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Education Post Kindergartens Festival 2017 (Kowloon): Paving the way for success starts at a young age

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 11:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 1:48pm

More than 2,000 parents, many accompanied by their children, discovered a wide range of early-learning options at a one-stop Kindergartens Festival organised and hosted by Education Post, with co-organiser, the education consultancy Top Schools Hong Kong, and HSBC as main sponsor. The festival took place on May 27 at the Cordis Hotel in Mong Kok.

A breakfast seminar was held for educators and school leaders to network and share their views.

Principals, school representatives and education advisors from more than 50 international and local kindergartens and early-learning schools were on hand to provide advice and information; they answered inquiries from parents about teaching philosophies, language education, and opportunities for future education for their children. In addition, parents gained specific insights from leading education professionals during a series of information sessions and panel discussions covering a diverse range of education topics.

A breakfast seminar was held for educators and school leaders to network and share their views.

For the parents of eight-month-old Yui, the Kindergartens Festival provided an opportunity to compare the different types of early-learning options available for their daughter, and also allayed concerns they had left it too late to find a suitable preschool for her. "We had been told by some people that waiting until our daughter was eight months old, we had left it too late to arrange her preschool learning," said Yoonie Kyung, Yui's mother. "Happily, after talking to really helpful teachers and principals, we were reassured that we don't have to worry about making an immediate decision," said Kyung. She, a Korean national, and her Japanese husband said they are keen to enrol Yui in a school that offers a combination of Chinese and English-language learning opportunities.

Ko Hon Lam, father of seven-month-old Kayla, said he and his wife had attended the festival to compare schools that use English as the medium of instruction. "As Chinese parents, we are not too worried about our daughter learning Chinese, so we wanted to find out about the different types of international schools and the best way that Kayla can achieve a good standard of English," said Ko.

The value of play-based learning is increasingly recognised by researchers for the benefits it provides in areas such as intellectual thinking and cultivating curious individuals. Vicky Bewsey, principal of the English Schools Foundation (ESF) International Kindergarten at Tsing Yi, said play is an essential learning tool for young children. "In our kindergarten, the children play in the garden, they play with water, they get dirty and they have fun while they are exploring," Bewsey told parents during an information session.

According to Jillian McCormack from Wellborn Anglo-Chinese Kindergarten, part of the Deborah Education Institute, which operates 22 kindergartens and international preschools in Hong Kong, a lot of parents asked questions about curricula that include English and Chinese-language learning. "Parents were interested in how our international-based curriculum combines English and Chinese, which meets the expectations of many Hong Kong parents," McCormack said. "Parents appreciate the idea their children are ready to go on to either a local or international primary school when they leave us," she said, explaining that flexibility means parents are able to decide which education route best suits their children.

Parents were interested in how our ... curriculum combines English and Chinese

Karen Chan, senior marketing officer at Autism Partnership (AP), said the Kindergartens Festival provided a valuable platform to educate both parents and teachers about the different services AP provides. "Teachers were able to find out about the services and resources we provide if they need to help families of a child with autism," said Chan, who stressed that AP is not a day-care centre and parents of children with autism need to commit to join training and therapy classes and meet with AP consultants once a month.

Meanwhile, citing a pre-kindergarten interdisciplinary task force report produced by scientists in the US, Abigail Carr, head of preschool at Mount Kelly School Hong Kong, said convincing evidence shows that preschool prepares children socially and emotionally for primary school. "Preschool learning also benefits numeracy and literacy later in school life," said Carr, who emphasised while the role of parents is to facilitate learning for their children, it should not involve a schedule of back-to-back learning. "Reading a book with a child and spending time doing fun activities are very important ways in which parents can support their child's learning," Carr stated during her presentation.

The transition from kindergarten to an international primary school represents a major change for many children. During a panel discussion moderated by Ruth Benny, former teacher and founder of Top Schools Hong Kong, parents were given insights into how to prepare their children for the next step on their education journey. Panellists Wil Chan, founder and director, Kendall International preschool; Ben Keeling, principal, Shrewsbury International School Hong Kong; Kate Gower, head of lower school, Harrow International School Hong Kong; and Anne Sawyer, co-founder, International Montessori School, offered tips and suggestions including how to help one's children become more independent so they adjust to a new learning environment.

During a discussion titled "Signs of Something Special - Individual Learning Needs", moderated by Education Post assistant editor Sophia Lam, a panel of medical and education experts outlined the various ways Hong Kong schools accommodate and provide specific or modified education programmes for students with special education needs. The panel included Dr Yvonne Becher, head of Psychological Services, Child Development Centre; Franky Poon, vice-principal, HKRSS Tai Po Secondary School; Dr Jadis Blurton, founder and clinical director, Blurton Family Development Centre; and Karin Wetselaar, principal at the English Schools Foundation, Jockey Club Sarah Roe School. The panellists highlighted the procedures for identifying children who might have learning difficulties or special educational needs (SEN). They also outlined different levels of SEN support, which can include attendance in regular classes with some additional support, small-group learning with a modified curriculum, or a highly-individualised curriculum. Parents were also informed of measures being made to increase the amount of "inclusive" classroom learning where children with or without SEN participate and learn together in the same classes.

The festival hosted two panel discussions and five information sessions, whichoffered parents some valuable insights.

With the Hong Kong Education Bureau (EDB) promoting the need for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning, Lydia Ng, principal of Hong Kong Nobel Preschool, said parents were interested in discovering how Nobel Preschool incorporates STEM and elements of higher-order thinking into its early-learning teaching. She said higher-order thinking involves more than memorising facts, even among very young children. "We have developed higher-order thinking programmes to nurture children's innate talents, such as using objects that children can categorise, manipulate and put together in new or novel ways," said Ng.

Find out more here: Education Post Kindergartens Festival 2017 (Hong Kong): Helping parents make the right preschool choices