Ordinary hopes, extraordinary lives : an ethnographic study of community college students in Hong Kong
Full recordShow full item record
AbstractStudies on education evolve closely along the debates of social reproduction and students’ actual responses in the process of schooling. Structural influences of class, gender, race or ethnicity are often highlighted and resulted in more or less coherent and consistent student subcultures and typologies. The aim of this study is to capture and explain the neglected complexities and dynamics of schooling by studying a group of ordinary students in a community college in Hong Kong. Ordinary students are under-studied because of their assumed normality and uninteresting experience. By stepping into their world of everyday schooling using an ethnographic approach, it is found that their hopes in life are ordinary but their lives extraordinary with selectivity, inconsistency and transiency as the defining features. Such features result from the everyday interplay of school routines, connections with people, ethics of conduct, as well as visions in life of these students. These interactions shape a certain narrative of life over time and are deployed as cultural tools in particular situations of schooling. The deployment of cultural tools by ordinary students allows an understanding of culture in action although it is fragmented and incoherent, and the lives of them as a whole are characterised by drifting across states of being, rather than formation of any coherent, linear or cumulative narrative.
The study contributes to existing scholarship by offering new empirical observations on how thirty two community college students went through and reflected on their schooling experience over a two year span. The study adds to the ongoing theoretical attempt to grasp the complex interaction among structure, institution and agency in social life by capturing the fluid states of drift in ethics and visions among students amidst the highly structured routines of competitive education. Through these we are able to better understand the lives and cultures of ordinary students in a world where to be ordinary is almost like an impossible dream.
Doctor of Philosophy
Tong, K. [唐嘉汶]. (2014). Ordinary hopes, extraordinary lives : an ethnographic study of community college students in Hong Kong. (Thesis). University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong SAR. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.5353/th_b5185932