they could not come together in one time so they immigrated to Hong Kong by steps. After Kin’s mother, who got married and gave birth to the three sons in Mainland, immigrated to Hong Kong, Kin stayed behind in the homeland with his elder brother and grandmother for about three years. During those three years, Kin visited his uncle in Guongzhou and did not study for one year or so. He learned his Cantonese in that year.

Immigrating from a village in Chiu Chow to “world city” Hong Kong, he said that immigration was once joyful news to him. Arriving in December 1995, Kin did not study for the first half year but just joined a free-of-charge tuition class in a community centre. He then entered a primary school in Kowloon City in September 1996 and after graduation he entered a Catholic boys’ school in the same district.

Different from the students as discussed in the previous two chapters, students adopting “accommodative adaptation” are those coming from places which are rather different from Hong Kong in language and ways of living. Some new arrival students speak some Cantonese in their homeland; some may have learnt a little Cantonese from Hong Kong television programmes. However Kin used Chiu Chow dialect solely in the homeland, where people did not have access to Hong Kong television. Even in his family now in Hong Kong, he speaks mainly Chiu Chow dialect. He told me, “I know Cantonese but in origin we are Chiu Chow people, and my mother’s Cantonese is not good so we use Chiu Chow dialect. I talk with my father sometimes in Cantonese.”


Kin faced some difficulties in adapting to life in Hong Kong (including alienation from the local born peers in school) yet fortunately he has been receiving social support from a local church and its members (they are called “brothers and sisters”). About five years ago, a few female social workers visited his home and invited him to join an English tuition class in the church. From that time onwards, he has joined the Chiu Chow language fellowship of his present church in Kowloon City. The supports that he received are various, including social, academic, financial and emotional support. The church has compensated for the deficiency of his family, which as we will see later, lacks within- family social capital, in supporting him for coming to grips with life in the new society.

When he was in homeland, Kin studied hard for the intrinsic value of education. He got satisfaction from studying so he was a motivated learner. He ranked in the top ten in class in his countryside school and he came first for several times. After he immigrated to Hong Kong, he has incorporated the instrumental view of education into his perception of schooling. Owing to his poor English, he once lost the satisfaction from learning and now feels the pressure in his school life. All the same he pushes himself to be more hardworking so as to attain better education qualifications. Currently he is around average in school performance.

Accommodative Adaptation: Ping and Cheong

Two other students who have the accommodative type of adaptation, Ping and Cheong, came to Hong Kong involuntarily. At the time of interview, they were both studying in the same governmental school in Tai Po. They are both high-achievers in school, but

they do not seem to identify with the mainstream culture of Hong Kong youths and the Hong Kong popular culture as a whole. We will consider first the case of Ping. Ping’s ethnic origin is Shan Mei, a Chiu Chow speaking county. He has a strong sentiment toward the Chinese nation that he wants to contribute to his motherland and to “do something great” with his Mainland friends. His heart being in homeland, he loves the universities in China and he hopes that he can study at Tsing Hwa University. Overall speaking, he thinks that Mainland students are of better quality and he finds it hard to understand the undisciplined and unruly characteristics of some local born students. He thinks that owing to the materialism of Hong Kong popular culture, Hong Kong people pursue university education just for making money in the future. He is well aware of the value difference between Mainlanders and Hong Kong people. Regarding lifestyle, he comments that Hong Kong has a fast pace of life and that its people do not treasure neighbourhood.

Before Ping came to Hong Kong he had experience in living in Shanghai and Guongzhou. He said that those experiences helped him to adapt to life in Hong Kong much. His high adaptation competence and past good school performance turned out to be valuable assets which were “activated” through the supportive network of teachers in his Hong Kong school. He was invited by his teachers to join various kinds of extra-curricular activities like Mandarin Ambassador and athletics team, while the school principal also allocated him to the “elite class”. He therefore can accommodate to the school life easily. He ranked about 20th out of 200 in his form and he came first in Mathematics in Form two. Moreover he won prizes in the Hong Kong Inter-school Speech Contest; he came fourth in the Chinese section in 2000, second in the English section in 2001. He urges himself to perform well (better than Hong Kong students) so as to give his local counterparts a better impression of himself as a high achiever.

The other student, Cheong (who is a friend of Ping) is also motivated in getting ahead in Hong Kong. His parents want their son to make big money in the future. His mother is a free-time factory worker but she loves money much. She wants to make money by speculating in the stock market. To Cheong, however, success does not mean making a lot of money but being knowledgeable. He therefore discourages his mother from indulging in speculations.

Cheong does not go along with the popular mentality of Hong Kong students. He does not agree with the local born male students who think it is cool to smoke and to go around with a girlfriend. He also comments that Hong Kong students mostly study without direction. His goal in education is to at least earn a bachelor degree, as there are too many university graduates in Hong Kong. He sets the new arrival student who acquired 10As in HKCEE several years ago as his role model and he aims at getting 2As for himself. He considers hard work and good peer influence to be the factors for getting academic success. His present school performance is good; he ranked seventh out of 200 in Form three.


Two Dual Frames of Reference: Structural and Cultural

Bankston and Zhou (1997) in their study of the social adjustment of Vietnamese American adolescents have found out that assimilation may occur in two distinct yet related forms: structural assimilation and cultural assimilation. In chapter 3 we have gone through the scenario of Transitional Adaptation which comprises both structural assimilation and cultural assimilation. Now we are going to discuss Accommodative Adaptation -- which means structural assimilation without cultural assimilation. I will borrow the notion “dual frame of reference” from cultural ecological theory to analyze how new arrival students adapt by comparing Hong Kong and their homeland in terms of social structures and cultures.

The Positive Frame: Hong Kong is better in terms of opportunities The cases of Kin, Ping and Cheong show that the positive dual frame of reference is held not only by students who immigrate voluntarily (Kin), but also those who immigrate involuntarily (Ping and Cheong). They all perceive that the opportunity structure of Hong Kong is better than that of Mainland: more educational opportunities, fairer opportunity structure (in the sense of the conversion of educational credentials (as cultural capital) to occupational opportunities and hence actual economic reward (salary) as well as social status). Students who were required to move to Hong Kong involuntarily for family reunion try not to view immigration in a negative sense. Given the social support provided by family and institutional agents, they attempt to justify the changes and losses incurred by immigration through developing a positive dual frame of reference to the opportunity structures. Indeed, immigration has a positive impact on the learning motivation of these new arrival students.


Take the case of Kin for instance. Having stayed in his homeland in a village in Chiu Chow since childhood, Kin was eager to find out how Hong Kong as a “world city” looks like. He mentioned few people from the countryside could come to Hong Kong. He wanted to test himself out in Hong Kong, instead of staying in a country for life long. Kin: When I first arrived and was on the way to my home in Hong Kong, I was quite happy. I seldom saw buildings as tall. Indeed, for my whole life I hadn’ taken a taxi t before that time. Hahaha…

Kin also believes that if he works hard enough, he can be guaranteed of higher educational opportunities in Hong Kong. When he was asked whether he would come to Hong Kong if he could choose again, he said, “I do not know what I would be doing if I were still in Mainland. Perhaps I am studying. My life would be totally different if I haven’t immigrated to Hong Kong.” Indeed the living condition of Kin’s family has improved gradually since they were in Hong Kong. He is confident that Hong Kong’s opportunity structure can better his and his family’s welfare. He did not view education as an instrument for getting ahead when he was in the Mainland. But being

hardworking in fact enabled him to adapt well to Hong Kong society when he first arrived. HT: How do you feel about Hong Kong? Kin: Thus far, I feel so so. Yet to think long-term, Hong Kong is better. Indeed you don’ t have many developments (opportunities) on the Mainland. I do know some people who have studied a lot but are paid not more than $3000 to $4000 per month. They need to work for employers. On the other hand, some are only primary school graduates but they are successful in doing business and travelling to coastal cities. HT: So you mean you like the system of Hong Kong?

Kin: Yes. If you can acquire a decent education in Hong Kong, you need not worry after you have grown up. At least you can find jobs more easily. HT: Do you think new arrivals are treated equally as local borns? Kin: Well, there is fair treatment. Whoever has ability can get ahead.

Although immigration gives Kin’s family hope, in reality the family members still need to struggle for making a living. Actually his parents are both unemployed; his mother has been unemployed for several years. His father was once a construction worker, but currently has been doing some temporary jobs, and sometimes unemployed. In this 5-member family, only his twenty-one year old brother is working. However the economic hardship of the family furthermore reinforces the positive dual frame of reference that Kin holds. HT: Did your brother stop studying once he came here? Kin: He did try studying in night school but perhaps he didn’ have the motivation so he t stopped. Or perhaps he needed to take care of our family. He is the breadwinner. HT: I see. Does your brother’ experience have any influence on you? s Kin: (He thinks for a while) Indeed, my brother is unhappy with his failure in studying. Yes, he is unhappy. He has the ability to do well in education. He has that ability. But no one can help. I see that his life is hard. Yes, hard. He wants himself to study better and then get a better job, or have the chance to do other things. HT: I see. Because of the family situation, he didn’ study in night school right? t Kin: At that time, my father was suspected of having cancer. Actually my brother was back in the mainland at that time but because of that news, he needed to stop studying and stay in Hong Kong. Then he kept working here until now. HT: What is your elder brother working for? Kin: He is working for a publishing company. He once worked for Wellcome

Supermarket but he thought that he wasn’ paid well so he changed his job. t

Kin believes that education plus hard work is a solution to his family’s economic problem. He has a clear career aspiration. “I don’t want to work for employers. I may start with working for employers for several years and save money. I may then start doing business once I have saved enough money. I will do what is popular at the time when I do my business,” he states.

