Motivation and Commitment: Pre-Service Teachers from Hong Kong and Mainland China at a Training Institute in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

Every year, mainland China sends numerous undergraduate and postgraduate students to study abroad at English-medium universities (Tan & Simpson, 2008), a large number of whom attend Hong Kong universities (Li & Bray, 2007), including the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The Institute is Hong Kong's principle local teacher education institution, with its graduates accounting for around 80% of kindergarten teachers, 84% of primary school teachers and 30% of secondary school teachers in Hong Kong. In the academic year of 2005-2006, 10% of the students admitted to the Institute's English Department were from mainland China; in the following two academic years, mainland students accounted for 18% and 62% of student intake, respectively.

Upon graduation, these mainland Chinese prospective student teachers would be eligible for employment in local secondary and primary schools. However, differences between the linguistic and cultural backgrounds of these cross-border prospective student teachers and their local counterparts may make it difficult for the former to become qualified teachers in Hong Kong. Whereas, Putonghua has long been the medium of instruction for all primary and secondary students in mainland China, Hong Kong's unique mix of Cantonese, Putonghua, and English makes for a more complex and diverse linguistic phenomenon (Li, 2009). Most mainland prospective student teachers have Putonghua as their first language and only a small number of them, those from Guangdong province, can speak Cantonese. Furthermore, the cross-border students have no experience of studying in such local schools, which may be considered to be at a disadvantage compared with their local peers.

Research indicates that historical and social backgrounds influence individuals' motivation to teach and their commitment to teaching (Gordon, 2000; Su, Hawkins, Huang & Zhao, 2001). This article reports on a comparative study exploring the motivation to teach and the commitment to teaching among non-local prospective student teachers from mainland China and their Hong Kong local counterparts.

Motivations to Teach, Commitment to Teaching, and Professional Identities

It is individuals' motivation to teach that draws them to become teachers, sustains their commitment to teach, and promotes their professional knowledge (Day, Elliot, & Kington 2005). Research across a variety of participant groups suggests that people entering pre-service teacher education share a number of common motivating factors, including a desire to work with or benefit students, a sense of altruism or a wish to make a difference in their community or society through teaching, the influence of parents, former teachers, peers or relatives, and the perceived benefits of a teaching job such as career security, vacations, and salary (Sinclair, 2008).

While research into motivation to teach has tended to focus on pre-service teachers' initial motives for becoming teachers, these can change in response to their educational experience and 'real' teaching experience during teaching practica (Sinclair, 2008). Previous studies on commitment to teaching have mainly focused on qualified teachers. Existent studies have identified various factors that affect in-service teachers' commitment to teaching, such as their teaching achievements, ethnic backgrounds, and gender (Hart & Murphy, 1990; Sinclair, 2008). Research has also suggested a relationship between teachers' entry motivations and their continued commitment to teaching: those who enter teaching because of strong altruistic motives are more likely to be frustrated by a lack of evaluation of their work and guidance with respect to goals, and are thus more likely to leave teaching (Mieth & Elder, 1996). In addition, intrinsically motivated teachers have been found to be more committed to teaching than extrinsically motivated teachers (Martinez-Pons, 1990). An examination of the internal factors that drive pre-service teachers to enter and remain in the teaching profession, as well as situated and social impacts, is important for both pre-service and in-service retention (Sinclair, Dowson, & McInerney, 2006). …