Citizenship and Multiple Identities in a Multileveled Polity: The Perspectives of Students in Beijing, China

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In recent years there has been a remarkable growth of academic interest in advocating new thinking about citizenship and citizenship education in the age of globalization. Some studies have argued for transforming citizenship education from nation-state-oriented model to a multileveled framework comprising four major dimensions – personal, local, national and global, to help students acquire the knowledge, skills, and values needed for a new identity within and beyond national borders. Many societies have incorporated the ideas of multileveled citizenship into their citizenship education policies and/or curricula. Yet, little is known about what students actually receive and develop. This study aims to fill in this gap.

With reference to Beijing, the study investigates students’ perceptions of multiple identities at above-mentioned four dimensions, and factors that influence students’ construction of multiple identities in a multileveled polity. Data are drawn from the analysis of textbooks and school documents, as well as questionnaire surveys and interviews conducted in three schools in Beijing in March-April 2008.

The study finds that students showed strong identification with the nation-state, strong interests in participation in global community, and strong will to develop good personal-social relations. However, they paid relatively less attention to the importance of local identity. Findings suggest that students are not only consumers of citizenship education, but also active actors in the construction of multiple identities. Their attachments to the global/national/local communities are not merely determined by what educational providers deem important, but also influenced by their impression of, and participation in, the communities. Being members of the national capital city of China, students’ local identities overlap with national identities. In this sense, multileveled citizenship education is facing a challenge of helping students understand how multiple identities are interrelated in a dynamic way in a specific context of a multileveled polity.


Keywords: Citizenship Education, Multiple Identities, Globalization, China
Stream: Equity, Social Justice and Social Change; Community, Culture, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Su-Yan Pan

Research Assistant Professor, Faculty 0f Education, The University of Hong Kong
Hong Kong, China

Su-Yan Pan is research assistant professor in the Faculty of Education, The
University of Hong Kong. She has published articles in international journals including Journal of Education Policy, International Journal of Educational Development, Journal of Studies in International Education, Higher Education Policy, and Education and the Law. Her research interests include higher education, citizenship education, education and law, and educational reform and social changes in China.

Ref: L09P0228