Bringing together students from two cultures: Internationalisation and indigenisation – Edward Chan


Internationalisation and indigenisation are not just about learning other cultures. Through dialogue with people from different cultures, we have the chance to reflect upon our own culture. To facilitate intercultural dialogue, which is believed to be more effective in real-life situations, we designed an exchange programme for postgraduate Social Work students from HKU and Yonsei University, Seoul. We utilized a “case bank approach” to engage students from the two universities in exchange activities which aims at developing a new course named Asian Perspectives on Child Welfare. Participating students shared their knowledge and opinion with their cultural perspectives, and compared the similarities and differences of these two Asian cultures. They agreed that Korean and Chinese cultures share similar roots in Confucianism but have had very different trajectories of socio-economic development. Through such exchange activities, students had substantial opportunity to share their views and experiences with other young scholars.

The main theme of the course was child welfare in the Asian context. To facilitate discussion, we collected recent child abuse cases in South Korea and Hong Kong. These cases involved family violence, child death, incest, abuse on children with disability, corporal punishment, and child physical abuse. Students from Yonsei University and HKU conducted case analyses following a similar structure: (1) Background of the case and the family involved; (2) Definition and prevalence of the abuse; (3) Universal and culture-specific risk factors and protective factors; (4) Theories explaining the case and the controversial issues identified; (5) Need analysis and intervention (comparing international and national programmes); and (6) Culture-specific issues concerning the case. Students were engaged in 4 sessions of presentation and discussion for each case, and they shared their opinions focusing on the cultural issues related to child abuse and welfare.

Exchange visits and dialogue

To develop the groundwork for the intercultural dialogue, Dr. Clifton Emery from the School of Social Welfare, Yonsei University visited HKU and taught postgraduate students on social theories, child welfare, cultural perspective, and theory testing in research. A series of meetings were held during his visit with some research postgraduate students (RPGs) and me to develop the new course Asian Perspectives on Child Welfare. Later, I also visited Yonsei University and taught the course on child welfare. The course lasted for 36 hours, including lectures, tutorials, and individual consultations. It served as a solid experience in trial-running the course so as to test whether the course materials were relevant to the Korean and the Chinese cultures.

An E-seminar (online conference with Webinar) was also conducted for postgraduate students from Yonsei University and HKU. Students from both sides presented their projects related to culture and child abuse. Participants were actively involved in the discussion. They all found it very interesting and insightful to share with students from another country. The students themselves have even developed friendship. Some of them met again during the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development 2016, conducted in June, 2016, in Seoul, Korea. Four HKU RPGs previously attending the E-seminar were presenting at the conference and some PhD students from Yonsei University attended. I believe that the friendship and collaboration will continue among these young scholars who are working in the field of child welfare.

Insights and good practices

The use of the “case bank approach” was extremely effective for this project. Students gained insights on the Asian cultural perspectives through the process of preparation, presentation and discussion. The product of the case analyses by students will further be used as materials in future teaching. While most publications in this field are addressing the contexts in Western societies, these indigenous materials could be serving as great references to address the cultural issues in the Asian context in the future.

Dr. Edward KL Chan
Dr. Edward KL Chan

Associate Professor
Department of Social Work & Social Administration
Faculty of Social Sciences
The University of Hong Kong

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