Ping and Cheong came involuntarily to Hong Kong because they were not willing to leave their peers and the desirable lifestyle of their homeland. However once they were in Hong Kong, they find that studying in Hong Kong is a good way to realize their plan in the future. Ping wants to “do something great” and contribute to the Chinese nation, while Cheong hopes to change the educational system of his homeland to be more accountable to the people. Good academic achievement provides them with more opportunities. Cheong also stated, “Success to me means attaining more educational qualification.” In comparison with Mainland education, both Ping and Cheong

perceive that the educational credentials conferred by Hong Kong institutions can empower them with cultural capital for future development of any kind. The positive dual frame of reference to the opportunity structure can explain Ping and Cheong’ high s learning motivation and good school performance.

The Negative Frame: the cultural Hong Kong is less desirable The notion of “dual of frame of reference” is in actuality more complex than Ogbu suggests. Apart from comparing the opportunity structures between the host society and the homeland, immigrants make dual reference also in terms of culture, value and lifestyle. As such immigration does not simply provide opportunities for

socio-economic advancement, it itself is a process which induces lots of ambivalent feelings. It is especially the case when structural assimilation is not followed by cultural assimilation.

In May, 1998 Ping received a phone call from his mother to order him to go to Hong Kong after two days. He was extremely surprised and packed up things immediately. Immigration to Ping means leaving his good friends, homeland and Mainland school life within two days. In the interview he said, “I had too many things to think about when I was on the way to Hong Kong. All things are about lives in homeland. Even after I had arrived in Hong Kong, I sometimes cried at night.” As mentioned previously, his sentiment to the Chinese nation seems to be alien to the culture of mainstream Hong Kong students. His goal is to study at a prominent Chinese university like Tsing Hwa University and to live a more meaningful life in Mainland Chinese major cities. As for Cheong who is Ping’s schoolmate, he is not used to the popular mentality of Hong Kong students and the materialism of Hong Kong people. He also comments that Hong Kong students mostly study without a clear goal. Ping and Cheong do not choose to assimilate into the Hong Kong mainstream culture as they seem to believe that the homeland culture they have acquired is of higher value.

I had a more in-depth discussion with Kin about the impact of immigration on his value, lifestyle and identity. Because of the linguistic and cultural difference between local born peers and himself, he as a minority was not well accepted by his peers and was even coldly treated. Lacking a close companion, Kin is rather isolated from school life. He joins extra-curricular activities simply out of student responsibility. HT: Did your classmates treat you differently because you were a new arrival? Kin: Well, some classmates did call me “tai luk chai” as I was a minority in class. I got

hurt that time but I have learnt to take the label and those experiences easy. It all depends on how you treat the label. I think I’m alright with those experiences now. HT: Who are your best classmates? Kin: They are the friends in my class. But I don’ have good buddies who know my t heart. I do have many good friends here, ordinary friends also. HT: Do you join any interest clubs? Kin: I am just a member of several clubs. I’m not so interested in them. I join just because I don’ want to be assessed badly in terms of my extra-curricular activities at t school.

He does not perceive Hong Kong as his new home accommodating his own values. He knows that without cultural assimilation, he cannot become a “full” member of the Hong Kong society; he accommodates only to its social structures. In the interview we also talked about the issues of culture and lifestyle. Kin talked about his

“away- from- home” feelings and also the way he dealt with the feelings. HT: You said that “Hong Kong is so so”, what does it mean? Did Hong Kong disappoint you? What does Hong Kong lack? Kin: Countryside style. (¶m§ø-·¨ý It’ a lot more relaxing and more comfortable to ) s live in homeland. I feel so maybe simply because I didn’ have worries in childhood t times. Having grown up, I may have worries even if I were in the mainland now. HT: Do you like countryside lifestyle? Kin: It’ hard to say whether I like it or not. If I live there, I can’ choose but live that s t lifestyle. You need to follow what other people do. HT: How was the life at your homeland primary school like? Kin: My Hong Kong primary school is much smaller than my homeland school. We had a garden in school, so we planted flowers in Labour Day and in “exercise lesson”(³Ò


). Studying in Hong Kong is more comfortable but the school life in mainland is

more solid and has more practical training. We needed to wash toilets. You know, the toilet was very smelly and we didn’ have tape water. We needed to take water from t places far away. We were to clean droppings too. Yet we were accustomed to it hence didn’ find it a problem. If I need to do the task again, I may find it unbearable. t HT: Does it mean that you like the solid life in homeland? Kin: I may say I miss the life there. I like to keep it as a memory but I don’ like to lead t that sort of lifestyle now as it’ too harsh. Maybe I’m enjoying comfortable life now. s

The ambivalent feelings shown by Kin indicate that cultural difference does not impact much on his educational strategies. Although he misses the life of homeland, he just keeps it as a good memory and will endeavour to accommodate himself to Hong Kong’s life style for future socio-economic advancement. Actually even though the cultural values which Kin, Ping and Cheong hold are not close to the Hong Kong popular culture and the mentality of mainstream local born students, their values are highly esteemed in the school official culture. Their high learning motivation,

conformity orientation, patriotism, and strong sense of social responsibility are all championed by the school official culture. Once the supportive networks are

established between the students and teachers, the students’ human capital and cultural capital can be activated in the school context, and these activated capitals are conducive to their academic success. Take the example of Ping, his sportsmanship and leadership, and his proficiency in Mandarin as well as positive student identity all contribute positively to his present school performance once his teachers recognize his strengths. Therefore at the end of the research interview when I asked if he had anything special to say, he held the tape recorder and said, “I encourage all new arrival students to face their adaptation positively”, as if he was making an announcement to all new arrival

students in Hong Kong. His case suggests that even holding values and beliefs different from the majority of the Hong Kong mainstream students, a new arrival student with support and recognitio n from teachers can accommodate successfully to life at school and in the large society.

As we have discussed thus far, Kin seemed not to be well received by his school and peers. Fortunately however, his church provides him with social support. Supportive network with institutional agents, being one key analytic variable of this thesis, was discussed extensively in the last two chapters. In those cases, we saw that the school was the institution offering social support. I turn now to examine the role of the church in offering Kin social support and facilitating his adaptation to Hong Kong society.

The Church as an Institutional Agent Providing Social Support

Unlike Ping and Cheong, the economic and socio-cultural background of Kin does not offer him abundant social and cultural resources. I have briefly mentioned the

hardships he faced during his adaptation process such as the unemployment of his parents, his father’s illness, and the discrimination he experienced in secondary school. Kin is studying in a band-one boys’ school in which the student culture is dominated by elitism, mainstream youth culture and masculinity. He therefore finds it hard to involve himself in the student culture, and he receives little social support from this kind of school context. He is disappointed that he cannot keep his strong sense of belonging to his school as he could in his homeland school. On the other hand Kin also told me that

he was not looking forward to the family life in Hong Kong before he immigrated, and that he missed his homeland life with his grandmother. He does not have close relations with his parents. Lacking within- family social capital, his family is what Coleman and Hoffer would consider to be functionally deficient (Coleman and Hoffer, 1998). It does not provide him with adequate social support for meeting the challenge in the new society.

But Kin’s church plays a significant and unique role in his adaptation. In the interview he talked in length and with gratitude about how his church sheltered him from those hardships during his adaptation process and helped him accommodate to the mainstream society. After a visit from a few social workers five years ago, he started his church life with an English tuition class in the church. Up to now h has been e regularly attending gatherings of its Chiu Chow language fellowship.

Through the English tuition class, he began to establish a solid relationship with his church as well as the church’s brothers and sisters. He recalled that he had lost his motivation to learn when he faced the obstacle of the “English” problem. But gradually with the help of his brothers and sisters in church he could overcome the problem and hence regain his interest in learning and studying. He now believes that proficiency in English is a valuable asset for occupational success in the future. HT: You said that one of your greatest adaptation problems was English. How did you overcome it? Kin: Thanks to the help of my church. The workers and the “elder brothers” were all nice and helpful. HT: Do you feel interested in English? Kin: Mmm… I may say I have interest gradually. It may be because I have gained a

little sense of success from learning English. And I know I need to advance in English from now on, as every job requires you to have English ability. HT: I see. That is your church’s “elder brothers and sisters” who help you a lot in adaptation. Kin: Certainly. It’ really joyful. You know, the life in church is very different from the s life outside. You can see that every church member treats you well.

One reason why he said the life in church was distinct from the life “outside” is that he can enjoy friendship and love from his “brothers and sisters”. In the “outside” world, he experienced discrimination and alienation and felt rejected by his peers; however he had peer support inside the church. One of his church friends is a new arrival high achiever and he is also studying in a band-one boys’ school. They are good companions who encourage each other to stud y hard. Indeed Kin has adapted well to Hong Kong after he has known his new group of friends, who are mainly church friends. He has even more friends now than in Mainland. HT: Do you think believing in God helps you? Kin: Yes, yes, more or less. My character has changed. In the church, friends from different schools and different forms play together.

Having known the economic difficulties which Kin’s family is facing, his church also gives a helping hand in this regard. His church offers him a part-time job of teaching children in tutorial class. He can earn about HK$1,000 monthly by teaching twice a week and use the money for his daily expenditure, like transportation and meals.


