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Contribution to RC-28 meeting, May 24-27, Brno Postsecondary Educational Opportunity and Civil Society in Hong Kong: In Search of the Missing Link by David.

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Presentation on theme: "Contribution to RC-28 meeting, May 24-27, Brno Postsecondary Educational Opportunity and Civil Society in Hong Kong: In Search of the Missing Link by David."— Presentation transcript:

1 Contribution to RC-28 meeting, May 24-27, Brno Postsecondary Educational Opportunity and Civil Society in Hong Kong: In Search of the Missing Link by David Post ( Penn State University and Chinese University of Hong Kong

2 Can we accept the following assumptions? That the consequences of higher education expansion go beyond impact on individual and group equality of educational opportunity. That these consequences include social integration and state legitimacy And that these broader consequences are not merely byproducts of expanded opportunity. Frequently they are intended as major outcomes in themselves that are politically contended by actors who seek a hand in the control of state-society relations.

3 If these assumptions are reasonable then…. Researchers in the RC-28 who focus on the ways that societies govern access to power, prestige, and the allocation of social status to adults of different class backgrounds are studying a political process that is larger than that direct concerning mobility. Concomitantly, through research on stratification, we also investigate the transformation of the ways individuals are situated by their education and how they consciously situate themselves in relation to the status hierarchy, a hierarchy that includes political power as well as wealth and prestige.

4 Why is Hong Kong of interest? In the final decades of colonial rule, and in the ten years since reunification with China in 1997, Hong Kong’s top- down control of postsecondary opportunities and supply- side expansion resemble a natural experiment because in Hong Kong the before-after contrasts are readily apparent. In this paper, I extend past investigations of Hong Kong post-secondary education expansion to consider the political consequences, including the opportunities and the challenges facing civil society organizations and non- governmental actors.

5 Background to study Prior to the Sino-British accord of 1982, where Britain promised to relinquish Colonial authority and return Hong Kong to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong had one of the world’s most restrictive systems of higher education. The government owned and operated only two universities, with spaces for less than 3 percent of each age cohort. Yet the colony deliberately monopolized post-secondary opportunities by either absorbing or relegating to the margins any potential competitors. Potential students were forced either to compete for a space in one of the two universities or (for the very wealthy) study overseas.

6 Expansion Facing pressure from European trade unionists, and with huge budget surpluses, Britain in 1978 extended free and compulsory education to nine years. In 1980s and, especially after the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen massacre, the governor rapidly expanded higher education places (all paid by government)

7 Decision-making and arguments pre-1997 There were no political parties in Hong Kong until late 1980s to press demands on government, and there was no direct means to influence decision-making in education Government rationales for supporting education were inexplicit or were based on manpower planning and human capital arguments.


9 Hong Kong’s first post-colonial Chief Executive tried to limit arguments to human capital and trading framework …. Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa in 2000: “In developed countries and some major cities in Asia, up to 60% of senior secondary school graduates pursue tertiary education. For Hong Kong, however, the rate is just about half that. Not only are we lagging far behind, but failing to meet the needs of a knowledge-based economy. It is imperative we catch up. Our objective is that within 10 years, 60% of senior secondary school leavers will receive tertiary education.”

10 But a coalition of human rights activists gradually sought to change the terms of the debate…. President of the Teacher’s Union and opposition Legislative Councilor Cheung Man-kwong: “ ….the emphasis of [Tung Che Hwa’s] policy, whether it be on education or environmental protection, is laid more on its value as an economic tool than on its intrinsic humanistic values. In the field of education, “cultivating talents” means providing sufficient human resources to improve Hong Kong's competitiveness and to increase its wealth... To cultivate a whole person and to build a green environment, we must rely on every individual. To do this, we need a democratic political system where we can choose our own government through universal suffrage. Only such a government, as opposed to one relying on the support of the businesses, can truly represent us and help us decide our own fate.

