Topnotchers in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education usually come from elite schools or renowned schools in the New Territories, but in this year’s public exam, two of the highest scorers are graduates of the Hong Kong University Graduate Association College (HKUGA College).
Located in Wong Chuk Hang, HKUGA College is a relatively young institution, having been established only in 2006.
Principal Corina Chen Hing attributes the outstanding achievements of its graduates to the school’s philosophy of education — happy learning and learning to learn.
As can be gleaned from its name, HKUGA College enjoys a close and exclusive relationship with the territory’s premier educational institution, the University of Hong Kong.
The university’s vice-chancellor, professors and lecturers regularly come over to give lectures to the students and conduct research projects such as “parallel lessons” provided by HKU’s Centre for Educational Leadership.
Because of this close relationship, parents often joke that HKUGA College graduates should be automatically entitled to admission to HKU.
In fact, both HKDSE topnotchers from the college are “Made in HKU”. Melody Tam Lok-man and James Kwok Chun-kan had been studying at HKUGA Primary School and HKUGA College.
Not only that, Tam will pursue Bachelor in Business Administration and law degrees while Kwok will study medicine at HKU.
Talking about Tam and Kwok as HKUGA College students, Chen said: “They are keen learners who were attentive in class. They also took an active role in searching and studying reference materials after class. Besides, they have good skills in creating notes. All these contributed to their success.”
But far from being nerds, the two students enjoyed a rich campus life. Kwok was a member of the Students’ Association and performed in several school musical presentations, while Tam was a member of the school’s debate team in junior secondary.
“Happy learning” and “learning to learn” are not just school mottos but always put into practice at HKUGA College.
“Our school keeps track of the students’ learning by focusing on summative assessments and so the traditional formative assessment only takes place once a year at junior secondary,” Chen said.
In other words, based on the nature of the subjects, teachers design different tasks such as experiments, learning projects and speeches to assess the students’ various skills.
“Some students may write more slowly, which means they may not do well in traditional exams. But they may good at expressing themselves, or doing projects, so summative assessments can reflect students’ strengths and learning progress better,” Chen said.
Moreover, the school doesn’t cram knowledge into students’ heads through continuous lectures.
Instead, it adopts a project-based learning process in which students are given opportunities to explore and learn how to learn themselves.
There is a special learning week for all secondary one to four students every year as well.
Chen believes that in the new era, the traditional way of “manufacturing” elite students is outdated.
The school should focus on developing and enhancing students’ individual strengths and abilities instead.
“As the principal of the school, I hope to create an excellent learning and teaching atmosphere, where students can feel free to learn by trial and error, and teachers can adopt their own methodologies in teaching and bringing out students’ potentials.”
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Aug. 31.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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