Bicultural Adaptation: Introduction

We will next look at another category of adaptation, that is, bicultural adaptation. In this regard, it is pertinent to note that Alejandro Portes (Portes and Zhou, 1993; Portes 1994; Portes and Rumbaut, 1996; quoted by Gibson, 2001) has used the notion “segmented assimilation” to refer to three distinct acculturation processes, which are “linear acculturation and assimilation” (which corresponds to “transitional adaptation” in our discussion); “accommodation and acculturation without assimilation” (which corresponds to bicultural adaptation in our discussion); and “downward assimilation” (that is, “marginality” which we will examine later).

“Accommodation and acculturation without assimilation” is a conceptual term constructed by Margaret Gibson from her study of Punjabi Sikhs in Britain and the United States (Gibson, 1988; Gibson and Bhachu, 1991). In her thesis she discusses the protection function of the “ethnic enclave” which serves to preserve the homeland culture of immigrants. With the support of a strong ethnic enclave, Gibson argues, immigrant children are often protected from the adverse impact of racial discrimination and from pressures to reject the homeland culture.

Gibson also points out that receiving “ethnic support”, immigrant children have greater motivation in acquiring the language of the host society and accommodating to the new culture. She states: The acquisition of knowledge and skills in the new culture and language are viewed as an additional set of tools to be incorporated into the child's cultural repertoire rather than as a rejection or replacement of old traits. (Gibson, 2001:21)

Immigrant students as a result follow a path of adaptation which Gibson terms additive acculturation (Gibson, 1988, 1998). The strength of additive acculturation lies in its power to help immigrant students transcend the difference between their home culture and the culture of the host society (Gibson, 1997). On top of that, the ethnic

community helps sustain the students’ social identity and self- identity by functioning as a source of social capital (Bankston III, Caldas and Zhou, 1997). In these ways, additive acculturation has beneficial side-effects on the immigrant students’ school performance.

Additive acculturation is what I call “bicultural adaptation” in this thesis. Here bicultural adaptation refers to the adaptation process in which the new arrival students sustain their ethnic identity and culture while they are adapting to the host society. As stated previously, accommodative adaptation is understood as structural assimilation without cultural assimilation. Bicultural adaptation is a solution to the deficiency of accommodative adaptation in that the students’ ethnic culture and identity as a form of cultural capital can be activated in a bicultural or multicultural environment. Instead of attempting assimilation into the culture of the host society, students undergoing bicultural adaptation sustain their ethnic culture and enjoy social support from ethnic peer group. Ethnic support groups act as “cultural intermediates” and they enable the students to accommodate to the mainstream culture.

Bicultural Adaptation: The Importance of Ethnic Support

Chiu is the respondent who undergoes bicultural adaptation. Chiu’s family is a typical immigrant family. Twenty years ago his father came to Hong Kong from a village near Tsuen Chow in Fukien, then his mother and elder brother followed in the 1970s and

Chiu immigrated to Hong Kong in late June of 1998. When his elder brother came here, he entered Form 1 in a school run by Fukien tongxiang hu (dialect association), which is also the present school of Chiu. Having adapted smoothly and achieved decent success in school, his brother has been working as a clerk at China Bank since his graduation in Form six. Chiu is enjoying a good relationship with his brother who gives him support in his schoolwork and adaptation. His family is in good economic

situation and they are living in a self-owned flat in North Point.

Coming from a village in Fukien, Chiu did not possess much cultural capital for adaptation. Prior to immigration he did not know Cantonese nor did he have any experience in living in places other than his homeland. He did not have a style of life and values similar to those of the mainstream Hong Kong people. His advantage is his above average academic results, especially in Mathematics, in his homeland school. In the research interview Chiu did not talk much about conflicts with the mainstream Hong Kong culture as the students of “accommodative adaptation” did. Yet Chiu does not seem to have assimilated into the mainstream culture. One interesting point Chiu raised is the ethnic peer group. As Chiu’s school is a special school for new arrival students, he can make new arrival friends easily. Now he with the other five to six students has formed a peer group, which provides support to one another. They are all from Fukien and they came to Hong Kong in the same year. They talk to one another in Fukien language. They are living very nearby in North Point so the y always play together and mostly in North Point (instead of other places). Their unique learning and playing experience helps them develop a particular habitus. This habitus has become the supportive socio-cultural context for Chiu.

Chiu finds it comfortable to seek achievement in the mainstream society on one hand

while keeping his ethnic identity and culture on the other. He is a cheerful boy who is actively involved in school life. Upon arrival in Hong Kong, he entered Form one again in order to catch up with the English standard of Hong Kong schools. Despite this, he has been doing well in school. He ranks the 7th in his class. His favourite and strongest subject is Mathematics and he plans to do Mathematics in university. Sometimes he scores the best in Mathematics among his classmates and he plans to get an “A” in Mathematics in the HKCEE. He has joined a Mathematics interest group which is for students who excel in Mathematics and which trains them for inter-school Mathematics contest called “Mathematics Olympics”. With clear plan and hope, he will stay in Hong Kong and study university here. He wants to honour Fukien by attaining high achievements in Hong Kong. Compared with his school performance in homeland, his performance in Hong Kong has improved.

Like the cases of accommodative adaptation, Chiu receives sufficient support from his school. He thinks his teachers are helpful in his adaptation; the teachers also recognize his talent in Mathematics and train him for inter-school Mathe matics contest. Holding a positive dual frame of reference regarding the opportunity structure, Chiu perceives that there are many educational opportunities in Hong Kong and that educational qualification is necessary for future career. He also compares Fukien with Hong Kong and thinks that it is easier to be successful in Hong Kong.

Overcoming the “Cultural Difference” Problem

The rationale of assimilative policy rests on the assumption that by means of a “big melting pot”, culture differences will melt and merge, especially with the mainstream

culture, hence cultural assimilation and unity will be the result. Yet in actuality this assumption often does not hold true, as shown from our cases of accommodative adaptation. Therefore dealing with the issue of cultural difference becomes the

imperative task of immigration policies, especially in the post- industrial era where immigration is a global phenomenon.

Cultural difference makes adapting to a new socio-cultural environment difficult. But biculturalism is a way to overcome the cultural difference problem. By sustaining, instead of abandoning, one’s ethnic culture and language, immigrants in fact become more ready and efficient in their acquisition of a new language and culture. In this way, immigrants can be spared the trauma of having to give up their ethnic culture and language and instead can retain them as cultural capital. Thus, adapting in a bicultural environment, Chiu continues to speak Fukien language in his family; as well as with his friends and relatives. Keeping his ethnic identity by speaking Fukien language, he did not have any sense of inferiority (to the mainstream culture) and because of this actually find Cantonese easy to learn. His confidence in adaptation is shown in the following conversation. HT: What is the most difficult for you to face in the adaptation process? Chiu: I didn’ find anything difficult in adapting to Hong Kong life. t HT: How about learning Cantonese? Chiu: I knew only very little bit at the start yet I found it easy to learn. HT: And English? Chiu: A little bit difficult. I found I have adapted to it since Form 2 second semester. I started being able to adapt to teachers’teaching styles.

Ethnic peer support constitutes a significant part of Chiu’s bicultural adaptation. As

mentioned previously, he has close supportive relationships with six other schoolmates of similar socio-cultural background. They are living very nearby in North Point where many Fukien people settle. They communicate in Fukien language and they like playing basketball together. They like playing in North Point as they find North Point more familiar and friendly. Because he can meet his friends at school, Chiu likes going to school. He finds no great difference between the good friend s of his Hong Kong school and his homeland friends. Also he did not feel his schoolmates treated him differently when he first arrived Hong Kong. Nor did he experience any discrimination. HT: Do you and your friends go back together to North Point after school? Chiu: Sometimes. HT: Oh, I understand. So you guys feel North Point more familiar and “friendly”? Chiu: Yes (He smiles). HT: Where do you like to go for playing? Chiu: North Point. We seldom go to other places. HT: Do you meet many people from your homeland in North Point? Chiu: Yes.

The Family as a “Cultural Broker”

Chiu’s family is a typical immigrant family. His father, mother and brother immigrated to Hong Kong before Chiu did. They have adapted well to Hong Kong and have now established some networks with various social groups and institutions. His family therefore functions as a “cultural broker” linking the mainstream culture in the larger society to the Fukien culture at home. As such, it enables Chiu to keep his own ethnic culture and at the same time become familiar with the mainstream culture.

In addition, Chiu’s parents are serious about his school performance. They give him more pocket money for good academic results and expect him to go to university. The role played by his brother who is currently working at China Bank is even more influential. Chiu consults him every time he encounters any studying problems, and he also supports Chiu by giving him pocket money. He is indeed a role model for Chiu to build his confidence in working hard at school and making his living in Hong Kong in the future.

Though Chiu is still quite new to Hong Kong, he does not miss his homeland or his “native” lifestyle much. But he does miss his grandmother. When his other family members immigrated to Hong Kong one by one, his grandmother took care of him in homeland. Even now he phones his grandmother two or three times a week. All the same, he considers Hong Kong to be his new home and has not thought of going back to Fukien to work and live. Instead of thinking about migrating back to homeland, he wants to convince his grandmother to come to Hong Kong and live together. HT: Do you miss your grandmother and cousins now? Chiu: Yes, I do. HT: Do they think of coming to Hong Kong? Chiu: They visit Hong Kong sometimes. But they won’ immigrate to Hong Kong. t HT: Did you try to convince your grandmother and cousins to come to Hong Kong? Chiu: Yes.

