• Oi Yeung Lam

Student thesis: Phd


This study examines the mechanisms of class disadvantage in educational processes in Hong Kong by focusing on mothers' secondary school choice-making and everyday educational involvement. My study is located within the context of local neoliberal education reforms in which parents are expected to rely on their own resources to support their children's learning and all-round development and to exercise school choice. I have drawn upon cultural capital theory and applied to the local context in order to explore how patterns of persistent class differentials in educational outcomes despite expanded educational opportunities are produced in micro-level processes in the local school market. I have also drawn on the insights of the Western literature about how 'ethnicity' and gender complicate class processes, and used these to address these issues in the local Hong Kong context. To achieve this, I interviewed 34 local-born and mainland Chinese immigrant mothers, with children aged 11-15, who mostly come from working class and intermediate class backgrounds. My findings about mothers' educational practices show that class mechanisms generate disadvantage by restricting the access of more disadvantaged mothers to the 'right' cultural capital as stipulated by the particular 'rules of the game' of the local educational 'field'. At the same time, my study sheds light on the diversity of the structural and moral contexts in which cultural capital mobilization is embedded and the myriad ways that 'ethnicity' and gender interact to aggravate, mitigate, or ameliorate class disadvantage. I underline the need for local researchers to spell out and problematize the institutionalization of class privilege and disadvantage within the education system. At the same time, the study makes a novel contribution to the wider literature by offering an account of class reproduction in Hong Kong which is different in important respects to that found in many other generic accounts which take as their focus advanced 'Western' capitalist societies. My findings also highlight the importance of examining the contextual contingency of how cultural capital 'works' and so stress the indeterminacy of class processes.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorFiona Devine (Supervisor) & Wendy Bottero (Supervisor)

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