Teachers' use of playtime in class being rewarded
When Helen Ng was at primary school in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, she remembers spending a lot of time sitting in rows, quietly listening to the teacher, and completing worksheets.
'When my family moved to Canada and I started attending fourth grade [Primary Five], I was very happy to be introduced to the concept of playtime,' says Ng, who moved back to Hong Kong last year to work in education.
Now the Education Bureau is rewarding teachers who use 'playtime' to encourage pupils to develop a love for learning.
'There's nothing children like to do more than play,' said Alice Yeung Ho-man, one of 54 teachers who will receive a Chief Executive Award for Teaching Excellence today.
In a typical morning in Yeung's classroom, children race around obstacle courses, tumble into ball pens in search of 'chicken eggs' and act out parts of a storybook.
'I hope winning this award will give our school a chance to help the public understand that playing is an important part of teaching children a broad range of skills,' said Yeung.
Another award recipient, information technology instructor Li Chi-shing, combines technology and playtime to teach older children.
'Our school's computer 'games' help students struggling with maths to visualise and understand concepts they find difficult,' said Li, who teaches Primary Six at Po Leung Kuk Chee Jing Ying Primary School.
But some pupils think that playtime and hi-tech teaching aids can go too far.
'When I was younger, we would still learn how to do maths with pencil and paper, said Cheung Kin-heng, a Form Seven student at St Stephen's Girls' College. 'But now, students forget how to do maths because they have calculators. Technology can sometimes make students lazier.'
Fortunately, the award recipients do not rely only on technology to encourage pupils to have fun while learning.
In art teacher Sae Teo Sze-wing's colourful classroom in Tai Po Old Market Public School, pupils crowd around tables to discuss the drawings they created after going out into their neighbourhood to interpret ordinary sights in creative ways.
'Regular classroom work can be boring, but doing fun activities makes me more interested in learning,' said Chu Man Yan, 12.
The award recipients will receive up to HK$20,000 in cash and up to HK$70,000 in continuing professional development scholarships. A further HK$17,000 will help them hold teaching seminars to share their winning strategies.