Youth civic participation: Do socializing agents matter?

Shun Wing NG

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers

Abstract

The study of civil society and its relations with democratization and market economy has been in vogue in recent years. Civil society refers to the arena of uncoerced collective action around shared interests, purposes and values (Centre of Civic Society 2009). It is composed of the totality of voluntary civil society organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state. To many theorists, civil society organizations need to struggle to enlarge the public sphere of civil society in developing a democratic society through the process of negotiating and re-negotiating with the government (Ma 2007). Hong Kong has been regarded as one of the freest market economies with sufficient civil liberties. Yet, the freedom adhere d to Hong Kong’s civil society has not been able to help realize democratization before and after returning of sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997. In the era of colonial rule, citizenship education was characterized by depoliticization in which the British government did not allow schools to do any form of political education in schools before the 1990s and there was a lack of any democratic values and critical thinking skills in the content of civic education or social studies curriculum (Ng 2010; Yuen & Byram 2007). This governmental behaviour of depoliticization had led to a lack of political education which helped breed politically alienated young generation in the colonial times. Being remarkably similar to the colonial government, the re-depoliticizing of citizenship education is again prevailing in the post-1997 Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) which has rendered relatively strong civil but weak political rights to the Hong Kong people in which the intention of developing youngsters with the ideology of participatory democracy and active citizens is minimized (Fairbrother 2005). Though the Basic law allows a gradual progression to full democracy in Hong Kong, the Central Government of China and the SAR government seem unwilling to grant full democracy but devise a certain means to limit its development and activities of the civil society (Ma 2007). However, while Hong Kong people had been found behaving passively in the post-1997 era, there were several groups of youngsters from secondary schools and tertiary institutions took initiatives to participate in the mass demonstration in recently to urge for human rights, freedom of speech and civic education instead of national education. These students may be minority of those of the same age group but they are specific samples of participatory citizens who are equipped with the quality of democratic citizenship. Thus, what makes the investigator interested is: (1) how they are politically socialized, (2) the process through which they construct the conception of participatory citizenship; (3) who are the socializing agents and (4) the characteristics of formation of the attitudes towards civic responsibility in the socialization process. To contextualize 18 Julian Stern – Social and Moral Fabric of the School – Notes – August 2014 18 the above-mentioned questions, the investigator adopted the interpretive qualitative method to conduct interviews with some purposively selected secondary students and civic education teachers. Findings demonstrate that teachers, NGOs, religious beliefs were the key socializing agents that contribute to the youth’s possession of critical mindsets and deep beliefs in pursuing democracy and social justice. The sampled students unintentionally constructed and reconstructed their civic identity by means of social inquiry and social actions in this study.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

Citation

Ng, S. W. (2014, August). Youth civic participation: Do socializing agents matter? Paper presented at 8th International Conference: Social & Moral Fabric of Schooling, Beverley, UK.

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