School peels off the labels

Benson Chao

Newman College 2 Cliff Road Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon THE true meaning of education is to help every student get through the difficulties he or she encounters in both life and studies. Merely labelling a student as 'difficult' and not doing something about it is not helping the student or fulfilling the purpose of education, says Newman College principal Chu Man-chor.

'For an educationist, one of the greatest satisfactions is to see a student turning from 'bad' to good,' Mr Chu said.

'Several years ago we had a student who was a constant disturbance in class. Most teachers suggested expelling him. When I found out that his parents were not in Hong Kong and he was living with a blind grandmother, I said we should give him another chance,' the principal said.

The school assigned a teacher-counsellor to help the student to 'get 'back on track'. The former student is now the manager of a company.

'Success stories like that, with a happy ending, are a teacher's greatest reward,' the principal said.

In a bid to deal with discipline problems, the principal has devised a 'whole-school approach' in four stages.


'In the first stage, a teacher who finds a student with behaviour problems has a chat with the student and tries to help him or her to follow the right course.' If this fails, the form teacher then has a discussion with the parents to see if family problems are affecting the student (stage two).

In stage three, the guidance committee, comprising teachers specially trained to deal with disciplinary problems, stays in close touch with the student during recess and the lunch break.

In the final stage, the student is referred to the school social worker who visits the school twice a week.

The principal said that so far there have been no 'serious' disciplinary problems, although the school maintains close connections with the police to guard against any bad influence from outside. The school is located in the vicinity of busy Temple Street.


'I believe that Form Two students are the most vulnerable to bad influence. They are passing through a difficult phase while getting used to the new school environment. In addition, they don't have much study pressure. There are no serious problems with the seniors.' Besides having to ensure that measures are in place to handle students with problems, the school has also to adjust to the new Chinese medium of instruction in Forms One to Three in the subjects of History, Economics and Geography.

'Basically, the only thing that has changed is the textbooks. The curriculum is still the same.' Parents have expressed concern about the language change, but the principal said the English teaching has, in fact, been strengthened with extra classes. The number of English lessons has been raised from 10 to 11 in every cycle.


Mr Chu, who has been a principal for 16 years, says he has noted a drop in standards among Hong Kong students in general over the past decade as a result of changes in the family and social pattern.

'There are more single-parent families now, and an only child is easily spoilt,' Mr Chu said. 'But there is little the schools can do to remedy such a situation. The best we can do is not give up on the 'naughty' ones.' DESCRIPTION The Roman Catholic co-educational school, founded in 1963, has 869 students, 43 full-time teachers and an auxiliary staff of 13.

PRINCIPAL The principal, Mr Chu Man-chor, holds a BA and an MEd. Mr Chu has been school principal for 16 years.


TEACHING LANGUAGE Classes are taught in both Chinese and English.

ACTIVITIES A wide range of activities are available, spread over about 30 clubs. The clubs cover religious, academic, sports, interest and services activities.

SPORTS Popular sports are athletics, swimming and basketball (one of the student swimmers represented Hong Kong at the recent Asian Games in Japan).


FACILITIES The school has 23 classrooms, four science laboratories, a library with about 7,500 books, a music room, an assembly hall, a canteen and a covered playing field.

SCHOLARSHIPS PTA Scholarships are offered to students.

PREFECTS A team of 20 prefects is headed by Chan Kam-to.