How is learning negotiated between children from a Chinese heritage and their parents?

Year: 2018

Author: Mok, Angel

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Research studies on Chinese children often focus on parenting styles and/or school-aged children’s academic performance. In studies of academic performance, Chinese children are often positioned as obedient, diligent and compliant to authorities. How they negotiate relationships in their learning is often overlooked. On the other hand, work in the sociology of childhood positions children as capable, resourceful and social actors who actively participate in decision making in their lives. These two seemingly conflicting images of children are examined in a study that investigates cultural identity and maths learning of children from a Chinese background living in Sydney. Narrative inquiry approach was adopted in both the collection and analysis of data in this empirical study. Parents and children in six families and their school teachers were interviewed individually. A journal diary was given to parents in each family to record their children’s after-school activities in a week. As well, children’s engagement and interactions with both the teachers and classmates in the class were observed. Subsequently, parents’ and children’s experiences around the themes of identity, culture, immigration, and maths learning were represented in the family narratives.
By examining children’s views and actions through different images of childhood, this paper explores how power plays out in Chinese children’s negotiation of learning with their parents. By listening to the stories of two primary school children of Chinese heritage living in Sydney, it was found that these young children make decisions, sometimes independently, of what they want and how to learn. They were aware of their agency in the relationships with their parents, which they exercised to shape their social worlds. Within the space of education that is highly valued in Chinese families, their stories provide insights into how children of Chinese heritage are social actors, in their own ways, and thus illustrates different ways in which children can (and do) exercise agency. Understanding these different agentic strategies is important for educators working with CALD children as they play a key role in creating opportunities for children to develop their agency.