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The intercultural dimension of Chinese community schooling: fluidity and complexity in Chinese migrant identity

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sara GanassinORCiD


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Migrant and minority communities in different parts of the world have dedicated resources to setting up schools that provide children with learning opportunities designed to maintain diverse and often underrepresented heritages and languages. Community language schools are sites, not only where migrant and minority languages and cultures are taught to new generations, but where discourses of language and culture are used to foster a sense of identity (Creese, 2009; He, 2006; Li & Wu, 2009).This paper offers insights from a monograph on Chinese community education in the UK (Ganassin, 2020). The study draws on a social constructivist ethnographic framework to investigate the joint construction of language (primarily but not exclusively Mandarin), Chinese culture and identity in two schools. It adopts a ‘bricolage’ approach that brings together a range of theoretical perspectives from applied linguistics, social-psychology, and sociolinguistics (Kincheloe et al., 2017).Findings from thematic analysis demonstrate the value that community education has for pupils, parents and teachers in terms of identity construction, social capital (e.g. provision of community spaces for families), economic and cultural capital (e.g. enabling pupils to access future opportunities). By focusing on the intercultural dimension of community schooling, the paper argues that interculturality does not exclusively pertain to the relationships between ‘the Chinese’ and ‘the non-Chinese’ but exists within the Chinese communities as adults and children bring with them different understandings of ‘being Chinese’.The paper challenges homogenous and stereotypical constructions of ‘Chineseness’ that have often been supported by academic and media attention. It also provides an understanding of the importance of the schools not only for the communities that are involved in them but also for the wider host society. The topics that the paper explores are relevant to current debates migration, and migrant education and inclusion.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ganassin S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: International Conference on Community/Heritage Language Education

Year of Conference: 2021

Print publication date: 11/11/2021

Online publication date: 13/11/2021

Acceptance date: 01/11/2021

Publisher: The University of Sydney