Bilingualism and identity: Chinese students’ perspectives on an independent bilingual school

McCann, Helen Pamela (2023) Bilingualism and identity: Chinese students’ perspectives on an independent bilingual school. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The growth in the number of schools in China offering a Mandarin-English bilingual education has occurred in response to globalisation. China has developed these schools as a way of promoting and protecting Chinese identity and heritage, whilst also ensuring China has citizens with the English language proficiency to be able to communicate with other countries on the global stage. In addition to this, due to the number of Chinese nationals achieving domestic university degrees, there is a widely held belief that degrees from universities in Anglosphere countries are more prestigious and offer greater opportunities for employment. This context has led to the development of independent bilingual education schools, such as Huili School Hangzhou (HSH) where this research project was based.

Understanding that the students who attend HSH are aspiring to study and work abroad in Anglosphere countries in the future, means HSH has a responsibility to ensure their bilingual education model prepares students for this. The aim of this research project was to explore the topics of bilingualism and identity in the HSH bilingual education model from a student perspective, to ascertain if it was having the desired impact on students. The research was grounded in the interpretivist paradigm, and included the use of a workshop, participant-led photography, individual interviews and focus group. These methods were used to gather perceptions from students, in both Mandarin and English, as an interpreter was included. A thematic analysis was subsequently conducted, which produced three themes from the data. These were: the importance of using Mandarin to support English language acquisition, the significance of relationships and an appreciation for Chinese identity and cultures.

The findings demonstrated that students viewed languages and cultures as geographically bound. Participants viewed their home language of Mandarin and Chinese cultures as part of their identity, whereas, their second language of English was described only as a ‘tool’ or necessity for them to achieve their dream of studying abroad. The participants shared how the HSH bilingual education model could be improved by teaching Chinese social studies in grades 9 and 10, by consistently encouraging students to draw on their translanguaging skills and by providing more opportunities to interact with foreign students. All of the participants vocalised a lack of confidence in their English language proficiency and understanding of cultures related to the Anglosphere. The recommendation is made that HSH considers how their bilingual education model can be altered to overcome the current dichotomy between Mandarin and English within the school, to encourage languages and cultures to be seen as diverse and not geographically bound. This is suggested to be important to be able to implement the recommendations made by the participants, and to prepare students for the diverse countries and cultures they are aspiring to live in.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: McKinney, Professor Stephen and Fassetta, Dr. Giovanna
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83937
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2023 09:28
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 09:31
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83937

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