A turning point: Global Education Project in Hong Kong

This is the fifth year KVT will have an Global Education Initiative, of which we are of course very proud of here at KVT! However, as well as educating global citizen’s in Finland, our international volunteers have taken the skills and methods they have learned back home with them, and on occasion they have developed the ideas further in their own countries.We have been pleased to see how the work and ideas of Global Education have become truly global! Below is an inspiring story from SCI Hong Kong.

A turning point:Global Education Project in Hong Kong

By Sudam Jayasinghe – Coordinator, SCI Hong Kong

In the year 2012, Hunag Pik Lam (Pat), a founder member of SCI Hong Kong traveled to Finland to join a workcamp. Being a teacher in Hong Kong is a respectable profession with a very good pay. Education system in Hong Kong ranks high in the world. However, there is a downside. The current education system in Hong Kong is regarded as highly competitive and stressful not only for the students but also for the teachers.

Pat had worked for five years in the mainstream secondary schools as an English teacher. Whilst she was studying for her Master degree in Education she learnt that Finland offers a very different approach to education. Ironically, Finnish students spend half of the time what Hong Kong students spend in their classrooms, yet Finland score just above Hong Kong on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) scale which measures quality of education across countries. Furthermore, Hong Kong students face tests after tests every term in order to improve performance and Finnish students only face exams at the end of their school life.

Hong Kong education system is driven by competition between students, teachers and schools. Students are divided into classes according to their abilities. Schools are ranked according to their performance and teachers are constantly monitored making the whole system competitive and stressful. However, Hong Kong ranks one of the top performers on the PISA scale. The Irony is that Finland that follows a very different model based on cooperation and relaxed learning environment yet, achieve as just as or even better.

The workcamp offered by KVT Finland (SCI Finland) fascinated her. It was an ideal opportunity for her to see what is going on in Finnish schools. Pat badly wanted to join this project. There were ten volunteers from different parts of the world joining the workcamp along with Pat. They visited schools, talked to students about their cultures, countries and customs. The volunteers organized a “Human Library” to tell their story to the students.The motivation and the enthusiasm of students and the satisfaction of teachers were very visible.

Pat returned to Hong Kong inspired and wanting to contribute something from her experience to the current Hong Kong education system. It is true that Hong Kong and Finland have very different governance systems backed by different ways of thinking. What is practiced in Finland cannot be just brought to Hong Kong overnight.

But the idea of Global Education is universal. We need to educate our young generation about the world, different cultures and different ways of living in other parts of the world. We need to educate our young generation by cooperating we can achieve as much or even more. We need to educate our young generation that it is possible to achieve more by doing less if we think differently and creatively.

Pat wanted to design a project to bring some of the things she learnt from Finland. As always, it was not easy. There were two obstacles, first financing the project and second finding schools to join this project. A small group of SCI activists started working on this adventure. A remarkable funding opportunity came when the government’s youth program (Commission on Youth) announced a pilot-funding scheme for innovative projects. The criteria fitted very well with our idea but the scheme offered only 50% of the total expenditure. We took the challenge and turned to our SCI branches for help. We were greeted with very positive response. As an example Matteo Testino from Italy (current visa-president of SCI) agreed to come to Hong Kong to do a training spending his own money. Local members agreed to support the project by volunteering to carry out activities. Different branches offered training opportunities for project participants.

Next challenge was to convince schools to join the project. We wanted ten schools to join this wonderful project. We called it “Myself Our World: Global Education Initiative” This included five activities, A leadership training, capacity building training, international workcamp with Human Library and an Exhibition. We wanted to conduct all the activities in English and include international participants in the activities allowing students to get engaged in a true global education project. We wanted students to work on a global problem of their choice, find solution and design an activity. We wanted to include schools across different ranking in Hong Kong, in other words bottom-ranking and top-ranking schools to join this project and work together. In our project description we wrote that this project would allow students to make mistakes. It turned out to be a big mistake.

Not many schools liked our ideas. Pat turned to her previous supervisors, colleagues and friends for help. She managed to convince five schools to join. It was a wonderful experience for all of us. Doing something, which has never been done before in Hong Kong. Over 1000 secondary school students and 36 International participants from 20 counties joined the project. The Hong Kong government gave 20,000 Euro and 3,600 Euro paid by the schools.

More importantly, this year we designed the second stage of the project, which was approved, for funding by the same COY scheme and eight schools joined the “Mapping Our World: Global Education Project”, which is currently underway.

Since her return, Pat was invited several times to talk at the University of Hong Kong to teachers and students about her experience in Finland and catering for Learner Diversity. Pat decided to leave the mainstream teaching and now teaches students with special needs. Pat is the head of the Global Education unit of SCI Hong Kong and the coordinator of Mapping Our Word Global Education Project.

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