Academics from Polytechnic University on Monday suggested that all local tertiary institutions should include short trips to the mainland in their courses for students, saying the visits would help boost young people’s national identity.
A team at the university’s Applied Social Sciences Department polled 380 local students who had taken part in such trips across the border.In the first half of last year – before the anti-extradition protests erupted.
The students, from the city's eight government-funded universities, had joined various cultural, learning or volunteering tours and programmes during the 2018-2019 academic year.
The majority of them agreed that the trips had strengthened their identity as a Chinese citizen and enhanced their “cross-cultural communication skills”, the researchers said.
Professor Daniel Shek, chair professor at the department, said the findings show that increased interaction with mainland students is beneficial.
"I would explain it in terms of a social psychological theory that the more you get contact with the people or the object, actually you will begin to know more about it and then you will begin to identify with it," he said during an online press briefing.
"So more contact will be good, so that the students can know more, they can interact more...and eventually it will change their sense of identity."
Shek said universities should consider including optional short trips to the mainland in all undergraduate programmes, with the government providing additional resources to promote and subsidise those visits.
"Putting them in the curriculum does not mean the students have no choice... say for service learning, they can choose not to perform the service learning project in China, they can do it elsewhere or in Hong Kong."
Because the survey was carried out prior to the social unrest last year, Shek admitted that the outcome could be different if it was conducted again now. He said he and his team would continue to study the matter.