Since my last blog I have visited Quarry Bay, Glenealy, South Island, Discovery College, Bradbury, Hillside Kindergarten, Island School and Peak School. This has allowed me to gain a much greater understanding of both context and provision for learning within ESF as well as improving my geography of Hong Kong.
At each school I have seen teaching and learning as good as I have seen anywhere in the world and students who display a real love of learning. I was interested to see children being provided with a range of activities that not only stretched them academically but were also aimed at developing social or physical skills. The ability to work collaboratively or to run, throw and catch are all important skills for our children to develop, I saw much evidence of this.
Many will be aware that Island School is to be rebuilt on the current site and that in order to facilitate this, a decant of staff and students will have to take place. The end result will be a stunning learning facility for generations of students to come, in the short term there is much for the staff, students and parents to ponder as to how the decant process will be managed. I had an opportunity to discuss some of these issues with senior leaders earlier this week, however I was also struck by the total commitment to creativity and learning that teachers continue to display. The students have access to a huge range of learning opportunities and continue to achieve above and beyond expectations, I congratulate the staff for this ongoing success despite other ‘distractions’.
As well as these frenetic ‘learning walks’ around our schools I was privileged to attend the ESF Asian Leadership Summit held up on the Gold Coast in the New Territories. This event brought together education leaders from across Asia and was an opportunity to meet with colleagues and explore models of leadership designed to impact positively on better outcomes for our students.
Keynote speakers included Dr Simon Breakspear and Professor Alma Harris, both internationally respected thinkers on leadership and education. Those attending were encouraged to share ideas, to push boundaries and to harness our collective expertise. Delegates came from far and wide and I must acknowledge the hard work of David Fitzgerald, Senior Education Officer here at ESF in organising such a world class event.
On the subject of ‘world class’, I have now met two of our young people who are talented enough to have represented Hong Kong at an international level. I understand that there are around 150 ESF students who represent Hong Kong at various ages and a variety of sports, this is quite an achievement. One of them, Cameron Smith, a hugely talented rugby player was kind enough to guide me to the ferry at Discovery Bay, we chatted about sport and university after which he asked me if I was from Glasgow, I think I need to work on my accent!
Talking of sport, I was attending a Committee of School Council Chairman last week so missed the Bloomberg Square Mile Relay. This event involved over 1,200 runners and I am delighted to announce that a staff team from ESF won the event and donated the winner’s prize of 80, 000HKD for the INDOChina Starfish Foundation, the charity for schools supported by ESF in Cambodia. Congratulations to all who took part and proudly donned an ESF T-shirt.
Now a month ‘off the plane’, Hong Kong continues to present new learning opportunities each and every day. As a result of my visit to Discovery College I now know that not everybody in Discovery Bay is a golf fanatic and that all those golf buggies have different uses! In order to learn more I am reading ‘Hong Kong State of Mind – 37 views of a city that doesn’t blink’, by Jason Y Ng. I was drawn to this book as the author describes it as an outsider looking in and an insider looking out. I know what he means by a city that doesn’t blink, I was in Mong Kok last weekend waiting to cross Nathan Road, myself and two thousand others waited patiently for the crossing bleeps, I realised I was heading in the wrong direction but there was no turning back as I was swept across and then had to wait five minutes to get back again. I will return to Mong Kok at a quieter time, not sure when that will be!
At the end of what has been a troubling week for all following the tragic attacks in Paris and the media coverage throughout the week, many have tried to make sense of those terrifying events. Like most, I struggle to find answers to such horrors, however I felt some solace as I visited ESF schools this week and witnessed our children from many different countries, faiths and ethnicities playing, working and learning together. They are our hope for future and I took some comfort as I watched them share ideas and support each other.
As Dostoyevsky commented, “The soul is healed by being with children”