Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Meeting on the Mid-Levels.

Late night flight back to Hong Kong where I'm spending the next week and a bit strengthening Drama St Mary's ties with the Hong Kong Communication Arts Centre and finding out more about some of the opportunities for the Creative Arts in South East Asia.

Hong Kong is eight hours ahead of us and so it was early evening when I touched down at Chek Lap Kok after a fairly uncomfortable and sleepless flight. A fast train to Kowloon, a taxi to the hotel and a quick wash and brush up before meeting up with Trevor, who's already been here for a couple of days, and his partner Nancy. Together we headed off to Hong Kong Island for dinner with Peter Upton, the head of the British Council in Southern China.

We were joined by a small group of local educationalists as well as School's Minister Nick Gibb, who is out here on a fact finding tour, and although half of us were suffering from varying degrees of jet lag, it was a fairly jolly and instructive evening. Immaculately hosted.

Hong Kong is currently undergoing a change from the 'British' A-level system to a 'Chinese' diploma structure and as with any change there is a certain amount of distrust about. Under the new system students will have core English, Chinese, Maths and Liberal Studies, which will be supplemented by a series of electives. The new exams mean that academically successful students spend three years in senior secondary education and four in University. One, apparent positive about the new system is that all students stay in education until they are 18.

One of the challenges for us is understanding what kind of skills base this new diploma provides. Our initial sense of Hong Kong students, partly backed by some of this evening's discussions, is that they are hard working, highly organised, and keen on structure and system. There is a belief and trust in authority. From our point of view it'll be interesting to see what is lost and what is gained in this socialising educational process and whether we can find a way for students out here to bridge effectively into our Creative Arts curriculum.

At ten the evening ended and so we headed out onto the street, the bright light's of the city twinkling below us, and hailed a cab. We traveled back with Stephen Tommis, who runs the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, and who seems to be working hard, and slightly against the grain, to encourage differentiated teaching practice across the region. It's going to be a fascinating few days.

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