Speaking of Privilege, Privilege of Speaking: Educational Language Policies and Racialized Linguistic Privilege in Hong Kong

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Abstract

Hong Kong provides an intriguing context to understand racialized privilege as 92% of its 7.3 million population is ethnic Chinese, while the 8% of non-Chinese is stereotypically categorized in everyday language and practices: Westerners, Japanese and Koreans are called expatriates; Indonesians and Filipinos are referred to as migrant workers; and South Asians and Africans are known as ethnic minorities. These labels reflect racialized privilege and the inequalities it embeds. This paper posits that the education policies relating to non-Chinese students contribute to such discrimination.

South Asian students, the largest group of non-Chinese students in Hong Kong, are well-documented to be challenged by disproportionate academic underachievement and unequal access to career opportunities. Although research has suggested structural constraints to be a significant cause, government interventions often downplay structural barriers and instead highlight South Asians’ “language deficit,” creating a linguistic hierarchy and leading to exclusionary practices and segregation at schools. For instance, the Education Bureau officially names them “non-Chinese speaking students” and prioritizes a Hong Kong-centric assimilationist approach which upholds Chinese as the linguistic and cultural standard. Such monocultural assumption sets desirable Chinese proficiency as a pre-requisite of social integration. Through the lens of South Asian students in Hong Kong, this paper unravels how educational language policies serve to reify and racialize privilege in linguistic terms. Data are drawn on critical analysis of educational language policies and ethnographic research with South Asian students in two secondary schools in Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 May 2019
EventDoes “Invisible Privilege” Travel?: Looking Beyond the Geographies of White Privilege - National University of Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 2 May 20193 May 2019
https://ari.nus.edu.sg/events/invisible_privilege/
https://ari.nus.edu.sg/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Prog_Abstracts_as-of-Apr-29.pdf

Conference

ConferenceDoes “Invisible Privilege” Travel?: Looking Beyond the Geographies of White Privilege
Country/TerritorySingapore
Period2/05/193/05/19
Internet address

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