Bilingual preschool education: a comparative study between Hong Kong and Shanghai
AbstractGlobal and local factors have recently pushed English-Chinese bilingualism to the forefront of early childhood education in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Signaling new sociolinguístic alignments, each city is pursuing language policies according to its own political and economic imperatives. Using Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological system's theory as a framework for analysis, this research study examines the contextual layers that shape the linguistic environments of the two cities, focusing on the macrosystem’s forces of globalization, the exosystem’s social networks, the mesosystem's institutions and human players, the microsystem's schools and homes, and the chronosystem’s biology, acknowledging all factors that affect child development. In the hope of providing better strategies and interventions for developing second language learning, it looks at the stakeholders' attitudes towards, beliefs about, and expectations of English, as well as at parental involvement in children’s English education, perceptions about NETs (native English-speaking teachers), and curriculum implementation. Quantitative and qualitative data collected (from four schools in each city and a total of 438 respondents) through questionnaires, interviews and archival documents are then triangulated to identify differences and similarities between the two cities. The results show that English is universally promoted for its economic benefits, both to individuals and society. The form of preschool bilingualism advocated by the governments of Hong Kong and Shanghai, however, is unduly influenced by political and nationalist considerations. This has lead in Shanghai to conceptualizations of bilingualism that allow only for the acquisition of English without its attendant cultural and philosophical dimensions. In Hong Kong, the government's attempt to arbitrarily reduce the size of English-medium education, has lead, due to blowback, to extremely high English literacy expectations for preschoolers, delivered through overly ambitious programmes. In both cities, attempts to safeguard the use of the mother tongue as the primary medium of Instruction stand in the way of early bilingual development through immersion or partial immersion. In addition, the stakeholders' disparate expectations about when, how and why English at preschool is important have given rise to conflicts and dilemmas that distort the two cities' cultures of learning and the extent and form of their education reforms. The recommendations made seek to create for bilingual preschool education, sufficient space, given the current political, social, and economic conditions in both cities, to allow educators to pursue it with the most effective pedagogies.
Koong, Maggie May Kay (2007) Bilingual preschool education: a comparative study between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.