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Education for Active Citizenship: youth organisations and alternative forms of citizenship education in Hong Kong and Singapore

With Christine Han (Institute of Education)

Series:  Regional comparison: Taiwan and Hong Kong in Comparative Perspective|

Date: Thursday 8 May 2014, 6pm-8pm

Venue: The Graham Wallas Room (AGWR), Old Building, LSE

Chair: Stuart Thompson (LSE Taiwan Research Programme)

Abstract

Hong Kong and Singapore are two city states that, along with the other East Asian developmental states, have prioritised economic development and harnessed education to create a loyal citizenry and skilled workforce. However, the promotion of active and critical citizenship (Johnson and Morris 2010) has not been a key feature of the school curriculum in either society. In terms of governance, democratisation and liberalisation, Singapore has proceeded at a glacial pace as determined by the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP). In Hong Kong, the process has been mixed with – on the one hand – government and political ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) becoming more entrenched and – on the other hand – the introduction of the subject Liberal Studies that, in intent if not always in practice, is designed to promote a more ‘active’ vision of citizenship than any previous compulsory school subject. In educational terms, this has inevitably translated into forms of citizenship education intended to mould young people into the type of citizenry considered suitable for the two societies. 

In both societies, however, younger citizens have in recent years increasingly engaged in forms of civic activism that challenge the established order. Groups of young people have come together to push the boundaries of free speech and critical thinking, questioning the status quo and, in some cases, openly opposing government policies. Modern forms of communication and social networking have played an important role in this. Within small communities, and using the latest technology, young people exchange the knowledge and skills they need to engage in civic and political activism. In concert with each other, they explore and develop social and political values, debate issues, and acquire the new knowledge and skills required not only to achieve their social and political ends, but also to tread the fine line between what is and is not permitted in their society. The paper analyses three cases – two from Hong Kong and one from Singapore – of activist youth groups and the vision of citizenship that they promote. It compares these visions not only to each other, but also to those set out in the official school curriculum, both in terms of explicit ideological content, and the messages implied in particular forms of teaching, learning, and active civic engagement.  

About the Speaker

Christine Han is a Lecturer in Education at the Institute of Education, University of London.  She received her DPhil from the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford, after which she was an Assistant Professor at the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.  Her publications include ‘Wartime Enemy or ‘Asian’ Model: an examination of the role of Japan in history textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore’, ‘Politics, popular culture, and images of Japan in Taiwan’ (with I-Yun Lee), ‘The portrayal of the Japanese occupation in Singaporean textbook  narratives’ (with Khatera Khamsi), ‘Curriculum patterns in citizenship education: a cross-national study’ (with Janmaat, May and Morris).  Her research interests include citizenship education in Singapore and East Asian societies, ‘Asian’ values and democracy, and democratic participation in comparative perspective.  


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