Diverse lessons for Hong Kong delegates

A group of educators from Hong Kong spent time at Sydney Catholic schools last week to see how Australian classrooms cater for diverse student interests and abilities.

Principals, supervisors, and staff from the Hong Kong Catholic Education Office spent five days from 7 May participating in school visits and workshops at the Sydney Catholic Schools (SCS) Office in Leichhardt.

Dr Dan White, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, led sessions for the group. He said their presence was an encouragement to all across the system.

“To have international visitors not just observe but affirm with great gratitude and professional knowledge the work Sydney Catholic Schools is doing gives schools a great sense of confidence and recognition of the incredible work they put in to meeting student needs,” Dr White said.

The delegates were genuinely impressed by what we’re achieving

– Dr Dan White

The group’s focus areas included diverse learning, leadership, system initiatives, and Religious Education – including the Family Educator program, which supports student and staff wellbeing and builds the links between school and parish.

“What has amazed us, far more than the curriculum, is the emphasis given to evangelisation and youth ministry,” said Peter Lau, Episcopal Delegate for Education in the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.

“Even though some of us have visited before, it seems these are new elements,” he continued.

Mr Lau has visited Sydney Catholic Schools twice. Delegates from Hong Kong visited in 2004, 2006 and 2011, and Dr White said he hoped that, in the coming years, SCS would be able to send a delegation of its own to Hong Kong.

“Particularly for us to learn about how they conduct schools in vertical skyscraper-like buildings, as we’re looking at building our schools going up,” Dr White said.

The Hong Kong delegates said that, in addition to physical differences, schools deliver learning differently in their home country.

The visit has been well planned, and very substantial and enriching

– Peter Lau

Reading Recovery and vocational education programs were of special interest, and delegates praised the way they ensured success for students with a broad range of natural abilities and talents.

They said teaching and learning in Hong Kong tended to be more regimented, and teachers generally had less flexibility to cater for different learning styles and talents.

“[Australian teachers] might allow students to do different tasks, and then the assessments could be in different forms,” said Joseph Yee, Principal at Kwun Tong Maryknoll College.

“So they’re doing the same job but then they’re doing it in a way that the student prefers.”

Dr White emphasised that in spite of differences between classrooms in Australia and Hong Kong, the delegates and their hosts encouraged each other to “maintain their identity and Catholicity in a changing environment.”

“The delegates were genuinely impressed by what we’re achieving, but also were grateful to know they have partners in Catholic education right across the world,” said Dr White.

Delegates echoed his sentiments, requesting a special word of thank you to everyone who spent time with them.

“The visit has been well planned, and very substantial and enriching for us,” Mr Lau said.

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