It seems that whether the new arrival students are surrounded by co-ethnics or are more isolated from their ethnic culture has an important impact on their acculturation process (Gibson, 2001). I have tried to argue that biculturalism which permits immigrant

minorities to retain their own way of life and their own language is what policy makers should pursue if they are to help the new arrival students adapt and achieve in Hong Kong. The cases we have examined so far, be it transitional adaptation,

accommodative adaptation, or bicultural adaptation, are on the whole successful cases of adaptation. In the next chapter, we will look at what I have called “marginality” cases. These are new arrival students who lack social support in the host society and who feel culturally alienated from the new social environment. Their experiences as immigrant minorities in Hong Kong are unfortunate and unhappy experiences.



Cultural Difference and Social Isolation - Marginality

In this thesis the voluntary/involuntary immigrants typology serves as one starting point for analyzing the differential school performance of new arrival students. The typology assumes that the statuses of “voluntary immigrant” and “involuntary minority” can be clearly defined and can remain stable over time. Voluntary

immigrants are also assumed to have a positive dual frame of reference through which they view and make use of schooling in the host society positively for socio-economic advancement. For a similar reason, voluntary immigrants are believed to have a high learning motivation which in general leads to their good performa nce at school. I will demonstrate in this chapter that some voluntary immigrants who before arrival had a high motivation to do well at school and who had positive views of Hong Kong’ s opportunity structure lost their incentive to perform well and indeed became alienated from the society soon after their arrival. These students fall into our ‘marginality’ category. These cases suggest that the immigrants’ initial views of the host society cannot be assumed to be static or to remain constant overtime, as the cultural ecological theory has assumed. They also point to the importance of examining the immigration experience as a process. One main objective of this chapter is to explore those factors and circumstances, and the processes, which have contributed to the alienation and marginality of new arrival students.

In examining such processes, we will again refer to the concepts of social capital and cultural capital. Our contention is that these two forms of capital play an important role


in shaping the new arrival students’ process of adaptation. Whether the students became marginalized or not depends to a significant extent on the amount of social and cultural capital they possess, as well as on their ability to accumulate further capital and to activate the capital during their adaptation in the host society. In other words, their initial views of Hong Kong society, their motivation to achieve, and their feelings of attachment to or alienation from the society change as their fortunes (in terms of accumulation and activation of cultural capital) in the host society change.

In what follows, we will examine the last type of adaptation – Marginality. The situation of marginality, which refers to structural and cultural alienation, is attributable to the limited capital which the new arrival students possess and to their failure in activating such capital in the new socio-cultural environment of the host society. As will be shown below, students experiencing significant linguistic and cultural differences, and yet not receiving sufficient social support from peers, school and family by and large fail to adapt positively to the host society and find themselves in the situation of anomie. Such “marginalized” students often suffer from low self-esteem and this ha s a negative impact on their student identity. The consequences are usually poor performance in school, depression, deviant behaviour and some kind of psychological disturbance.

Some Cases of Marginality - The Case of Wai

Since his arrival in 1992, Wai has been discovering many conflicts between the socio-cultural environment of Hong Kong and his own perceptions, values and lifestyle which he has carried with him from the Mainland. He also lacks social support in the

host society. Over time he perceives that he is alienated from the new society and believes that he is destined to stay in a marginal position in the society.

Having lived with his grandmother for three years in his homeland Chiu Chow, Wai arrived at Hong Kong in May 1992. Before that his mother and elder brother

immigrated in 1989. Wai came from a reasonably good family background. His parents both work in a china and grocery store and they are paid decently with a joint monthly income of about HK$30,000 to 40,000. His elder brother finished Form 5 in Hong Kong and he is now working in the publishing department of a newspaper company. This four- member family lives in a self-owned flat in Hung Hom.

In one sense Wai came to Hong Kong for family union, but his father applied for the immigration of Wai and his elder brother also for another reason -- better education. His father cared about their children’s education and he believed that Hong Kong could provide them with better education. Wai agreed with his father’s belief at the time of his coming as he said, “Because I was a student at that time, education was important to me. Better education is a stronger reason than family reunion for me to immigrate to Hong Kong.”

In spite of this, he cannot now agree with his father any more for he has been facing many obstacles in his education and discovering various drawbacks of the Hong Kong education system. When Wai arrived at Hong Kong in May 1995, he had to take the final examination immediately in June. After the examination, his father told him to repeat primary four again lest he could not follow the curriculum thereafter. In the research interview he sighed that he was in fact very reluctant to follow his father’s advice. Without support from the school and other institutional agents, he could not

cope with the high level of English in Hong Kong schools; even now he suffers from many learning difficulties due to his poor English foundation. Wai also dislikes the Hong Kong education system because of its examination-oriented nature. He

comments that Hong Kong education should be not treated as real education as Hong Kong students study simply for examinations and not for the pursuit of knowledge. Despite the fact that he has been here for about six years, he still cannot (and does not choose to) accommodate himself to the culture of education in Hong Kong.

He used to come first or second in primary school but having joined a band-one English-as-medium-of- instruction boys’ school (the same school of Man and Kin), his academic performance has been declining from Form one onwards. It is because there were a lot subjects taught in English. He failed two times in examination in Form six. His parents are very concerned about his difficulties in studying, so is he. He told me, “They think that if I can’t deal with my studies, then I should leave school for jobs. They won’t allow me to repeat. Indeed, I don’t want to repeat myself.” He in fact

wants to work as an editor in a publishing company or a researcher of Chinese History in Hong Kong in the future. He therefore wants to get good results in “A” Level examination then he can study Chinese or Chinese History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong or the Baptist University. He chooses his career simply out of his own interest, without any idea of getting ahead in the host society or climbing up the social ladder. He does not take into account job opportunities available in this career field. He simply justifies his career plan by saying that Hong Kong provides a more liberal environment for writing or research.

In his adaptation Wai receives minimal social support from institutional agents. Since primary four when he arrived at Hong Kong, he has only two to three schoolmates with

whom he still keeps in touch. He leads a lifestyle which is very different from that of the Hong Kong mainstream youth. In leisure time he likes reading books and articles. He does not like activities other than reading. During recess at school, he likes to discuss Chinese History but only very fe w students are interested in it. Unlike Wing, whom we considered earlier in our discussion of “Instrumental Adaptation”, and who shares similar culture and value as Hong Kong local born peers, Wai finds it hard to establish a supportive social network with his mainstream counterparts. He also thinks that his teachers, especially those in his secondary school (where elitism is valued), are not helpful at all. He maintains that the most important thing is to depend on one’s own effort. But by himself alo ne, he cannot handle all the problems he has been facing as a new arrival, and he told me, “I have lost the motivation to learn and I feel powerless all the time. I just let things go on naturally.”

Some Cases of Marginality – the Brothers Kim and Yung

Another two cases of marginality are two brothers – Kim and Yung from Hoi Fung of Guongdong. They have been in Hong Kong for about a year and they are now in Primary five. They are from a lower class family background, and they have little social and cultural capitals. They live in a public estate in Ap Kei Chau of Hong Kong Island.

The brothers are voluntary immigrants and they both have a positive dual frame of reference through which they view Hong Kong as much better than their homeland. Their parents tell them that they cannot have a bright future in Hong Kong without good educational qualifications. They also learn from their parents that Hong Kong

offers them better education and that it is easier to be successful in Hong Kong than in the Mainland. Nevertheless, Yung still holds the view that “one needs to be a Hong Kong person and to know the system well if one wants to benefit from Hong Kong’s plentiful opportunities. He is not confident about becoming a “Hong Kong person”. HT: Do you want to be a Hong Kong person? Yung: I am not so familiar with Cantonese. HT: If you can handle Cantonese well, do you want to be a Hong Kong person? (He thinks for a while and nods) HT: Why? Yung: Mainland people are called “Tai Luk Chai ¤j³°¥J ” by others.

The greatest adaptation problem which they face is in studying. Yung says that the happiest thing in his adaptation process is his improvement in English whereas both brothers find that bad academic result is the unhappiest thing. Owing to the lack of social support and with little cultural capital, Kim and Yung are low achievers at school though they have high learning motivation. Yung ranked 28th out of 33 in class and failed in English within the first year of arrival. Kim is around average in school performance. They are more hardworking than they were in the Mainland because they find studying in Hong Kong very challenging.

The only special social support which they received from school is the special course for new arrival students organized by Caritas, a Catholic non-governmental organization. Teachers of this course can teach in more details in Chinese hence Kim and Yung find the course very helpful. They also find the classmates of this course better than those in the day school. However only new arrival students who have arrived within one year are eligible for the course. If such course was offered one more

time, both brothers would like to join again.

Being over-aged in class (older than their peers for three to four years), they feel pressured to get acquainted with their peers. They do not like joining the

extra-curricular activities at school. But they join the tutorial class offered by the Aberdeen Kai Fong Welfare Association and they play table tennis with the new arrival students there. They prefer playing with new arrival children because they feel more at ease with new arrival students. Obviously they are looking for social support and an environment where they can feel at home. HT: If you were the school principal, what would you do in order to help new arrival students adapt? Yung: I would design a class that is specially for new arrival students. Kim: I will give them more tutorial class and more activities.

