Cultural citizenship and its implications for citizenship education: Chinese university students’ civic experience in relation to mass media and the university citizenship curriculum

Zhang, Chong (2016) Cultural citizenship and its implications for citizenship education: Chinese university students’ civic experience in relation to mass media and the university citizenship curriculum. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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A growing body of research has argued that university citizenship curricula are inefficient in promoting civic participation, while there is a tendency towards a broader citizenship understanding and new forms of civic engagements and citizenship learning in everyday life. The notion of cultural citizenship in this thesis concentrates on media practices’ relation to civic expression and civic engagement. This research thus argues that not enough attention has been paid to the effects of citizenship education policy on students and students’ active citizenship learning in China. This thesis examines the civic experience of university students in China in the parallel contexts of widespread adoption of mass media and of university citizenship education courses, which have been explicitly mandatory for promoting civic morality education in Chinese universities since 2007. This research project raises significant questions about the meditating influences of these two contexts on students’ perceptions of civic knowledge and civic participation, with particular interest to examine whether and how the notion of cultural citizenship could be applied in the Chinese context and whether it could provide certain implications for citizenship education in China. University students in one university in Beijing contributed to this research by providing both quantitative and qualitative data collected from mixed-methods research. 212 participants contributed to the questionnaire data collection and 12 students took part in interviews.

Guided by the theoretical framework of cultural citizenship, a central focus of this study is to explore whether new forms of civic engagement and civic learning and a new direction of citizenship understanding can be identified among university students’ mass media use. The study examines the patterns of students’ mass media use and its relationship to civic participation, and also explores the ways in which mass media shape students and how they interact and perform through the media use. In addition, this study discusses questions about how national context, citizenship tradition and civic education curricula relate to students’ civic perceptions, civic participation and civic motivation in their enactment of cultural citizenship. It thus tries to provide insights and identify problems associated with citizenship courses in Chinese universities.

The research finds that Chinese university students can also identify civic issues and engage in civic participation through the influence of mass media, thus indicating the application of cultural citizenship in the wider higher education arena in China. In particular, the findings demonstrate that students’ citizenship knowledge has been influenced by their entertainment experiences with TV programs, social networks and movies. However, the study argues that the full enactment of cultural citizenship in China is conditional with regards to characteristics related to two prerequisites: the quality of participation and the influence of the public sphere in the Chinese context. Most students in the study are found to be inactive civic participants in their everyday lives, especially in political participation. Students express their willingness to take part in civic activities, but they feel constrained by both the current citizenship education curriculum in universities and the strict national policy framework. They mainly choose to accept ideological and political education for the sake of personal development rather than to actively resist it, however, they employ creative ways online to express civic opinions and conduct civic discussion. This can be conceptualised as the cultural dimension of citizenship observed from students who are not passively prescribed by traditional citizenship but who have opportunities to build their own civic understanding in everyday life. These findings lead to the conclusion that the notion of cultural citizenship not only provides a new mode of civic learning for Chinese students but also offers a new direction for configuring citizenship in China.

This study enriches the existing global literature on cultural citizenship by providing contemporary evidence from China which is a developing democratic country, as well as offering useful information for Chinese university practitioners, policy makers and citizenship researchers on possible directions for citizenship understanding and citizenship education. In particular, it indicates that it is important for efforts to be made to generate a culture of authentic civic participation for students in the university as well as to promote the development of the public sphere in the community and the country generally.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Citizenship, cultural citizenship, citizenship education, participation, the public sphere.
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Social Justice Place and Lifelong Education
Supervisor's Name: Fagan, Dr. Catherine
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: MISS Chong Zhang
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7387
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2016 15:08
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2016 13:08

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