Developing a national identity is one of the essential political tasks of nations, but the ability to develop this sentiment is not unproblematic. Indeed, Hong Kong people’s declining sense of the Chinese national identity has long been viewed as an alarming problem. Recently, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government has vowed to reform education “from the bottom” to nurture a sense of Chinese national identity from kindergarten. Meanwhile, non-Chinese-speaking (NCS) families have been encouraged to send their children to study in kindergartens that adopt Chinese as the medium of instruction and have their quality assured by the HKSAR Government. As a part of a larger project sponsored by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong (UGC/FDS16/H17/21), this study explored how Hong Kong kindergarten educators responded to the increasing demand of the authority in terms of developing the national identity in young children of different ethnic backgrounds. It involved in-depth interviews with 32 kindergarten practitioners (including principals and teachers) from eight purposively selected kindergartens. Four of them had a significant number of NCS students. The remaining four catered to essentially local ethnic Chinese students. The results revealed that, although the practitioners were positive about cultivating a national identity in young children, their practices varied across different types of kindergartens and levels of education. Those working with more NCS students, remarkably, were more likely to have implemented identity-building activities. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed.
Jessie Ming Sin Wong, Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Hong Kong