Cultural Difference, Lack of Social Support and Marginality

The cases of marginality show that new arrival students from a background which is linguistically and culturally different from Hong Kong would very likely find themselves alienated from the society if they do not have adequate social support from the community. Cultural and value difference is one of the greatest adaptation

problems for the new arrival students of “marginality”. We may now return to the case of Wai for illustration. The case of Wai shows that his value and lifestyle is very different from those of the local born youth. HT: What was your greatest adaptation problem? Wai: (He thinks for a while seriously) I think it should be the way we think. Hong Kong

people and I think differently. HT: Was it not English language the greatest problem? You really believe “thinking” was the greatest problem? Wai: Yes, “thinking” was the greatest problem, though English was still a great problem. As I came from a farming village, I led a simple life. Generally, Hong Kong students like to play causally (ª±ª±¤U), and dress according to fashion. Hong Kong is more urbanized too. HT: How are the lifestyles different? Wai: As I said earlier, our interests differ. There is almost no student interested in Chinese culture and language in Hong Kong. There are far more students who have interest in Chinese culture and language in the Mainland. HT: What do you consider to be the important indicators of success in Hong Kong? Wai: People in general think having money, a flat and a car means success. But to me, being responsible to oneself means success. I don’ agree with the value people t generally hold here and I don’ follow that trend. t

Wai comes from a family which values education and he himself did have high learning motivation while in the Mainland. Upon his arrival in Hong Kong, he originally had high hopes on Hong Kong education and believed he would have better educational and occupational opportunities in Hong Kong than in the Mainland. His devotion to the pursuit of knowledge (especially Chinese Literature and History) should be a valuable cultural capital for academic success. However the cultural capital that Wai possesses cannot be turned into an advantage in Hong Kong’s education system where success in education requires more than just an interest in the pursuit of knowledge. The

examination-oriented education system of Hong Kong requires another kind of interest and ability to achieve academic success. It requires the ability and willingness to

memorize and reproduce texts, and it requires examination tactics. Such ability and orientation are the important cultural capital for academic success in the Hong Kong context. And the local born students embody this kind of cultural capital. But Wai did not acquire this cultural capital in his Mainland school and family nor could he acquire it within a short time by simply learning from the local born students. Indeed because of the difference in the culture of learning, he is alienated from the mainstream peers. HT: As you are interested in Chinese, do you excel in Chinese? Wai: Not exactly. I can only do well in composition but not in the “textbook part” which requires me to memorize a lot. Indeed I got third prize in Chinese essay composition last year and I am the champion this year. I don’ accept this curriculum t that simply demands students to memorize lots of stuff. I don’ think my ability in t Chinese can be reflected even if I get an “A” in HKCEE Chinese. Examinations mean little to me so I lack the motivation to excel in examinations here..

Wai does not have friends to share the problems he faces in Hong Kong and support each other in studying. His alienation from mainstream peers is the result of cultural, linguistic and value differences. He cannot gain support from them and he finds himself in a state of alienation. In other words his lack of cultural capital handicaps him in the attainment of social capital, which in turn aggravates his marginality and leads to his poor school performance.

Wai also lacks another kind of cultural capital for establishing supportive network with institutional agents; he cannot speak Cantonese with the Hong Kong accent. Because of the accent issue, he experienced discrimination by local born peers in his secondary school and he has lost confidence in getting along with them now. HT: Did you find discrimination towards new arrivals in your experience?

Wai: I think not but maybe the local students of my present school are so full of nonsense that they make fun of my “homeland accent”. I don’ mind much about this. t They don’ have bad intention but they do it simply for entertainment. t HT: Do you like being made fun like this? Wai: I don’ like this, of course. But I shouldn’ mind too much. t t

Wai understood well that his homeland culture is deeply embedded in him and that the new cultural capital for attaining academic success in Hong Kong cannot be acquired in a short time. He is pessimistic about his future and thinks that his problem cannot be solved easily. He attributes his adaptation failure to the lack of social support from the very beginning of his adaptation process. He thinks that he is no more than just a new arrival student. HT: If you were the school principal, how would you change the existing school or educational system? Wai: It’ very difficult to say. A single school can’ do too much. The trend is like that. s t If it is to change, I suggest starting the change from kindergarten. I believe that any change in secondary school would be in vain if no change happens in kindergarten. Like the case of my poor English, the problem is my poor foundation since primary school. HT: And how can you as the principal help the new arrival students? Wai: Mmm… . Do what my school is doing now that is arranging some remedial classes, especially for those who have just arrived in Hong Kong. It is believed that the NEW arrivals have great motivation to learn. So if you launch this remedial service upon students’arrival, they should benefit and the service should be effective.


Accumulation of Capital and School Performance: The Cultural Capital of English

Wai wants to excel in education but due to the lack of social support and the cultural capital for making success in Hong Kong’s education system, he fails to do so. In the interview he showed his regret many times that he could not do better academically when he first arrived in Hong Kong. He thinks that if he could do well in English from the very beginning, he can have the capital for further academic success and he can keep his positive student identity and his good academic results. Wai: I got academic prizes, say coming first, second or third in class, in mainland school for years but not here. I may lose my motivation to excel in Hong Kong schools. I may get better results now if I could do better when I first came here. HT: What academic performance did you have on average in primary school? Wai: On average, I may say I came second in class. When I was in Form 1, I ranked about 50 in our form because lots of subjects were taught in English. My results got worse from Form 1 onwards. I now manage to rank among the better 80 of my form. HT: Did you work harder when studying had become more difficult? Wai: Mmm… Because of English, I don’ pay much attention to any subject involving t English. I did regret that I didn’ work hard enough in learning English. I do have hard t times in dealing with English now.

Another student in our study, Man (of Transitional Adaptation), and Wai are studying in the same school, but their adaptation pathways and academic outcome s are different. With the free English tuition lessons from his primary school teachers, Man has solved his English problem and started accumulating the cultural capital of English upon his arrival, and hence underwent smooth adaptation in secondary school. In comparison,

with no support for English learning, Wai could not accumulate the cultural capital of English in primary school. After he discovered the English problem in Form one, he did try hard to solve the problem by himself but he failed. His attitude towards learning changed thereafter. HT: Do you know why you are doing worse in school? Wai: It should be lack of motivation. After several failures in form 1, I just aim at getting a pass in exams. I just take exams causally now. HT: How do you treat your English problem now? Wai: O... my solution is to postpone the problem. (±o¹L¥B¹L I postpone the problem ) as long as I could meet the minimum requirement every time. So my English is very bad even at this moment. HT: But you could manage to pass every time. Wai: However I don’ think it’ the case now as Form six English is a lot more difficult t s than that in Form five. My personal problems in English are listening and oral. For listening, I always have problems in knowing what is said and I can’ follow. So I’m in t a poor position.

Class, Family and the Transmission of Capital

Wai fails to sustain his learning motivation as the cultural capital acquired through socialization in family and Mainland school cannot be activated in Hong Kong’s education system. This is one scenario of marginality. Now we are going to examine another scenario where the social and cultural capitals possessed by the family are limited. These families are of lower-class background. For this purpose, we return to the cases of the two brothers Kim and Yung.

Kim and Yung came from an underprivileged family which lacks social, cultural and economic capitals. Their father has immigrated to Hong Kong for five years. With his primary two educational qualification attained in Mainland, he can only have a lower-class job. Being illiterate, their mother works as a dish-washing worker in a restaurant. She has arrived in Hong Kong for about two years and she still does not know Cantonese. She can simply speak Hoi Fung dialect at work and in the family. The eldest brother of the family has finished Form one in the Mainland and came to Hong Kong in 1998. Aged 17, the brother wants to work but he cannot get a job. So he remains unemployed and does housework at home. All five members of this family depend on a monthly income of HK$16,000. Both Kim and Yung think that it is not enough.

Kim and Yung believe that “class does not matter for a student’s performance in school”. They have a high motivation to do well at school but this does not bring academic success immediately. Yung kept failing in English within the first year of arrival and ranked 28th out of 33 in class; whereas Kim can keep his average results but he finds English very difficult. Even though their parents are very serious about their studies, they parents have little cultural capital in terms of knowledge to transmit to their children (through within- family social capital). The children therefore need to depend on other institutional agents, say community centre, for adaptation and advancement. It is very likely that if Kim and Yung cannot accumulate necessary and sufficient capital like English in the initial stage of their adaptation, they will lose the learning motivation gradually and remain in the condition of marginality like Wai.


Conclusion: Process of Adaptation and the Change in the Dual Frame of Reference

This chapter has been an attempt to examine the process of adaptation in terms of the possession of cultural and social capital, the activation and accumulation of cultural capital in the process of adaptation, as well as how the dual frame of reference held by new arrival students changes in the course of adaptation. I will use the case of Wai to illustrate the change in his dual frame of reference in the following section.

Wai came to Hong Kong on his own will. Yet six years after his arrival he commented that he came owing to a “wrong concept”. The “wrong concept” here refers to the wrong perception that Hong Kong education is better than the Mainland’s. When he found that his cultural capital could not be activated in the Hong Kong school context, and when he failed to accommodate himself to the culture of education in Hong Kong, he realized he had been wrong about the Hong Kong education system. What was positive in his initial dual frame of reference now turns to be negative. HT: Why did you come to Hong Kong? Wai: My grandfather was in Hong Kong first and then he called my father to come. Why we came was all due to a wrong concept. We thought that Hong Kong education was better than Mainland China’ s. HT: But you don’ think so now, right? t Wai: I really regret having come when I think of this. Indeed, Hong Kong education is worse than the mainland’ s. HT: So you came to Hong Kong voluntarily and with hopes. Wai: Yes really! I did have hopes that time. HT: When did you find you regret coming to Hong Kong?

Wai: Mmm… when I was in about Form three and Form four as at that time I had been more mature and understood the situation. (He utters for quite a while) I came to Hong Kong for two reasons; one is education quality, another is family union. HT: Have you ever thought of returning to homeland? Wai: Well… (He thinks for a little while) I don’ think so. Though there is something t

bad in Hong Kong, there is also something good. Hong Kong is more liberal. HT: You do you mean by “liberal”? Wai: There are lots of limitations and information barriers in Mainland China. But in Hong Kong (he thinks for a little while), there is no great consequence if you have done something say protest, though I don’ protest. Also if I go back, I will be alone and I t don’ like to be alone. t HT: You don’ suggest the whole family moving back to homeland t Wai: I don’ t. HT: Does your father agree with the viewpoint you now have that people have wrong conceptions about immigration to Hong Kong? Wai: I don’ discuss this issue with him. But I think that is the wrong conception of t mainlanders in the past, and also mainlanders of today.

