Pre-service English teachers’ perceptions of newly arrived children from Mainland China

May. 10, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 2, 140–154, 2014. 
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The study examined how a group of pre-service English language teachers perceived immigrant children from Mainland China in terms of learning attitudes, academic performance and classroom behaviour.

Seventeen participants, who had at least 10 weeks of experience working with these immigrant children during teaching practicum, participated in focus group discussions and shared their perceptions.
The participants were all female, Year 3 and Year 4 pre-service English language teachers in a four-year Bachelor of Education programme at a major teacher education institution in Hong Kong.


The findings confirm the prevalence of the ‘deficit model’ in these pre-service teachers’ perceptions of immigrant children, which might negatively impact their professional practice.
The participants widely perceived these children as deficit and consider them a serious professional challenge.

The study also revealed that the participants’ perceptions were closely associated with the mass media as well as their life and teaching practicum experiences.
The mass media were found to have promoted the ‘deficit model’ of immigrants among the participants.
The media coverage perhaps also reinforced individuals’ negative perceptions of immigrants. For this reason, pre-service teachers should be encouraged to scrutinise critically the mass media coverage on immigrants in teacher education programmes.
In the case of this study, the participants need to question seriously the mass media coverage on immigrants from Mainland China and acknowledge the ‘complexity of profile’ in the context of immigrant children from Mainland China (Boyle and Charles 2011, 302).

The findings in the study indicate that life and teaching practicum experiences are more likely to reinforce the prevalence of the ‘deficit model’ in teachers’ perceptions of immigrants if these experiences are not properly analysed and re-interpreted.
Pre-service teachers such as the participants in the inquiry need to be encouraged to reflect on their real life encounters with immigrant children to understand how their perceptions had been shaped by such encounters.
Moreover, they need to evaluate their continued interactions with immigrant children as a crucial part of their professional engagement.
Such self-evaluation may also help teachers to address biases in their professional judgments and develop appropriate strategies when teaching immigrant children.
Therefore, it is also important to encourage pre-service teachers to interrogate the wider sociocontextual processes that engender and sustain deep seated, long held views about immigrants and immigrant children in teacher education programmes.


The findings call for teacher education programmes to involve pre-service teachers in critical engagement with the mass media and their own experiences so that they can address the deficit model applied by teachers to immigrant children.
The authors argue that teacher educators need to adapt the current teacher education programmes so that they can prepare pre-service teachers for the challenge of addressing classroom diversity emanating from the growing number of immigrant children.

Boyle, B., and M. Charles. 2011. “Education in a Multicultural Environment: Equity Issues in Teaching and Learning in the School System in England.” International Studies in Sociology of Education 21 (4): 299–314.

Updated: Jan. 06, 2016