11 Expansion had obvious impact on equalizing education opportunity Girls attained parity and then overtook boys Gap between upper and lower income narrowed between 1981 and 1991 This same gap slightly widened between 1991 and 2001, reversing earlier trend

12 . Education Attained by Hong Kong Girls Relative to Attainment by Boys at Ages 19-20, by Census Year

13 Composition of university student body in 1981, by quarters of parents’ income

14 Composition of university student body in 1991, by quarters of parents’ income

15 . Composition of university student body in 2001, by quarters of parents’ income

16 Children’s University Transition Rates by Quarters of Total Parental Income

17 What is impact of supply-driven, top-down expansion on public discourse and debate? Modernization perspectives (traceable to Durkheim) suggest more receptiveness to innovation and willingness to embrace reform by university graduates Institutionalist perspectives, traceable to Weber, suggest the socializing power of universities inheres in its acceptance as a legitimate allocator of “expertise”

18 Impact of universities as organizations “Higher education promotes values that are more inclusive or more “public” than other civic venues, such as religious communities, households and families, or ethnic and linguistic groups. Higher education is expected to embody norms of social interaction such as open debate and argumentative reason; to emphasize the autonomy and self- reliance of its individual members; and to reject discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, religious belief, or social class. The best higher education institution is a model and a source of pressure for creating a modern civil society.” - Task Force on Higher Education and Society, World Bank, 2002

19 Education as an institution “The focus on individual equality, rather than group rights or needs, suggests how much education in the contemporary world has a liberal and individualist cast. Talk that educational opportunity ought principally to be structured by national or local needs, rather than by individual choice (and thus liberal market forces), tends to disappear.” – John W. Meyer, 2001

20 How has discussion of educational opportunity affected decision-making? An “Alliance Concerned With Sub-Degree Education” has been formed in order to press the government to offer more publicly-funded university places for students who complete a ‘sub-degree’ (two year degree). Legislative Councilors have staked out positions opposing the government rationing of education A new, non-government supported university has been established

21 Who controls the terms of debate? With one big exception (a former finance minister later forced from office), government leaders use language of efficiency, quality, human resources Opposition pressure groups would like to expand bases of pressure but they have been constrained strategically from doing so. Interviews with numerous officials reveal an avoidance of terms such as “equity” or “fairness”

22 Political parties have emerged, expanding the definition of what is at stake in the process of distinguishing themselves from one another and from government: Economic and social progress for Hong Kong's people is the primary and perennial target to which we must all dedicate our efforts. We will strive for an even better future by sustained dynamic growth through sound economic principles and planning. Building on proven success, we aim to create an economy that will bring about jobs and wealth for all. In addition, we must, through long term planning, ensure that the growth we seek will be a sustainable one and that our children enjoy the best education so that they remain competitive in this increasingly globalised economy. - Liberal Party

23 Education is concerned with the development of humankind. Therefore, education should aim at teaching our next generation to be loving in our families, community, country and nation, in addition to preserving peace on earth. In addition to teaching academic knowledge, education policy should then aim at helping students to develop independent minds, healthy moral standards, decent temperaments, and to be honest, responsible, just and loving persons…. The young should not only be considered precious community resources, but also be given respect and the opportunity to live and grow in a free and democratic environment. - Democratic Party

24 We believe everyone should be given a fair chance to succeed and work towards the fulfillment of his or her potential. We believe in the creation of sustainable communities and in the improvement of the quality of life as a common goal. We believe economic development should be pursued in that context and not for its own sake. We believe social harmony and stability can only come about with social justice and equity. - Civic Party

25 Response of government is to seek to preserve legitimacy by ceding to demands Increased funding for students to transfer from “community colleges” to university degree programs Free kindergarten Smaller class sizes

26 Hong Kong government is unable to control increasing demands for participation, both in its political process and its housing, land use, environmental, immigration, and education policies…. All because it faces a legitimacy deficit due to legislators and Chief Executive selected without popular election. Typology suggested by Javier Corrales is applicable to Hong Kong.


28 Tentative conclusion… As government planning documents and promises begin to take for granted an expanded role in guaranteeing basic human rights for the development of citizens, equally and regardless of their social origin, public expectations are raised. Opponents can then turn these raised expectations to their advantage and create a “bidding” by competing public advocates and interest groups. Therefore, expanding the rationale for higher education opens the door to a new dynamic that could limit state autonomy and promote pluralism.

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