Let Hong Kong preschoolers take the lead on early education
I write in the hope that improvements can be made to preschool education in Hong Kong. Many have been complaining, but can something be done? Today’s kindergarten children are surely hard-pressed. I worked for preschools in Hong Kong for 30 years and advocated the project approach, but according to the child-led Reggio Emilia model, not the “big book” model of the Education Bureau.
Traditional kindergartens find it is easier to train teachers and teach children using the “big book” approach. However, it is more controlled and less creative. I found that combining the Reggio Emilia approach with Montessori methods, and the early reading and writing as required in Hong Kong, is a fusion that works.
I have seen preschool education development surge in the 80s and 90s. Now, it has changed for the worse. There is an overemphasis on using checklists and standardised tests, even in kindergartens. Teachers are pressed to fill all sorts of forms. There must be a balance. Too much stress on external exams and documentation to ensure/control the standard of kindergartens and nursery schools means not enough time for creativity and nurturing children’s development.
Not enough money is put into individual school funding and management. Because there is no shared use of public funding among schools, when there is a surplus, there is waste. In the past, we practised synergy and accountability. We used the surplus to help preschools with deficits to upgrade.
Watch: Hong Kong parents react to government’s free kindergarten policy
To give the best education to the young, more advanced schools should open their doors to teachers to help them improve their own teaching methods. A week or month could be dedicated to improving education for our children, incorporating home safety and nutrition.
All prestigious schools should take the lead in implementing good educational principles. My dream is that drawing out the best from children, rather than imposing on them, will be the guiding principle for all.
Rose S.M. Ho, Ontario, Canada