Understanding young Chinese Australian's (dis)engagement in Health and Physical Education and school sport

Bonnie Pang, Doune Macdonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (SciVal)


Background: School Health and Physical Education (HPE) and sport has increasingly become a complex cultural contact zone. With global population shifts, schools need policies and strategies to attend to the interests and needs of diverse student populations. School HPE and sport is a particularly significant site as it is a touchpoint for a range of cultural values and practices related to physical activity, the body, health and lifestyle proprieties. Purpose: While there is a high Chinese student population in Australian schools, little research has been undertaken to understand their needs, experiences and perceptions in schools HPE and sport. In addition, research in the physical activity field is accentuated by paradigms that assume and perpetuate the binary notion of cultural beliefs and practices such as ‘West’ versus ‘East’ and in association with ‘Normal’ versus ‘Problematic’ lifestyles in relation to physical activity. We argue that, without conceding the epistemological understanding of ‘difference’, policies and practices that promote diversity can remain socially unjust and superficial. Research design: This paper focuses on two schools in Queensland. The data collection process was underpinned by critical and interpretive ethnographic methods. The participants in Sage College consisted of seven girls of whom three were in Year 8, three in Year 9 and one in Year 10. At Routledge State High, a state-owned, secular and coeducational secondary school, the cohort consisted of two girls in Year 8, one girl and two boys from Year 9. Results: This paper draws on Bourdieu's concepts of habitus, capital, field and doxa and the Chinese Confucianism philosophy of ‘Complementary difference’ to understand the various perceptions and experiences of young Chinese Australians in schools HPE and sport. Results invite us to seek an understanding of students’ subjectivities and disrupt the binary differences in cultural values and attributes to promote multicultural education. Conclusion and recommendation: Moving beyond the Australia's Anglo-Celtic centred HPE and the limitations of a Western view of exclusive opposites, this paper makes an original contribution to knowledge by presenting a ‘heuristic of difference’ model that accommodates Western and Chinese perspectives in Australian HPE research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-458
Number of pages18
JournalPhysical Education and Sport Pedagogy
Issue number4
Early online date15 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Association for Physical Education.

Copyright 2016 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Bourdieu
  • Confucianism complementary difference
  • Health and Physical Education
  • multicultural education
  • young Chinese

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Education
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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