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Enhancing Executive Functioning in Children Living in Low-income Families: Cantonese Opera and Social-emotional Learning Intervention

Project Scheme:
General Research Fund
Project Year:
2018/2019
Project Leader:
Dr CHEUNG, Chi Kin
(Department of Asian and Policy Studies)
Enhancing Executive Functioning in Children Living in Low-income Families: Cantonese Opera and Social-emotional Learning Intervention

This study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of a training programme of Cantonese opera as a culturally appropriate physical activity in enhancing EFs among Hong Kong Chinese children living in low-income families. This study will compare the effectiveness of Cantonese Opera training with the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning (RULER) in classroom interactions on development of EF.

A growing body of literature has shown that the negative development outcome of child poverty results from the under-development of Executive Functioning (EF) in poor children, and interventions that involve physical activity, that are complex, novel and diverse, is most effective in enhancing EFs. Based on these lessons, this study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of a training programme of Cantonese opera as a culturally appropriate physical activity in enhancing EFs among Hong Kong Chinese children living in low-income families. This study will compare the effectiveness of Cantonese Opera training with the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning (RULER) in classroom interactions on development of EF. We will also investigate the various mediating factors, including stress level, loneliness, quality of sleep and physical fitness, on the effectiveness of the interventions programmes. The proposed study is a 12-month cluster randomised, controlled intervention trial in which 290 primary school students aged 7 and 9 from low-income families will be recruited. They will be randomly assigned to one of the following four groups: 1) students learn and practise Cantonese opera only; 2) students’ classroom receives the RULER intervention only; 3) students learn Cantonese opera and their classroom receives the RULER interaction; and 4) students do not learn Cantonese opera and their classroom does not receive the RULER intervention. Both Cantonese opera and the RULER intervention will be implemented for one year. To assess the outcome of intervention, we will measure children’s EF using the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Batteries (CANTAB). Children’s academic attainment in Chinese, English, and Mathematics will be assessed by the LAMK. With respect to the mediating variables, we will measure children’s level of depression by the Beck Depression Inventory–II. The Chinese version of the UCLA Loneliness Scale will be used to assess children’s loneliness. Physical fitness will be measured by the Multistage 20-m Shuttle Run test. The EF, academic achievement and mediating variables will be measured three times, first during the baseline assessment before the intervention, the second immediately after the intervention, and the last one will be conducted one year after the intervention. Results from the study will inform policy makers on the effectiveness of Cantonese opera training and the RULER Approach to Social and Emotional Learning (RULER) in classroom interactions on reducing the negative impact of poverty on children’s EF.