The role of civic education in developing a sense of national identity : action research in a Hong Kong primary school
There is a major concern in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region that civic education in schools is not able to prepare committed and active citizens for the national community after her re-unification with the People's Republic of China. To develop practical understanding for informing and improving teachers' practice in this marginalized but increasingly important curriculum area at the primary level, this study investigated how civic education, implemented via a primary school subject, General Studies, could contribute to the development of children's sense of national identity. Through action research into the development and implementation of a school-based General Studies unit, this study examined how the General Studies teachers perceived citizenship and civic education and its impact on children's civic learning. It also investigated the major problems and issues that emerged in adopting a permeation approach to civic education. The participative research involved the head teacher, all the General Studies teachers and in particular four teachers who worked in collaboration with the researcher in developing and implementing the school-based civic education project for 145 Primary 5 pupils in the pilot school. It employed multiple methods to investigate the development of the project, including: surveys, interviews, lesson observations, participant observations in preparatory meetings, analysis of journals and curriculum documents. The findings indicated that the school-based project achieved limited success in fostering children's sense of national identity. Difficulties encountered in the development and implementation of the project were mainly related to teachers’ understanding of the concept of citizenship and civic education and their lack of experience in promoting civic learning in the primary school. But the participative research did lend itself to better understanding of some very important issues related to the teaching and learning of civic education, such as teachers' perceptions of citizenship, civic education and the civic mission of the schools, the adoption of a permeation approach to civic education via the General Studies curriculum, the teaching of civic values through General Studies topics, and the development of a participative culture in the primary schools. These should help to further develop the civic education curriculum in the HKSAR.