Harmony in Diversity
Barack Obama has inspired America and the world because of who he is. As the first black president of the United States, he bears testimony to the American dream of equality and opportunity. With Hussein as his middle name, a father from Kenya of Africa and a childhood spent partly in Indonesia, he also represents the cultural and racial diversity that characterises America today.
Take a look at the case of Hong Kong. One of its distinctive features is its success as an international port. It is a meeting point for people of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. Here they intermingle with each other harmoniously regardless of diversities in racial background, culture, religion and lifestyle.
Our School can be seen as a micro-society. Just like Hong Kong, it has a good mix of students of different ethnic backgrounds or nationalities. What has made Hong Kong tick can certainly make our School tick as well.
With the increasing demand of non-Chinese speaking children studying in our School, it is important for us to create a harmonious learning environment so that students of diverse racial backgrounds can study and grow in a harmonious and supportive environment. Here our students learn to understand, accept, respect and support each other irrespective of racial origin. They also learn to be tolerant and patient with each other as they go through different learning and adjustment problems and the process of integrating into school life.
With the 21 st Century comes an era of globalisation. No country can survive by itself without interacting with other countries. The purpose of education is not just to equip students for society, it is to nurture students to become global citizens. Here at St. Margaret's, students should appreciate the experience of exposing themselves to diverse cultures and ways of life so that by the time they graduate and step into society, they know how to come to terms with people of different nationalities in the workplace, whether locally or abroad.
Furthermore, we must value the fact that a multi-cultural campus such as ours facilitates the use of English as a daily living language in and out of the classroom for the obvious reason that students have to rely on one common language -English- to communicate and interact with each other. This is a special advantage other non-diverse schools feel envious of.
I can still recall vividly my sweet secondary school days at St. Rose of Lima's School where I had the opportunity of being taught by several sisters and teachers coming from overseas: English, Scottish, Pole, Australian, Canadian, Indian, Filipino, Portuguese and French. I enjoyed a relationship with them just as close as local teachers and was fascinated by the diverse cultures they introduced to the school. Such experience made me feel totally comfortable and at ease with foreigners in my later years when I went to Canada for my studies at the university.
Now that we have come to realize that diversity is in fact a blessing to our School, we should stand together to make the best of it for our School and our future. Remember: "One World, One Dream".
Reflections on School Visits in Sydney, Australia
Recently I have had the opportunity of joining an educational tour to Sydney, Australia, organized by the Direct Subsidy Scheme School Council with the main objective of looking at the latest developments of education over there and the multi-cultural education, in particular.
The schools and universities visited were as follows:
- Oxford Falls Grammer School
- St. Paul International College
- The Catholic Learning Community of Blessed John XXIII?
(John XXIII Catholic Primary School and St. Marks Catholic College)
- Blue Mountains Grammer School
- Cherrybrook Technology High School
- Macquarie University
- Sydney Institute of Business and Technology
- Sydney University and Taylors College
One most striking similarity between the schools visited and our school was the growing emphasis on multi-cultural education - a good mix of students from different countries or national origins with the locals.
This has been a popular trend since the arrival of the 21st century. There is greater and greater mobility of peoples between countries for livelihood, work or studies. The speed of globalization is stunning. Schools have now taken the new role of preparing students not only for life in society but also for world citizenship.
Most of the schools visited emphasized that a unique teaching and learning environment was provided. Cultural awareness, academic challenge and the development of a caring and considerate environment were their prime concerns. In an increasingly globalized world, these schools offered opportunities for young people from diverse backgrounds to come together in a safe environment in which they could learn from one another. Through sharing common experiences and goals, students learned to respect one another's differences and appreciate their shared humanity.
Another resemblance with our school was that all the students wore neat and tidy uniform to school. They appeared cheerful and enjoying school life. The effort of the schools in nurturing personal grooming of students had really paid off. One of the schools prided itself on these key attributes being: educated, knowledge, faith and love of God, respectful, servant hearted, diligent and hope-filled.
One noteworthy point was the unbelievably huge and extensive space of the school campuses visited. Despite the enormous space, most rooms and halls were built for multi-purposes which facilitated flexibility and creativity in learning and teaching. However, it would be impossible for Hong Kong schools to develop like this because of the dense population and soaring land prices.
Another thing that impressed me was the student ambassadors, who were so welcoming, polite and enthusiastic in answering questions from the visiting principals. They guided us round the campus and introduced the school features and told us how they felt about their schools. Most of these student ambassadors were able to demonstrate a high level of English presentation skills with great self-confidence and a strong sense of belonging to their schools. They performed much better than Hong Kong students in this respect. Therefore our girls should take note of this and try to improve English public speaking skills by constant practice. Such skills will help them to cut a competitive edge in their future careers.
Collaborative learning among student groups was widely practised in one of the schools. It was common to see groups of 4 to 6 students engaged in their project study here and there on campus. Such kind of learning was facilitated by maximising the use of information technology.
The foundation course is a unique education system in Australia with the aim of providing a second chance for students who fail to gain direct entry to universities because of not being up to standard. It takes about 18 months to have the course completed. At Taylors College, surprisingly the majority of students are Chinese from Hong Kong and mainland China.
In conclusion, the experience of school visits in Sydney, Australia has reinforced St. Margaret's belief in moving towards internationalization and creating a diverse but harmonious learning environment for students. Furthermore we will step up our efforts in nurturing students to be multi-lingual world citizens. I believe we will achieve our goals with the staunch support from parents, the Education Bureau and the community.