From Wai’s case, we can see that the positive dual frame of reference, which Ogbu and the cultural ecological theorists assume to be characteristic of voluntary immigrants, is by no means an unchanging frame. It evolves over time in accordance with the immigrants’ experiences and encounters in the host society. Because of this, we have to question the ‘static’ assumption in the cultural ecological theory in this regard. Apart from this, we need also to take note of another assumption in the cultural ecological theory – the assumption that the belief in better opportunities will lead the voluntary immigrants to work hard for a better future in the host society. This assumption does not

apply in Wai’s case. Wai is not concerned about the instrumental value of education, that is, he does not believe that he should work hard at school for better jobs. He is rather concerned about the intrinsic value of education. He is simply not concerned with the view that better educational qualifications will lead to better occupational opportunities. (Indeed Wai does not care about occupational opportunities; he wants just a career matching his interest). Wai’s case demonstrates the complexity of the immigrant experience. In short we cannot assume, as the cultural ecological theorists have assumed, that voluntary immigrants, because of the positive dual frame of reference they hold at the time of their immigration, will remain motivated instrumentally to attain success and a better future in the host society. The immigrants have other concerns and values than instrumental ones. HT: Do you think there are lots of educational opportunities in Hong Kong? Wai: I don’ think so. The “‘education” now we are having should not be termed t education. HKCEE and A-Level should not be called education. Hong Kong education just teaches you how to do well in exams. Students know only very little. I have great interest in Chinese literature and language. Yet one discouraging fact is that the teachers here tend to cater to the Chinese standard of local students and hence make the subject very exam-oriented. Because of this, the subject has become meaningless. The average standard of Chinese of our schoolmates is not good. What is taught tends to be easy. It is very difficult for our teachers to teach something academic. HT: Is it only the case for Chinese? Wai: The same applies to other subjects as well. HT: Is it quite obvious that in Hong Kong better educational qualification can bring better occupational opportunities. Wai: Well, I don’ think so. I think it’ not the trend now that educational qualification t s matters much; working experience matters more. Yet of course, if you want to get

promoted to a high position in the government, you need a piece of diploma. For general positions, people don’ consider your diploma much. t HT: What do you think the factors for academic success in Hong Kong are? Wai: Hard work and willingness to memorize texts. HT: How about students who are rich? Wai: Of course, they can employ private tutors. Many exam tactics are taught in private tutorial class. HT: Do you look for those tactics? Wai: No, I don’ They are not for the pursuit of knowledge. t. HT: Did you hold this belief when you were in homeland? Wai: Yes, perhaps it’ because of the kind of education we had there. s




A Brief Review

The studies on new arrivals from Mainland China were triggered by the concern that immigrants from the Mainland face many problems in adapting to life in Hong Kong. Many non-governmental organizations and government departments have tried to find out the needs of the new arrivals by general surveys with a view to providing them with better services. It is assumed that assimilation is what the new arrivals look for, and that assimilation can benefit the society and economy of Hong Kong. The academic studies on new arrival students are dominated by social surveys as well. All these studies are helpful in providing the basic information about new arrivals, and giving us a general profile of new arrival students. What is lacking is in-depth research which aims at providing us with descriptive details of the problems and hardships which new arrival students encounter in adapting to life in Hong Kong. This present study is an attempt to fill this gap in research on new arrival students.

Having reviewed the local studies on new arrival students, I went to the field (by in-depth interviews and some observations) to explore the key adaptation concerns or problems of the students. The most striking discovery is that the new arrival students (whom I interviewed) are in many ways different from one another. Some students found their adaptation process smooth and easy; whereas others experienced discriminations and cultural alienation. The findings from my study suggest that one cannot treat new arrival student as one homogeneous group who seek better services for

faster assimilation into the mainstream Hong Kong society. In fact findings from our 14 respondents show that the new arrival students often do not network with one another or form their own social group. My study points to the importance of

understanding the new arrival students as individuals each having his or her unique backgrounds, history, and experiences of adaptation to the host society.

By probing the new arrival students’ adaptation experiences, perceptions and subjectivities, this study therefore sets out to delineate the different adaptation pathways that the new arrival students have gone through, and to explain their differential school performance. A typology of adaptations, which I developed through considering my research data together with some existing concepts, is used to conceptualize the adaptation of new arrival students in Hong Kong. The five modes of adaptation are namely “Transitional Adaptation”, “Instrumental Adaptation”, “Accommodative Adaptation”, “Bicultural Adaptation” and “Marginality”. They

indicate different scenarios of assimilation, accommodation or alienation with regard to the social structure and culture of Hong Kong.

In this thesis, the above modes of adaptation are not meant to be static but are conceived as dynamic ongoing adaptation processes. As such we analyze adaptation as a process and it is the process of activation and accumulation of (cultural and social) capitals. Using social capital and cultural capital as the key analytic concepts, the research findings show that supportive networks is the key determinant differentiating the divergent adaptation pathways. Supportive networks, as a form of social capital, is necessary for activating the cultural capital the new arrival students possessed. The amount of accumulated capital is also relevant to further advancement in the ongoing adaptation process.

At the same time, in the light of the cultural ecological theory, the differential school performance of the 14 respondents is also explained by the notion dual frame of reference. The cultural ecological theory has been widely and effectively used in explaining the inter- group differences in academic achievement in multiethnic countries such as the United States. Nevertheless, by examining the process of adaptation in terms of activation and accumulation of capitals, this study attempts to shed light on the explanatory power of cultural ecological theory in the context of Hong Kong. When individual cases are examined comparatively, it is found that students who possess sufficient social and cultural capital for academic success generally hold a positive dual frame of reference in the sense that they view their opportunities in Hong Kong to be better than those in the Mainland. In other words, it is not the positive dual frame of reference alone, but this frame reinforced by the availability of social and cultural capital, that contributes positively to the new arrival students adaptation to Hong Kong society. In this sense, social and cultural capital are indeed valuable for smooth adaptation and good performance at school. And it is in terms of these variables that I have examined the cases of Transitional Adaptation, Instrumental Adaptation, Accommodative Adaptation, Bicultural Adaptation, and lastly Marginality. In the case of Marginality, what was originally a positive dual frame of reference turns out to be negative. It is because even though the students have tried to do well in education with their anticipation o f a ‘better tomorrow’ in Hong Kong, due to the lack of cultural capital and social capital, their effort is in vain. They then begin to think that Hong Kong does not really provide them with such a good future and good life as the Mainland does. They feel themselves socially isolated and alienated from the mainstream society. They even regret having come to Hong Kong.


In the following, we will round up the key points of the thesis by reviewing firstly the notion activation and accumulation of capitals; secondly the typology of adaptation and lastly implications of the present study.

Activation and Accumulation of Capital

In their article entitled “Moments of social inclusion and exclusion: race, class, and cultural capital in the family- school relationships” which was published in the international journal Sociology of Education, Lareau and Horvat (1999) make use of Bourdieu’s concepts of capital i.e. social capital and cultural capital to examine the process of social reproduction in education. Pinpointing the distinction between the possession and activation of capital, Lareau and Horvat highlight the need to “look at the context in which the capital is situated, the efforts by individuals to activate their capital, the skill with which individuals activate their capital, and the institutional response to the activation” (Lareau and Horvat, 1999). They argue that the value of capital is not fixed but depends on the social settings or fields. Lastly, the authors quote the analogy of a card game (Bourdieu, 1976; quoted by Lareau and Horvat, 1999) to illustrate the process of possession and activation of capital. In a card game (the field of interaction), the players (individuals) are all dealt cards (capital). Yet each card and each hand have different values. Moreover, the value of each hand shifts according to the explicit rules of the game (the field of interaction) that is being played. Apart from having a different set of cards (capital), each player relies on a different set of skills (habitus) to play the cards (activate the capital) (Lareau and Horvat, 1999:53)


Capital, as the term itself indicates, refers to a value which can be accumulated. Hence in this thesis, I add the notion accumulation to the above conceptual framework so as to explain the process in which individuals acquire culture, education and educational qualifications for equipping themselves with the skills to “play the card” and hence to attain further socio-economic advancement. This set of conceptual tools can

supplement the explanatory power of the positive dual frame of reference, as I have also pointed out above.

Put simply, the process of adaptation involves firstly the possession of capital prior to immigration; secondly the activation of such capital in the new socio-cultural context; and finally the accumulation of capital for further activation along the student career. I will present below the capital involved in these three stages.

Possession In terms of cultural capital there are 1. proficiency of languages i.e. Cantonese (with Hong Kong accent) and English; 2. cultural proximity i.e. proximity between Hong Kong mainstream student/peer culture and home culture; and 3. culture of learning in the family and the school

Whereas for human capital there are 1. academic competence; 2. educational level of parents; and 3. adaptation competence.


Activation The above-mentioned capital requires social capital for activation. There are two kinds of social capital: 1. supportive networks with the institutional agents of school, teachers, mainstream peers/high achievers, ethnic support group, church or community centre; and 2. within- family social capital (i.e. relationship between the student and her/his parents, siblings and other members) for the transmission of parents’ human capital to children and for acquiring the family’s culture of learning.

