The Making and Governing of Hong Kong Teachers Since 1980s: A Foucauldian Perspective

Year: 2019

Author: Lin, Min, Zhao, Weili

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Foucault’s notion of governmentality (1988) investigates the relations between technologies of self and technologies of domination, and the constitution of the subject and the formation of the state. It is not about who does the governing but about how governing is carried out through “the conduct of conduct”, effected through “the contact between the technologies of domination of others and those of the self” (p. 19). This understanding of governmentality allows us to situate our examination of teachers’ identity and mode of being within a negotiation or confrontation between forms of power, rather than institutions of power or groups or classes, and through governing technologies of self and others.

In this paper, we pick up Foucault’s governmentality framework to examine the making and governing of Hong Kong teachers since the 1980s when the de-centralization of curriculum reforms was initiated. Hong Kong, due to varied historical-political-cultural reasons, features itself as a special region wherein both Eastern traditional and Western modern-global ways of thinking have co-existed and thrived over a hundred years. Then to what extent and in which ways do these different cultural-historical ways of thinking as well as neoliberal technologies of governance like surveillance and accountability play with or against each other in shaping and governing teachers’ life and work in current Hong Kong?

With a discourse analysis method, we read into the local policy documents and our interviews with a representative group of 27 local teachers along the three dimensions of “teacher-student relationship”, “teacher-parent ordering” and “teacher-society negotiation”. Our research findings show that the post-1980 decentralization curriculum reforms, neo-liberalization of education, the school-based management system, and the accountability measures, all as technologies of domination of others, have profoundly impacted local teachers’ work and life. Reductively put, teachers are being deprofessionalized, their workload has been intensified, and the power of “stakeholders” such as parents and students are rising but teachers’ authority is shrinking in the context of education reforms. However, cultural legacy of traditional Confucian values such as respecting teachers (zunshizhongdao) and familism preserve as technologies of self and still manifest teachers ideologically and behaviorally. These varied social-historical-cultural factors, structural conditions and institutional mechanism are making and governing Hong Kong teachers in a way not totally reducible to the neoliberatlization of education.