Being <i>non -bumiputera</i>: Ethnic Chinese youths' modes of resistance and identity formation. An ethnographic study of the impact of the National Language Act and Quota System Policy at a Malaysian national secondary school

2004 2004

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Abstract (summary)

This ethnographic study, set against the backdrop of the National Effective School Reform of 1998 and situated within the context of the National Language Act of 1967 and the Quota System Policy of 1970, focuses on the relationship between ethnic Chinese youths' resistance modes and identity formation. The language act and quota system, designed to facilitate national unity and reduce social inequity, actually sharpen racial differences and create internal hegemony. Extensive fieldwork consisting of observations, interviews, and surveys provide empirical data for three central research questions examined. I trace the origins and trends of the language act and quota system to contextualize the empirical evidence and review three sets of empirical scholarships (critical theories, postcolonial studies, and sociolinguistics) to conceptualize research findings.

Facing Malay-centric, teaching practices and disciplinary approaches for the first time, ethnic Chinese students in national high schools exhibit two distinct resistance modes. High achievers downplay ethnic ancestry, accumulate language capital through tutoring, and obey school rules. Low achievers highlight ethnic ancestry, accumulate vocational capital through apprenticeship, and defy school rules. Substantial support and higher expectation from parents contribute to the academic success of male high achievers. Inadequate support and low expectation from parents result in the academic failure of female low achievers. Furthermore, parental belief in the rewards of school success, but distrust toward school personnel contributes to the compliance of high achievers. Parental trust toward school personnel, but disbelief in school rewards leads to the defiance of low achievers.

This ethnographic study provides policymakers and educators with first-hand information to evaluate the national effective school reform. More specifically, it generates intimate insights into the types of academic challenges and behavioral problems facing students. In addition, this study adds to the youth resistance literature in two ways. First, through its basis in grounded theory methodology, this study develops an empirically relevant and practically applicable conceptual framework to improve educational quality and to facilitate social equity. Second, by weaving together personal narratives and systemic analysis, this study demonstrates a joint analysis from both the micro and macro perspectives through the effective use of social dramas, portraitures, and vignettes to represent data.

Indexing (details)

School administration;
Cultural anthropology;
Minority & ethnic groups;
0514: School administration
0290: Linguistics
0326: Cultural anthropology
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Education; Language, literature and linguistics; Chinese; Identity formation; Malaysian; National Language Act; Quota System Policy; Resistance; Secondary school; Youths
Being <i>non -bumiputera</i>: Ethnic Chinese youths' modes of resistance and identity formation. An ethnographic study of the impact of the National Language Act and Quota System Policy at a Malaysian national secondary school
Kee, Geok Hwa
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 65/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780496919444, 049691944X
Porter, Maureen
University of Pittsburgh
University location
United States -- Pennsylvania
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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