An intergenerational inquiry into the perceptions and experiences of education and learning – an empirical study of a group of Chinese post-graduate students and their parents in Beijing, China
thesisposted on 27.01.2012, 12:41 by Helen Hoi-Ling Kwan
In current literature, there is ample official discourse on educational development and reform, all consistently emphasising education and learning as the essential pillar of China‟s economic success and future development. However, little is known about the way in which these official discourses are articulated in people‟s everyday lives. Hence, this thesis seeks to narrow this knowledge gap by revealing the real effects of the discourses on the actual lives of people within different socio-economic and historical contexts. It contributes to existing knowledge by examining the power on how dominant discourses are articulated in people‟s perceptions about education and learning over generations. There are two distinctive features of this thesis leading to its originality. Firstly, not only did it aim to fill literature gap from a group of Chinese individuals, but it also focused on two groups of participants that represented both the family and cohort generations. Secondly, the similarities and differences in their education and learning experiences and perceptions are considered not only between the two generations of participants, but also in relation to the changing context of official discourses from one generation to the next. This thesis sets out to explore the experiences and attitudes towards education and learning from Chinese individuals‟ angles within an intergenerational perspective. By researching the education and learning experiences and perceptions of two kinship/cohort generations, this thesis examines the influence of the prevailing and changing government discourses alongside the enduring impact of cultural values. As evidenced in the findings, education experiences over generations reflect both the prevailing government discourses of the time and the changes in discourses over time. Chinese cultural values also mediate the relationships between the official discourses and individuals‟ experiences and attitudes. Aspects such as social class, regionality and gender also affect the education experiences and perceptions from one generation to the next. This thesis argues that the education experiences and perceptions vary between the two generations mainly due to the different political and socio-economic situations at the time. Moreover, persistence of education perceptions from generation to generation is significantly impacted by the traditional Chinese cultural values. In essence, cultural values are interweaved into the predominant and changing government discourses within the contexts of political, social and economic circumstances that subsequently shape the individuals‟ education realities. Furthermore, this thesis suggests that its findings, contributions and implications could be interesting to various readers. This would include Chinese policy makers, educators and practitioners working within the education and learning arena, such as training providers and careers specialists, both in China and overseas.