Acculturative experiences of Pakistani secondary school students in Hong Kong: A phenomenographic inquiry

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


This study offers an in-depth understanding of acculturative experiences among a group of Pakistani secondary school students in Hong Kong. The study findings seek to report the various ways in which the research participants experience acculturation in the familial, communal, educational, and societal contexts and identify the various factors that facilitate or hinder their acculturation to mainstream society. The study employed a culture learning approach and adopted a strength-based perspective to understand the lived acculturative experiences of first-generation and second-generation Pakistani students (n-16) attending six different secondary schools in Hong Kong. Phenomenography as research methodology guided the study, and data was collected through in-depth semi-structured interviews. The phenomenographic data analysis aided by Nvivo software resulted in twenty-eight categories representing the different ways in which the research participants experience acculturation. The three findings chapters delineate what and how the participants learn about their heritage culture (enculturation) as well as other cultures (acculturation) and what factors hinder their acculturation to the mainstream society.
While growing up in the multicultural city of Hong Kong, the research participants not only learn about their social identities and acquire multiple languages but also learn about their heritage culture and other cultures. Although all the participants make sense of their social identities differently, their place of birth, ethnicity, nationality, and religious affiliation shape their hyphenated identities. The acquisition of linguistic capital in multiple languages, including mother tongue, Urdu, English, Cantonese, and Arabic, facilitate their learning about heritage culture and other cultures. Their everyday socialization across the social settings results in both their enculturation as well as acculturation.
Within the familial context, language preferences, dietary practices and ethnic cuisine, parenting styles and family relationships, the consumption of ethnic media, and daily domestic engagement proved to be the primary sources of their enculturation. Their religious education practices and participation in daily obligations further facilitate their learning about heritage culture. Attending public schools with non-Chinese students’ concentration, everyday teaching and learning with peers from diverse ethnic backgrounds, interactions with teachers, and academic engagement helped the research participants’ learning about other cultures and hence their acculturation. Their everyday intercultural encounters and socialization, experiences of difficulties in fulfilling ethnic needs, and the intercultural awareness through popular media in the larger society facilitated learning about both of their heritage culture and other cultural groups in Hong Kong.
As for the acculturative challenges, the study found several factors across the contexts of socialization that potentially hinder the participants’ acculturation to mainstream society. The lack of supportive conditions in the family, ethnic and non-Chinese friendships and socialization in the neighborhoods and community, the practice of segregated schools, lack of teachers’ sensitivity toward special educational needs among non-Chinese students, and the lack of social support and facilitation in schools account for their acculturative difficulties in Hong Kong. The incidents of prejudice and discrimination, the lack of interaction with locals, the lack of intercultural understanding, and the lack of accommodation towards ethnic needs and preferences in the larger society also hamper the participants’ acculturation to mainstream culture.
In light of these findings, the study discusses the potential theoretical, practical, and research implications. It also underscores the limitations of the study. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • HUE, Ming Tak, Supervisor
  • KENNEDY, Kerry John 甘國臻, Supervisor
  • GAO, Fang 高放, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Acculturation
  • Intercultural learning
  • Pakistani students
  • Phenomenography
  • Hong Kong
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2019.


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