Accumulation Once activated, the original capital facilitates the accumulation of further cultural capital. This accumulation can take the forms of 1. outstanding school performance i.e. good academic results, positive student identity, and high learning motivation; 2. proficiency of English language; and 3. coping strategies for Hong Kong (examination-oriented) educational system

The Typology of Adaptation

Making use of the set of conceptual tools ment ioned above, I would now like to go through the typology of adaptations in this study. This typology aims at delineating the different scenarios of assimilation, accommodation or alienation with regard to both the social structure and culture of the host society.


Transitional Adaptation

Transitional Adaptation is a relative easy and straightforward passage to a new home. Students who undergo “transitional adaptation” are those coming from a homeland with insignificant cultural differences from Hong Kong, and who receive sufficient social support from institutional agents in the host society. Examples are those who come from Cantonese-speaking origins having a culture similar to that of Hong Kong and who have established supportive networks with their peers or school. Linguistic and cultural proximity (to the mainstream Hong Kong culture) endows the students with cultural capital to build supportive networks with the institutional agents. These supportive networks, as social capital, in turn enable the activation of cultural capital which the students possess and facilitate the accumulation of further cultural capital. The accumulation of further cultural capital, for instance English, is conducive to academic advancement.

Given the smooth adaptation to school life, the students hold a positive dual frame of reference. They generally view Hong Kong society, especially its opportunity structure, in a positive light. They perceive that Hong Kong provides more educational Hence

opportunities and occupational opportunities than their homeland does.

immigration means a “hopeful” change to them and it has a positive effect on the students’ motivation to do well at school. Students undergoing Transitional Adaptation are generally high achievers with a strong student identity. Having adapted i.e. assimilated to Hong Kong, they are just like the locally-borns both in their own eyes and from the views of their teachers and peers.

Instrumental Adaptation

Students going through Instrumental Adaptation are those from linguistic and cultural

backgrounds similar to those of Hong Kong but they do not receive, or have not yet received, sufficient social support from the host society. The “cold” experiences, sometimes even discriminative ones, after their arrival in Hong Kong make them feel alienated from the society. whole-heartedly. They are skeptical about taking root in Hong Kong

All the same, such structural alienation is simply transitional. It is because the students’ linguistic and cultural proximity (to the mainstream culture) provides them with cultural capital to become active social agents in search of social support from institutional agents. Once supportive networks with the institutional agents are

established, they will follow the pathway of “Transitional Adaptation” and have their cultural capital and human capital activated.

Their perception of immigration is instrumental because their concern is about how they can utilize the opportunities available during their stay in Hong Kong. Staying in

Hong Kong, they hope for attaining better educational qualifications and thereafter getting a decent salary from a Hong Kong job for the sake of their future socio-economic advancement. They view the greater educational opportunities

afforded by Hong Kong and the high transferability of Hong Kong educational credentials to other places (cultural capital of higher value) as justification for the hardships along their adaptation process. They adopt a positive dual frame of reference as “voluntary minorities” do. They generally have good school performance.

Instrumental Adaptation means also a flexible adaptation strategy and the students attempt to make the best use of what they find attractive in both Hong Kong and their homeland. Given the closer ties between post-colonial Hong Kong and Mainland

China economically and socially, they anticipate having a lifestyle such as working hard for a job in Hong Kong during weekdays and enjoying life during week-ends back in their homeland or other places in the Mainland. They can be said to adopt a trans-territorial identity.

In comparison with the other four modes of adaptation, Instrumental Adaptation is a more temporary type of adaptation. As students undergoing Instrumental Adaptation can act as a active social agent, adaptation means time for acquiring social support from the social institutions, and therefore activating and accumulating their capitals.

Accommodative Adaptation

Accommodative Adaptation refers to accommodation to the social groups and relationships but not to the mainstream culture. It can also be termed as “structural accommodation with cultural alienation”.

Upon their arrival, students undergoing Accommodative Adaptation experience warm reception from the institutional agents like teachers, locally-born students or church which try to establish supportive networks with them. Although they receive social support and “acceptance” from the mainstream society, their culture (i.e. values, lifestyles, ethnic identity, and their ambivalent feelings about immigration) is seldom taken care of. Their culture is not fully compatible with that of their Hong Kong peers. Without ethnic social support, they feel that they are culturally marginalized as compared with the mainstream students, and they tend to develop a mono-ethnic perception of Hong Kong culture and society. Also, they view that the Hong Kong lifestyle is less desirable than their lifestyle in homeland. Hence they do not perceive

Hong Kong as a new home that accommodates their own cultures and values, nor do they feel they can become “full members” of the society.

The dual frame of reference – that comparison between “home” and the host society -adopted by new arrival students coming from a different cultural background is indeed more complex than the cultural ecological theory suggests. The cultural ecological theory argues that voluntary immigrants on the whole look forward to a “better tomorrow” in the host society. That “better tomorrow” is the positive element in that dual frame of reference. I find that the students (with cultural difference) have in fact “two dual frames of reference”: one makes reference to the host society’s opportunity structures in comparison with those back home; the other makes reference to the cultures of the two places. In the case of Accommodative Adaptation, we have seen that although the students think positively Hong Kong’s opportunity structure, they hold rather negative views about Hong Kong’s values and lifestyles or in short Hong Kong culture. For them it is not a simple “better tomorrow” in Hong Kong. They are ambivalent about Hong Kong society.

Bicultural Adaptation

Bicultural Adaptation refers to accommodation both to the social structures and the culture of the mainstream society. Borrowing the term of Margaret Gibson, I would also describe Bicultural Adaptation as “accommodation without assimilation”.

Students going through Bicultural Adaptation are those who experience significant linguistic and cultural differences in Hong Kong, but who receive sufficient social support from institutional agents and the family. The support embraces support which

is ethnic in nature.

Adapting in a supportive socio-cultural context, such students despite linguistic and cultural differences adapt to Hong Kong biculturally. Supportive socio-cultural

contexts include school culture which accommodates various ethnic languages, values and cultures, and social life in ethnic peer groups or dialect associations, and a family which retains an ethnic lifestyle. These contexts act as “cultural brokers” which connect the students with social institutions on one hand; and protect the students from adaptation hardships or discriminations on the other. Agencies of ethnic support function as a source of social capital; they help to sustain the students’ ethnic culture and identity.

Bicultural Adaptation is a kind of “additive acculturation” (Gibson, 1991). Instead of abandoning their ethnic culture and then assimilating into the Hong Kong society, students adopting Bicultural Adaptation find it comfortable to keep their ethnic identity and way of life on one hand; while achieving academic success in the mainstream society on the other. Sustaining their ethnic identity, they want to honour their

homeland by doing well in education in Hong Kong.


Marginality is the scenario of both structural and cultural alienation.


experiencing significant linguistic and cultural differences in Hong Kong, and yet receiving insufficient social support and recognition from peers, school and family by and large fail to adapt to the new environment and find themselves alienated. Students of Marginality are on the whole low achievers and have lost the learning motivation due

to repeated failures in schoolwork.

Unlike the cases of Accommodative Adaptation or Bicultural Adaptation, the students of Marginality do not experience warm reception from the host society’s institutional agents and hence these students lack supportive social networks. Lacking social capital, they find it hard to activate whatever cultural capital they possess. In addition, these students are also deficient in cultural capital in that they come from backgrounds culturally quite different from Hong Kong and they come from deprived families which have little cultural capital to pass onto their children. Thus for instance they lack competence in Cantonese which increases the difficulty they face in building social relationships with local peers. Whilst other new arrival students start adapting and accumulating their capitals, students of Marginality cannot help but remain marginalized and alienated from the host society.

Students who are marginalized in their adaptation experiences usually lose their motivation to learn and to achieve; hence they are indifferent about the opportunity structure of the host society. Owing to structural and cultural alienation, they miss their life in homeland and consider it superior to the life in Hong Kong. Such “marginalized” students often suffer from low self- esteem which negatively impact on their student identity. Apart from poor school performance, the consequences of Marginality are usually deviant behaviour, depression and other kinds of psychological disturbance.


This study examines the interplay between structure (the culture, opportunity structure,

and social networks of the host society) and agency (the new arrival students) in the context of immigration adaptation. In the light of cultural ecological theory, it also attempts to provide a preliminary framework to look at the adaptation experiences and school performance of new arrival students in Hong Kong.

My findings suggest that the cultural background (values, lifestyles, and language) of the new arrival students has a significant impact on their ability to adapt to the host society. But also important is the kind and extent of social support the new arrival students have in their new socio-cultural environment. It is such differences in background and availability of social support which account to a large extent for the new arrival students’ success or failure in adapting to life in Hong Kong as well as in school performance. I have borrowed a central theme from the cultural ecological theory in an attempt to make sense of the new arrival students’ adaptation and school experiences in Hong Kong. That theme – the so-called positive dual frame of reference – provides a basis for our analysis. The basic issue in this regard is: under what circumstances would the new arrival students perceive Hong Kong society positively, and under what conditions would they view it negatively? Or putting it more directly in the perspective of the positive dual frame of reference, why do some new arrival students hold positive and optimistic views of Hong Kong and consider it better than their homeland? Why do some others feel disillusioned about and alienated from Hong Kong society and regret having come to this place reputed to be the land of abundant opportunities?

