Popular culture goes to school in Hong Kong: Troubling the articulation of the "learning English through popular culture" curriculum

Aaron Soon Lee KOH

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Come August 2009, schools in Hong Kong will be rolling out a new Language Arts Elective called "Learning English Through Popular Culture" to be offered to the Senior Form. This new Popular Culture elective in the New Senior Curriculum is of analytic interest as Hong Kong is the first schooling system, at least in Asia, to take Popular Culture seriously and translate it as "curriculum-as-knowledge" in the national curriculum. While the relationship between Popular Culture and its relevance for schooling and classroom pedagogies has been explored in educational research, in the last decade or so, research conducted in this field has yielded a somewhat tentative and predictable finding often expressed as "pedagogical implications for literacy education and curriculum development" and, as isolated case studies. Yet the Hong Kong education system has taken up what appears to be a bold move to re-design its English Language Curriculum to include Popular Culture - a new curriculum that ostensibly takes into consideration students' interests in popular cultural texts to promote the learning of English. Promising as this new curriculum might be, there are however inherent pedagogical trouble spots in the spelled out curriculum. This paper critically examines and unpacks the articulation of the pedagogical knowledge of the new elective. Although the "curriculum-in-use" remains to be seen, I argue in this paper that the pedagogical investments of this new elective as defined in the curriculum, is reduced to "reading" and "writing" text types, where students are likely to be locked into a procedural way of "thinking" and "doing" popular cultural texts. I suggest how a critical pedagogical practice might be a more productive way of teaching the popular culture curriculum.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


popular culture
Hong Kong
curriculum development
educational research
education system
English language


Koh, A. (2009, June). Popular culture goes to school in Hong Kong: Troubling the articulation of the "learning English through popular culture" curriculum. Paper presented at the Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference: Designing New Learning Contexts for a Globalising World, National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


  • Curriculum design/reform
  • Popular culture