First person

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 October, 2003, 12:00am

Kenneth Pang Wai-kin, aged in his thirties, is an economics and civic education teacher at Methodist College, a secondary school in Kowloon.

'I graduated from college in 1989 as a liberal arts student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Back then, I was not so sure what my career would be, so I started out as a substitute teacher. Then I felt that [the work] was pretty appropriate for me, so I became a full-time teacher in 1990.

I have always taught economics because that was my major in college. I studied economics because it was easy and quite interesting. I wasn't really into banking and commerce and did not even apply to those jobs after I graduated.

As a teacher, it could be boring if you just lecture. Teachers and students need to have an interactive dialogue. If it is just talking one way - lecturing - that is not interesting. I try to build a friendship type of relationship with my students.

I try not to be outdated, but on the other hand, you should not pretend that you are not outdated if you are. I don't mind students telling me what is going on. I do not watch television that much and they might tell me about their newest idols.

They tell me about entertainment news, such as the most popular Japanese and Korean stars. I let them talk about anything during class, as long as it is not too irrelevant.

Talking about Korean actors could be relevant to the class, sometimes, because the students would then relate it to how Hong Kong trades and relates to Korea. I think it is important to give students a chance to talk and room to express themselves. You should not just look at the students' grades to judge how you feel about them. A student's value is not just on their grades. Even if their grades are bad, you should pay attention to them.

It is natural for teachers to have certain favourite students, but that means you might not be fair to the others. So teachers should find a balance. Teachers should be fair.

When I was in Form 5, we had a new Chinese history teacher. I think he was unfair and favoured a certain student. I felt I would give a better answer to a question but I always got a lower grade than the other student. I did not like the subject because of the teacher. I think I could have gotten an A in the HKCEE but did not because I didn't bother to study the Form 5 material. To this day, I still do not like Chinese history because of that teacher.

When I was studying, I did not like teachers who were boring and who spoon-fed things to us. But as an adult, I realised that I really did learn that way. There wasn't any relationship between student and teacher. I did not like it then, but when I look back, it was okay. But now it does not mean I will follow their footsteps. There are many ways to teach. I do not use the spoon-feeding method myself. I encourage my students. I don't punish them or make them memorise things. I just tell them that what they learn is for their own good.

I try to make the students' campus life an enriching experience. It is not just about academic grades. It is also about how you can give them a more positive outlook towards life.

I read a book that says a youngster is what [he or she learns] at school. How much of what they learn can really be used in real life? Very little.

But it is about how you can help them set a goal so when they come out in society, they can really live a full life.

Some students come up to me and say they are not that good in school and have decided they just want to be shop assistants. I tell them they might have to learn Putonghua.

In the civic education class, which is taught to Form 4 to Form 7 students, I teach students how to be good citizens, how to set goals and build relationships with others. I teach them that school is not just about passing tests and exams but about planning their lives. They need to do certain things to get to where they want to be. We have activities such as performances and trivia contests with questions about civic responsibilities. We also do mock elections.

Students' attitudes have changed through the years. Before, there were fewer colleges to choose from, but now there are more schools and more opportunities. But students just take it for granted. There were only two to three universities when I was still a student.

Now students feel it is not too hard to get into a university. From that perspective, it lowers their motivation to learn because they feel they do not have to give their best to get into college.

There are many offerings to students after secondary school, such as certificate studies and associate degrees. It is not as if, after they graduate, they cannot continue their education.

If they do not get admitted into universities after they graduate, some students may choose to repeat the year. Teachers can also change the way a student feels about a subject.'