In attempting to answer these que stions, I have made use of the concept of cultural capital to refer to the kind of values, lifestyles, and language the new arrival students possess before arrival. The more these resemble those of the host society, the more

cultural capital the new arriva l students have for achieving success in the host society. At the same time I have used the concept of social capital to refer to the social support and social networks the new arrival students have in the host society. This social capital is important in that it helps the activation of cultural capital, and facilitates the accumulation of further capital (both cultural and social) in the new arrival students’ endeavour to adapt and to achieve in the host society. And it is these two forms of capital which interact with and impact on the dual frame of reference the new arrival students have. The more they have such capital, the more successful they are likely to be in their encounters and careers in the host society, and the more positively they are going to view the host society. And such positive views are an important source of their motivation to do well at school, and to strive for success in the host society.

The main implications of this study are therefore, firstly, the importance of attending to the cultural difference which the new arrival students may face, and in this connection, the importance of enabling them to sustain their ethnic culture so that they feel at “home” in a new socio-cultural environment. Secondly, the study points to the importance of providing social support networks, ideally capable of offering ethnic support, to facilitate the new arrivals’ adaptation to the host society. It is only then that they will come to see Hong Kong as offering them the opportunities they look for, as giving them a “better tomorrow”.


APPENDIX 1 Interview Questions
Background 1. Name of the school, Banding of the school, Age, Arrival date 2. Which class are you in now? 3. What subjects are you now studying? 4. Where were you born? Did you come from there to Hong Kong? 5. What language do you use at home? 6. Where do you live? What type of housing is it? Who are you living with now? 7. Where do your parents work? 8. For how long have your parents and siblings been in HK? 9. Are there any family members still in Mainland China? 10. Why did you come to Hong Kong? 11. Did you choose to come to Hong Kong? If you can choose, do you want to come? (Would you come if you can choose again?) School Basic Questions 1. Are there any differences between your old school and the present school? (students, teachers, amount of schoolwork, curriculum content, school rules, extra-curricular activities) 2. Which grade were you in when you first were admitted to school? 3. What grade were you in when you were in homeland? Perception of Schooling 1. Do you like going to school? 2. Is school learning important to you? How important is it? What do you go to school primarily for? 3. Do you want to do well in school? Why? 4. Do you think you are serious toward learning? Are you now more or less hardworking than you were in Mainland? 5. Are there any changes in academic performance for any subjects in your adaptation process? Why are there such changes?


Teachers 1. Are the teachers in your school similar to those in your old school in Mainland China? 2. How are the Hong Kong teachers different from the Mainland’s? 3. Do you like the teachers in your present school? 4. Either in the present school or in your old school, can you give one example of a teacher you like and one example of a teacher you dislike? How is s/he? 5. Do teachers treat you differently from other local born students? If so, can you give me some examples? 6. Do your teachers help or hinder your adaptation to school life in Hong Kong? Or do you ignore the role of your teachers in your adaptation? Schoolwork 1. Which subject (s) do you like and dislike most? Why? Do you attain good results for that subject? 2. Do you feel your schoolwork heavy? Do you think the competition fierce in Hong Kong school? 3. As compared with the Mainland’s curriculum, which subject(s) is/are of higher standard, which lower? 4. Whom do you ask for help when you encounter studies problems? 5. Do you take tutorial class? Extracurricular activities 1. What is a typical day like for you? 2. What extracurricular activities do you join? Do you play any leadership role in the class or clubs? Why? Summing Up 1. What are the things you like and dislike about your school/Hong Kong education? 2. If you could change anything at your school, what would you change? 3. Please talk about one event happened in school that poses impact to your adaptation. 4. If you were the principal, what would you do to help new arrivals? Peers 1. Who are your best classmates now? How are Hong Kong classmates different from those in Mainland? 2. Do classmates treat you differently because you are a new arrival? 1. What do you do in recess and lunch time? With whom?

3. What do you do in leisure times, say last weekend? How are those activities different from what you played in Mainland? Is Hong Kong a more interesting place for entertainment (‘play’)? 4. Compared with your life in Mainland, do you play more or less in Hong Kong? 5. In what ways do leisure activities affect your school performance? 6. Who are your friends in Hong Kong? Are they alike your old friends in homeland? 7. In what ways does peer group influence your school performance and conduct, both in Mainland and in Hong Kong? Family 1. Do your parents concern your homework and school performance much? What are their expectations on your education and future career? 2. Are your parents strict or permissive? Are they acted so before you came to Hong Kong? 3. Do they reward and punish you for good and bad school performance? 4. Do you think your role in family has been changed due to your move to Hong Kong? How? 5. Do you elder siblings, if any, help yo ur school work? 6. Do you prefer family life in Mainland of in Hong Kong? Why? 7. If any, how often is there quarrels in your family? For what reasons? 8. What is your father’s and mother’s educational level? 9. How much is your household income? Educational Opportunities and Occupational Aspirations 1. How do you plan for your F.3 final exam/ HKCEE/ HKALE? 2. What is your career aspiration? 3. What is the best way to getting ahead in Hong Kong society? 4. Do you think there are more educational opportunities in Hong Kong? 5. Do you think it is easier to attain (occupational) success in Hong Kong? 6. Do you think new arrivals and Hong Kong residents have an equal chance to do well in school? Why and why not? 7. Do you think you are doing well in school? If not, what prevents you from doing so? 8. Are there any people who have an advantage when it comes to doing well in school? If yes, who are they, and why do they have an advantage? 9. Would you say that the amount of money in somebody’s family affects how well they will do in school? Why and why not? 10. Rate the following factors which determine the success of getting ahead. Hard work, intelligence, ethnic origin, education, wealth, gender, personal contacts,

luck. Dual frame of reference 1. How did you prepare for the move to Hong Kong? 2. What did you find “Hong Kong” before you arrived? 3. What do you think about Hong Kong people? 4. Do you like Hong Kong lifestyle or homeland lifestyle more? (figure out how the student compare life in Hong Kong and in Mainland) 5. Talk about one impressive event you encountered when you are in Hong Kong. 6. Do you think you are a Hong Kong person? If not, who are you? 7. Do you think you are Chinese? Why? 8. How often do you go back to homeland for visits? Who do your relatives think you are when you are back? 9. How does academic achievement mean to your ethnic identity?


APPENDIX 2 Education Services for Newly Arrived Children
HKSAR Education Department offers four types of adaptation courses with a viewing to helping new arrivals’ children adapt to Hong Kong schooling. They are as follows: 1. Induction Programme for Newly Arrived Children from Mainland (60-hour Adaptation Course) 2. 3. 4. Full- time "Setting-off" Programme for Newly Arrived Children School-Based Support Scheme Grant for Schools with Intake of New Arrival Children from Mainland Placement Assistance to New Arrival Children from Mainland

Induction Programme for Newly Arrived Children from Mainland Launched since April 1995, this programme aims at helping new arrivals’ children adapt to the local social environment and education system The programme is also called 60-hour Adaptation Course as each class of the programme lasts for sixty hours. Non-profit-making and non-governmental organizations operate the programme with the subsidy of the Education Department. The programme’s target group is children aged from 6 to 15 who have arrived at Hong Kong from the mainland for less than 1 year, and they can join the programme without any charge. These programmes are flexible in nature for meeting needs of individual children and facilitating the routine of social service agencies. Generally, classes are conducted in small group of 10-15 children, with content embracing social adaptation, personal development, and basic learning skills. Agencies can allocate the sixty hours to the components like knowing the local community and the cultural differences, learning English and complex Chinese characters, enhancing self- image and so forth. Full- time "Setting-off" Programme for Newly Arrived Children From March 2000 onwards, new arrivals’ children are offered this full- time programme

before they join the formal classes. Commencement time of the programme is every year’s March and September, and the duration is about 6 months. It is operated in a school setting, and the size of each class is around 20. The programme is mainly to enhance the standard in the English language subject. At the end of the programme, participants are expected to have learning experience enhanced real classroom situation exposed. Again, flexibility in operating the programme is given to schools, which will be provided with a block grant, calculated on the basis of a class of 20 new arrivals’ children. With reference to the children’s needs, the school can flexibly use the block grant to design the curriculum and support programmes. The content should comprise both academic and non-academic elements. School-Based Support Scheme Grant for Schools with Intake of New Arrival Children from Mainland With a view to encouraging schools to accept new arrivals’ children and enhancing the support for schools with an intake of the children, the Education Department has introduced in September 1997 the scheme named “School- Based Support Scheme Grant for schools with intake of newly arrived children from Mainland”. The scheme is in general a financial support scheme. To enable schools to provide timely support for new arrivals’ children when school term starts, Education Department will give advanc e payment to schools upon application. With effect from April 2000, the rate of the grant is revised to HK$2,750 per newly admitted child at primary level and HK$4,080 at secondary level. chargeable to it. Schools may flexibly use the grant to provide school-based support services for the newly admitted children. Such services may include providing supplementary lessons say English lessons, tailoring curriculum, organizing orientation programmes, guidance, and purchasing teaching aids and resource materials. It is necessary for the schools concerned to keep a separate account to reflect all the income and expenditure


Placement Assistance to New Arrival Children from Mainland The Placement Assistance entails the procedures for admission to Hong Kong schools. New arrivals may fill in an information leaflet (obtainable at the Lo Wu entry point and 19 District Education Offices) with particulars of their children and return it to the Education Department. The Central Placement Unit of the Education Department will then sort the application with reference to the applicants’ residential address. Applicants’ information will be sent to respective District Education Offices. District Education Officers is responsible of contacting parents and offer assistance in finding school places. In case that an applicant fails to get an offer from the District Education Offices, her/his case will be referred to the Central Placement Unit for further processing. Children who need special care will be referred to the Screening, Referral and Placement Unit of the Service Division of the Education Department for assessment and placement to special schools.


APPENDIX 3 News Articles
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