Time management, interpersonal skills, conflict resolution, working within a budget - these are some of the practical skills students can cultivate while organising extracurricular activities. 'I don't think you can learn these things from books,' 21- year-old Sam Chan Sze-lam, president of the Dramatics Club at Hong Kong Baptist University (BU), said. Majoring in broadcast journalism, Ms Chan - who hopes to become a journalist after she graduates next year - has been involved in the staging of four plays on campus. She said that even putting on a relatively small production could involve about 40 people, if those behind the scenes were included. The skills developed while staging such a project were invaluable, Ms Chan said. One of the advantages was having to deal with differing personalities and limited budgets - things that could be 'fudged' when doing classroom assignments. 'You've got so much money to work with and you've got to bring off the play,' Ms Chan said. 'Working on academic projects you don't have the same limitations.' Ben Lee Chun-man, external vice-president of BU's Dance Association, agreed. 'I put a higher priority on participating in activities than on studying,' the 21-year-old applied communications studies major said. 'This way you can learn more about society. If you just study books, you can't learn as much about getting along with others.' A five-year study by BU's Office of Student Affairs indicates that participation in student organisations often resulted in 'significant changes' in such areas as the ability to speak in public, self-confidence and popularity with the opposite sex. 'It can be found that students who demonstrated the greatest increase in self-evaluation scores in each trait or ability were usually those who had spent 11 to 20 hours in student organisation activities per week,' Dr Eddie Ho, director of students affairs, and Alan Wong, formerly of the office of student affairs, wrote in the report. 'On the contrary, students who showed the greatest decrease in self-evaluation score in each trait or ability were usually those who had spent only two or fewer hours in student organisation activities per week,' they said. Cinnie Chu, assistant director of student affairs, said a distinction should be made be tween co-curricular and extracurricular activities. The former - such as workshops and seminars - took place outside of class but had 'well-defined educational goals', she said. The latter, whose goals were 'less obvious', were still considered 'an important aspect of the educational life of students'. 'Extracurricular activities should be initiated by the students,' she said. 'Through these initiatives and planning and implementation, there is also a learning process. 'We encourage students to take the initiative to organise activities to meet their needs. If we see there is a gap between the developmental needs of the students and actual needs, we step in.' Mrs Chu said students in Hong Kong needed to learn that there was more to education than studying for exams. 'We believe that learning occurs both inside and outside of classrooms and libraries - both when you work hard and play hard, as long as you have an objective of enhancing your own personal growth and development,' she said. Mrs Chu called on universities to consider more than test results when recruiting students.