Cultural Capital and Academic Achievement in Hong Kong

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:45 PM
Room: 301
Oral Presentation
Soo-yong BYUN , Education Policy Studies, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA
Suet-ling PONG , Population Research Institute, Penn State, University Park
Participation in high-brow culture (e.g., visits at museums or art gallery, attendance at an opera or classical symphony concert) has been of particular interests to sociologists of education in many Western countries as it has been widely used as a measure of cultural capital. In recent years, this high-brow cultural participation increasingly draws the attention of sociologists of education in other parts of the world: East Asia. Unlike evidence showing the positive effect in most Western countries, however, evidence in some East Asian countries suggests that excessive cultural participation may have negative consequences for academic performance. Yet more research is needed to establish the relationship between high-brow cultural activities and academic achievement in East Asian educational systems. In this study, we address this issue by studying the role of cultural capital in Hong Kong. Hong Kong provides a very unique setting of studying cultural capital because of its Chinese history and British colonial experience, which is often referred to as “a meeting place of East and West.” In other words, Hong Kong’s educational system has many similarities with those of other East Asian societies, for example, in terms of a highly competitive school setting and a heavy reliance on shadow education due to the high-stakes exams, while having many Western cultural characteristics influenced by the British Empire. Indeed, our analyses of 2000 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) suggest that cultural capital defined as high-brow cultural participation has a diminishing return for math achievement. We discuss a broader theoretical and empirical implication of this result beyond and above the context of Hong Kong.