Editorial – Opportunities and challenges in cultural integration and global education – Tracy Zou

As Chinese New Year is approaching, a friend from US said to me,

‘Happy Chinese New Year! Hey, what year is this?’


‘No…No…I mean the animal.’

‘Chicken! Oh, no…not chicken. The Rooster.’

‘Oh, yeah…it is that bird.’

The little conversation reminded me that many of our habits and routines are culturally rooted. Culture is attractive to many people. Perhaps one of the reasons is because it is mysterious and difficult to fully understand to both insiders and outsiders. Why is it a rooster, not a hen, a duck or a goose? I do not know the reason (though I am a Chinese) but I suspect that it is something originated from the Chinese culture.

An interesting aspect of culture is that it separates people but also connects them in one way or another. In the agenda of internationalisation of teaching and learning, we can clearly see the influence of cultural elements. For example, having cultural awareness and sensitivity is one of the essential qualities to become a global citizen who can work with people from different backgrounds. An internationalised curriculum needs to engage students in meaningful multicultural and multidisciplinary conversations.

Issue 4 of Teaching and Learning Connections is devoted to the cultural aspects of internationalisation of teaching and learning. Each of the articles is associated with culturally related opportunities and challenges:

Opportunities and challenges of cultural integration

Dr. Kevin Yung’s article explored cultural integration in the residential halls at HKU through a narrative approach. He has vividly illustrated the struggles of local and non-local students in the process of engaging in multicultural conversations. According to Dr. Yung, having students from different backgrounds together in the same physical space does not mean that the multicultural conversations will take place. Efforts need to be made to prepare the mindset and the language competence for students.

Dr. Edward Chan leverages the similarities and differences between cultures in Hong Kong and South Korea to design a course on child abuse. By examining the cultural impact on the issue and building a case bank, Hong Kong and South Korean students worked together and gained a much deeper and more thorough understanding of the topic. Dr. Chan also helped connect students from the two regions and some of them later became friends.

In the interview with Ms. Candace Mok, we discussed another version of cultural integration – experiential learning across cultures. As part of the new initiatives of the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) programme in the Faculty of Education, Ms. Mok brought students to teach in a primary school in Delhi. The moments of joy, satisfaction, surprise, and frustration were all shared during the interview.

Creating global education

Dr. Susan Bridges discusses the ‘Ideal School’ project in initial teacher education and how it develops global attributes among students. This is a continued success built upon the International Peer Review (IPR) project originally established in Dentistry. The relevant article contributed by Dr. Chu Chun Hung from Dentistry can be found in our previous issue (Issue 3).

Dr. Julie Chen has explored the possibility of bringing students the awareness and knowledge of global health through providing students with local experiential learning opportunities. After studying the experiential learning programme for medical students in HKU and that in the University of British Columbia, she concludes that well-designed experiential learning ‘at home’ could create valuable global health education opportunities for students.

Recognising the importance of cultural sensitivity and teamwork skills for future engineers, Dr. Chui Chun Kit shares his insights of creating global computing education and developing professional skills among his undergraduate students. Inspired by discussions with scholars and educators in National University of Singapore (NUS), Dr. Chui plans to establish collaborative work platforms through building education alliances among top universities around the world.

Among many other important aspects of internationalisation, we chose to pick ‘culture’ as the theme not only because it is interesting and fascinating, but also because it is an integral part that connects people and ties many other elements together in the agenda of internationalisation of teaching and learning.

Would you like to share with us your opinion?
We are looking forward to hearing your opinions. Please email your views to us (tracyzou@hku.hk) or simply voice your opinion in the Poll through one click.

Would you like to contribute to future issues of Teaching and Learning Connections?
Please express your ideas through emails to tracyzou@hku.hk. I am happy to discuss with you and assist you in the publication process.

Stay tuned with us.

Alice Lee
Dr. Tracy Zou

Editor of ‘Teaching and Learning Connections’
Assistant Professor
Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning
The University of Hong Kong

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