Down with drilling and tests: Hong Kong kindergarten leads battle for play-based learning

International Froebel Society hopes its first affiliated school in the city will spread the word that education should be fun

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 6:30pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 May, 2016, 10:19pm

An international education organisation that promotes play-based learning hopes its first affiliated kindergarten in Hong Kong will help in its battle to end the fixation with testing pupils.

Educators and parents have increasingly expressed concern at the prevalence of drilling and over-assessment in kindergartens.

The Education Bureau’s latest quality review of almost 400 kindergartens across Hong Kong earlier this year found dozens required three-year-olds to write characters and even sentences in fast-progressing curriculums, which was not in line with bureau guidelines.

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Last year a widely criticised poster by a tutoring centre featured a little girl crying and a slogan “You don’t like competition? But competition will find you!” The poster advertised kindergarten-interview training classes for children as young as 18 months.

Speaking to the Post during a recent visit to Hong Kong, Brian Tubbert, chairman of the International Froebel Society, said with Munsang College Kindergarten in Kowloon City recently made an affiliate of the society, the school should “develop leadership to further and broaden out the delivery of a child-centred and activity-based education for children” in the city.

He said the school should try to build a critical mass of educators who speak up against over-assessment.

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Founded by Friedrich Froebel, a German pedagogue, Froebelian education was the first child-centred, play-based educational philosophy, stressing the importance of activity, nature and guided discovery. Its first kindergarten was established in 1837.

Munsang College Kindergarten principal Gladys Cheung Chin-ling said the school balanced its play-based approach with academic teaching.

Christine Wan Chun-wai, parent of a K3 student, said she liked seeing her daughter enjoy going to school and doing homework.

“Besides practising how to write words, there are projects, which my daughter especially likes. For example, we recently went to the Hong Kong Heritage Museum to look at the costumes of Cantonese Opera,” she recounted.

While most kindergarten teachers had learnt about child-centred approaches, their teaching in kindergartens could be affected by parents wanting students to learn more academic content, said Dr Richard Wong Kwok-shing, assistant professor in the Hong Kong Institute of Education’s department of early childhood education.

“There is interference from primary school education, too. Sometimes, parents worry about their child not coping without enough academic learning in kindergarten,” he said.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao