Multiculturalism in the Classroom: Hong Kong Preschool Teachers' Beliefs and Practices

Project: Research project

Project Details


Preschool education is an essential part of the Hong Kong educational system, and teachers are an important element of high-quality, developmentally appropriate early childhood programs. A reform proposal in 2000 (Chan & Chan, 2003) emphasized the need to upgrade the professional competence of educators at all levels. One area of focus was multiculturalism, a focus that is particularly relevant in Hong Kong where ethnic minorities, who make up only 2% of the school population overall, are neglected in the Hong Kong education system until the 2008 Racial Discrimination Ordinance. These students, from diverse ethnic backgrounds such as Indian, Indonesian, Nepalese, Pakistani, Filippino and Thai, face many challenges, including lower academic achievement and difficulties learning Chinese as a foreign language, low family income, social adjustment problems and a lack social support (Chong, 2005; Hue, 2011; Hue & Kennedy, 2012; Kennedy & Hue, 2011). Teachers’ competence in educating students in a multicultural classroom is essential for these children’s success. Preschool teachers from the 40 kindergartens designated for ethnic minority students in Hong Kong will participate in this study. A mixed method of quantitative and qualitative analyses will be employed. Quantitative analyses will be based on three self-report questionnaires. The Teacher Beliefs and Practices Survey will assess early childhood educators’ beliefs and practices concerning culture and inclusion. This questionnaire is based on the 2009 guidelines for developmentally appropriate practice published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) in the United States. My past research on preschool teachers in Hong Kong (Leung, 2012) examined the specific types of beliefs and practices assessed by this questionnaire. One interesting finding was that there was a wide range of responses to an item related to cultural diversity, and this item was surprisingly uncorrelated with other items measuring beliefs and practices related to family, culture and inclusion. This finding suggests considerable variation in Hong Kong preschools teachers’ awareness of issues related to cultural diversity in the classroom. Another questionnaire measure based on the NAEYC guidelines, the Developmentally Appropriate Practice scale, was translated and validated by my previous research. Finally, the Multicultural Teaching Scale validated by Spanierman et al. (2011) will assess teachers’ perspectives and behaviors related to multicultural issues in the classroom. Qualitative analyses will be presented as case studies, based on classroom observations, school documents, and semi-structured interviews to investigate the classroom teaching and learning experiences of teachers and students, and to examine differences in these experiences across schools. Based on recent policy guidelines and previous research, the proposed research will examine: (1) preschool teachers’ conceptualizations of multiculturalism as part of developmentally appropriate practice; (2) schools’ influence on the need to create culturally sensitive environments; and (3) teachers’ professional development needs for the promotion of a multicultural learning environment. The results will inform government policymakers, school principals, and teacher education providers in their attempts to foster a multicultural approach in early childhood education.

Funding Source: RGC - General Research Fund (GRF)
Effective start/end date01/01/1531/12/17


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