|The future of
Education in Hong Kong
Professor Ruth Hayhoe, Director of The Hong Kong Institute of
Education, was the Foundation's guest speaker on 24 November 1998. This is a summary of
I have been intimately involved in a visioning process for our Institute, and this has
involved looking into the future, the early part of the 21st
century and imagining what kind of education we would like to see.
I think the first basic principle that has struck us is the need to begin with each and
every child, to begin with a belief that each child has unique potential in different
areas, intellectual, aesthetic, physical, social, moral. It is up to the teacher to
identify the unique constellation of ability in each child under their care, and provide
conditions for it to develop in a natural and unforced way.
The experiences that children have in their earliest learning experience outside the
family, in kindergarten or nursery school, are likely to shape their attitudes towards
learning throughout their lives. Thus early childhood education has the greatest potential
leverage in terms of raising the quality of all of Hong Kong's people.
I think there are a number of things about early learning that are particularly
important. The first is that natural inclinations are identified and encouraged, and the
process of learning is a kind of blossoming, a joyful and natural process, rather than a
pressurized and painful process. The second is that children learn to observe and
understand their own learning process - to be self aware as they learn, and to experience
the empowerment that comes as they put forward their own theories, test them through
dialogue, play, experimentation or observation, and come to grasp basic principles of how
the world around them functions. The term megacognition is often used for this
self-awareness in the learning process. In this kind of learning process, children will
experience the satisfaction that comes with understanding basic principles, and gain a
foundation very early in their lives for lifelong learning. They will become literally
addicted to learning - unable to tolerate the passing of a single day without the
satisfaction of deepening their understanding and knowledge.
|The first basic principle that has struck us is the need to begin with a belief
that each child has unique potential in different areas, intellectual, aesthetic,
physical, social, moral.
There has been a strong tendency for education systems in Asia to be shaped from the
top down, through a kind of pyramidal pattern which is shaped by the examination system
determining entry to university. All parents want their children to enjoy the prestige and
potential social status that comes from university education, and so university entry
examinations determine the secondary school curriculum and the kinds of activities that
are valued in the secondary school, and even the primary school curriculum. All those who
are not likely to enter university, either because their intellectual potential was not
identified and encouraged at an early age or because their talents lie in areas not highly
valued by the university, such as the creative arts, physical education, and various
technical fields, are likely to feel marginalized and unimportant. There is little
satisfaction or reward for the development of their talents through the school system,
only a sense of failure when they complete their schooling.
Hong Kong's commitment to a nine-year basic edcuation, and the protection of primary
education through the unified secondary allotment system prevents the worst of these
pressures upon primary education. However, the five bands for secondary education are now
more and more clearly known to students and parents, due to the freedom of information
act, and it is difficult for those assigned to Band Four and Five schools to escape the
sense of having been labelled as inferior. Form four to form seven, the four years after
compulsory education, tend to be entirely dominated by the Certificate of Education and
A-Level examination systems, leaving students who do not score well at either of these
levels believing themselves to be a failure in the eyes of their parents and those around
them. In reality, they should feel satisfaction and empowerment in relation to the
subjects they have learned effectively, even if they have not reached the standards
demanded by the university. I can only hope that these issues of structure and examination
systems will be addressed in the review of the education and examination systems now
underway by two sub-committees of the Education Commission.
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My vision for the future education of children and young people in Hong Kong is one which
turns the traditional Asian-style pyramid upside down. Early childhood education should
lay a foundation that influences the whole system from the bottom up - starting children
on a journey of joyful and effective learning, with the identification and development of
special areas of potential by themselves and their teachers, that cannot be repressed by
later school experiences. Early childhood education is regarded internationally as
covering children's development from birth to eight years old. If a totally new approach
can take effect, there is a real possibility here for transforming formal classrooms into
places of enquiry shaped by student curiosity and the natural unfolding of talent in
mathematics, language, the arts and the natural environment, throughout the nine years of
Almost every child in Hong Kong will be taught by a teacher who has
graduated from the Hong Kong Institute of Education, whether this be at kindergarten,
primary or lower secondary level. Other tertiary institutions in Hong Kong make a very
important contribution to teacher education and research at higher levels and in
specialist niche areas, but we are the only institution which has the potential of
reaching out to each and every child through the teachers that are formed here and then go
out into kindergartens and schools in all parts of Hong Kong. This is both a great
privilege and a huge responsibility.
We have been entrusted with remarkable facilities and resources that should enable us
to transform the education process for all children from the bottom up. I hope we can
contribute to a revolution that raises the quality of all Hong Kong citizens to a level
appropriate to Hong Kong's role as a special administrative region of China and a major
international city in the Asia Pacific and in the world community.
The above does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation.