Is Transition to University an Emotionally Straining Pursuit?: A Case Study of Community-College Students Seeking a Second Chance in Hong Kong

Monday, 16 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Yi-Lee WONG, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
In view of global development, educational expansion has been taken as a human resources development policy that seeks to equip students with knowledge and skills appropriate to an ever changing economy in a post-industrial era. Consequently, the youth as the prospective workforce are urged to obtain at least a higher qualification, which is necessary, although not sufficient, for seeking social mobility or at least for avoiding being marginalized in an increasingly competitive labour market. Given this individualized discourse on explaining the outcome of educational equity, individual youngsters are expected to bear all the cost involved in social advancement through education; it is then argued that the transition to university against a post-industrialized capitalist context becomes emotionally straining. Taking up this issue, this paper refers to a case study of community-college students in contemporary Hong Kong in order to examine the emotional aspect of their pursuit of a bachelor’s degree through a new option brought by the community college policy – the transfer function of associate degree – launched in year 2000. Throughout the course of this pursuit, respondents, despite their sense of hope initially, had to cope with negative emotions associated with the socially perceived inferiority of this option, its competitiveness, and its gloomy prospects for transferal. Without challenging the structural design of the education system – the quota policy on the number of places at university for the relevant age – but essentially tackling educational inequity by encouraging individual students to pursue a bachelor’s degree through an expensive and risky option of transferal, this community-college policy keeps the status quo intact and also somehow gives many students a false hope hurting their feelings. While the effectiveness of the policy could be challenged on the grounds of social wastage of human resources, this should also be questioned on emotional grounds.