Humanistic approach to effecting reforms
Professor Cheng Kai-ming rightly says much of the initial impact of reform in education is superficial and everything, including spending and open ceremonies, is reduced to symbolism without understanding what is being done.
The purpose of the Curriculum Development Council(CDC) report, Learning to Learn, is 'to fulfil the vision of enabling students to attain all-round development and life-long learning'. To promote effective learning and teaching and raise student achievement levels, the CDC recommends 13 areas of action, one of which is to employ 'four key tasks', including 'moral and civic education', 'reading to learn', 'project learning', and 'information technology for interactive learning'.
Despite the ambitious goals of both the Education Commission and CDC, giving money to schools and publishing reform papers do not alone suffice to cause significant change in the classroom. One reason is that educating youngsters is not like making dolls. Teachers and students are human. Spending money and reforming the system may initiate the process of change, but success largely lies in human factors.
Professor Cheng pinpoints the importance of teacher training and development. I agree that to help students learn to learn 'depends ultimately on teachers' skills'. And we need teachers not only with good qualifications but who also possess courage, humility and creativity who are willing to abandon outmoded teaching approaches.
Professor Cheng is right to highlight the issue of homework, which he depicts as 'superficial and meaningless'. The aim of homework is not as a punishment or just to keep students busy - it can be meaningful when its design helps students understand a topic more deeply. It is quality rather than quantity that is responsible for real achievement in student learning.
Today's educators are responsible for looking at the most relevant aims that help to explore and cultivate the potential of students on the one hand and build a generation with knowledge, skills, as well as right values and attitudes on the other.
Those aims will be continuously modified to meet the challenges of different eras. However, I am convinced that there are some universal principles that should not be abandoned. The primary consideration must focus on the advantages to be gained by each and every student. They are the centre of the education business and any changes or reforms should be aimed at promoting their welfare.
ANDY SETO WOOD HUNG