Hong Kong's silent heroes are what make this city great

Community spirit has helped improve schools, and that success offers lessons for wider society

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 June, 2013, 5:15am

On June 1, the Committee on Home-School Co-operation celebrated its 20th anniversary at Queen Elizabeth Stadium.

Student performers put on an impressive show, including a segment that demonstrated a group helping schoolmates with speech impairments.

The whole school has been taught sign language to enhance communication among the students. It might involve some cost but the students - whether they have difficulties or not - have learned to be more inclusive and helpful to one another.

That is exactly what we need in our community these days. It is gratifying to see the development and enhancement of efforts to foster closer ties between parents and schools over the past two decades.

In 1993 there were only 70 parent-teacher associations. Now there are more than 1,000. Nearly all primary and secondary schools have some kind of parents' association or parent-teacher association. Volunteers in PTAs have become an important bridge for improving communications between parents and schools.

The Home-School Co-operation Committee has also launched two community-supported programmes for all schoolchildren in Hong Kong this year.

The "I Did It" programme, sponsored by Disneyland, rewards a pupil in each class with a ticket to the theme park for outstanding progress.

It is not restricted to academic success, taking a broader view in encouraging pupils to progress and excel in their own ways.

Recipients are given an extra ticket so that they can share the fun. The aim is to encourage showing appreciation and learning to share with others.

It is estimated that Disneyland will donate 20,000 tickets with a total value of more than HK$10 million.

Disneyland general manager Andrew Kam Min-ho is very supportive of the programme.

The Committee on Home-School Co-operation hopes it will not only create an opportunity for fun, but also instil a greater sense of hope in children and change the school environment so every kind of progress is appreciated.

The other programme is the Lions Club's "Raising Your Own Level" scheme, which will reward secondary school pupils who have demonstrated improvement and boosted their expertise and competence.

The essence of the two programmes is to foster encouragement and appreciation among individuals - something that is in short supply in our community.

It is pleasing to learn that more organisations and businesses are contributing expertise and resources to those who are less fortunate in our community.

They include "Project We Can", supported by Wharf (Holdings) and the "Mentorship Programme", run by the University of Hong Kong.

They are providing timely support to schools and students. It is very gratifying to see positive changes among students who have received the support of these programmes.

Hong Kong's schoolchildren are facing various problems arising from rapidly changing population dynamics. About 10 per cent of schoolchildren live with single parents and about 25 per cent live in relatively poor conditions. There is also a growing number of young children with learning difficulties.

We need to be more innovative in reaching out to those who may have been neglected in our current system.

Hong Kong is still full of compassionate people in the public and private sectors who do good for people in need. They are our silent heroes and the people who make our city great.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is appealing for a tripartite arrangement involving business, government and civil society to help the less fortunate in our community.

The awards and programmes supported by businesses and volunteers are certainly a strong start in promoting and reinforcing a caring and can-do Hong Kong spirit.

We cannot solve every problem, but we can make a difference in our own way.

Paul Yip is vice-chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation and a professor in the Social Work and Social Administration Department of the University of Hong Kong