Well, just to prove that my brain is still capable of functioning I've decided to post a piece of schoolwork I just completed for my Use of English class. The assignment was to write an opinion/persuasive paper about the institution of the N.S.S. curriculum in Hong Kong's schools. I happen to be very opinionated on the topic of HK schools, so I enjoyed writing this one... but still its 1/4 BS to please my teacher. Anyway, I wouldn't say I'm completely satisfied with my work, but its an example of what I'm doing here. And unless you are a little familiar with HK schools this probably won't make much sense, but who knows. Here goes: Last year, the H.K.S.A.R Education Bureau introduced a totally new education system into Hong Kong schools. Dubbed the New Senior Secondary Curriculum, NSS for short, it strives to reform the old system, modernize teaching methods used, better equip students for the competitive future awaiting them, and take stress off the student body. To carry out these goals, it intends to encourage a more diverse learning environment. By utilizing more project learning, placing higher value on School-Based Assessment marks in the public exam grading scheme, and promoting life-skills acquisition, NSS aims to prepare students more practically for real-life situations they will encounter. Other changes include the addition of a new A Level subject, Liberal Studies, which will center around the analytical study of current issues in the world, the omission of Form 7 from secondary schools in favor of 4 year university study, a merging of the arts and science streams allowing student to study any mixture of elective subjects they desire, and the inclusion of Other Learning Experiences, OLE's, to broaden student's horizons outside of the classroom. But will these measures be drastic enough to overcome the incredible challenge of fixing a school system often quoted as being the most intense, impersonal, and stressful in the whole world? The changes being implemented are definitely a great step forward on the road to recovering the potential of Hong Kong's youth, but will by no means finish the job. While I appreciate the government's acknowledgment of the problems with education in Hong Kong, I am severely disappointed with their lack of real change to the system. I am not at all confident that the measures being imposed will succeed in preparing students for post-school life any better. Creativity won't be cultivated, stressful exams are still ever-present and extremely crucial to progressing through the system, and most of all, the actual classroom environment isn't changed at all, from a lecture-based atmosphere in which students' minds are put to sleep rather than stimulated, which I consider the most important factor still needing to be addressed. The new system is definitely a vast improvement though. Students are asked to do analytical thinking in Liberal Studies, though the presence of a public exam looming at the end of Form 6 squashes most real potential, will be exposed to new aspects of life through the required OLE's, and be able to become more well-rounded, happy students now that they may choose any elective courses they desire, instead of the old unbending 'streams'. Despite these tremendous efforts by the government to make the necessary changes, NSS simply doesn't perform its role properly. My main complaint with NSS is its refusal to make any real change to the everyday school life of Hong Kong students. Lessons are conducted in the exact same manner. Class is always based around an ever-repeating cycle of lectures, notes, and readings, leading to standardized examinations. This is the cycle that most needs to be broken. Active lessons are scientifically proven to stimulate real learning rather than acquisition through memorization of facts. More student-teacher interaction and communication are required to really streamline the efficiency of learning. If students ask more questions, teachers don't place shame upon incorrect answers, and an attempt is made to enhance student-staff relations, students will feel more comfortable in school and be more open and excited to learn. Teacher re-training should be done to ensure teachers are aware of this need, as many teachers are completely backward in this aspect, tending to overexert their power on students effectually creating a stressful environment in which students are unable and unwilling to focus on learning. Multiple learning styles definitely exist too, with some students learning best from visual sources, some from active sources, some from written sources, and some from oral sources. The current setup only allows those who learn from listening and reading to thrive. The addition of video sources, physical activity, audio-visual technologies, and a decrease in the amount of in-class lectures would be a wonderful option to overcome this obstacle. Sitting and listening to lectures all day long does the opposite of encouraging excitement about learning. It promotes dreariness and boredom among naturally active-minded teens. So, the complete lack of change in everyday lesson structure is the main change missing from NSS. Another complaint of mine about NSS is its supposed reform of the public examinations. Removing the CERT level is a truly great change; no longer will a large percentage of students be kicked out of their original schools or be forced to repeat Form 5. The shame accompanying poor results is lowered, as a student will never be asked to leave his peers behind due to bad marks. But the change isn't great enough. At the end of Form 6, students still need to sit for one public exam which determines the entire course of their futures. Good marks mean an opportunity for a better university, leading to a better job, and a more desirable life. Bad marks doom students to a lower-quality education and career options are greatly diminished. The elimination of the CERT level will only increase the pressure and stress coming with the remaining exam. In an attempt to reduce test pressure, NSS actually multiplies it by focusing all tension on one life-changing test. NSS is an abject failure on this matter. The only positive change to the examination is the fact the a certain percentage of the marks will be taken from the School-Based Examination, balancing the validity of test results a bit more. But for each individual student, the pressure is just the same as in the old system, if not higher. The Education Bureau missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a concrete change to the test-based nature of Hong Kong school. Even Liberal Studies, the new A Level, has a public exam proceeding the course's completion, making its usefulness as a 'skill building' class null. Teachers will catch on to exam patterns quickly, and begin to focus more on what needs to be learned for good test marks than what is really most beneficial to students' learning. If anything, the number of required A levels should have been lowered rather than added to, if schools really want to encourage students to pursue what they love in school. A stronger focus on class grades rather than just test marks should also have been added to prevent the epidemic of students neglecting homework and classwork assignments, citing lack of necessity to complete them as their excuse. An emphasis on everyday work being of top quality rather than relying on a single test to comparatively gauge students, makes far more sense. The prudence of the Education Bureau must be questioned, having overlooked such simple, practical changes that could have led to vast improvement over the old system. NSS has gotten a lot of fanfare in the first year since its inception. Many people claim it provides the much needed changes the Hong Kong's schools. It clearly has its positive aspects; it brings Hong Kong closer to proven successful Western education techniques, promotes creativity more than ever before, and hopes to engage students in life outside of school more. Supporters say NSS is enough; it does its job. Stress will be reduced from students' hectic lives with the removal of the CERT level and AL exams. Liberal Studies will bring awareness about current events to naïve students, and fill the gaps between materials covered in other subjects. OLE's will force students to go out of their comfort zones and experience new things. Opening the 'streams' will let students do what they really want and follow their desires. But this is failing to see the big picture. While each individual reform is a good thing, the total package of NSS fails to fulfill its obligations. Unfortunately, NSS doesn't go far enough with its revisions. It falls short in modernizing teaching methods, diversifying education, fixing the problem of the exam-based nature of schools, and preparing students for life after school. While it is a courageous attempt to mend the old system, NSS simply doesn't make the essential changes. Feedback please! Ben
So I'll start off by explaining the title: In Hong Kong English, pronunciation isn't always... correct. Many words are simply said differently here. One of these words is 'pizza', coming from an advertising campaign by Pizza Hut in which the word is pronounced 'Pissa'. Thus, the general population only knows that delightful circular Italian cheese-bread with the incorrect pronunciation. Anyway, one day I was talking to my classmates about ordering some pizza for lunch (which by the way is damn expensive here) and they just started laughing and laughing. After a while they asked me what on earth I was talking about - ordering 'pizza' for lunch. After some more confusion it was discovered that the word Pizza (said correctly) matches the local (mis)pronunciation of the name Peter, and they really though I would talking about ordering Peter for lunch. So the happy ending to my tale is that a few HKers now know the real way to say the word Pizza. We never got it in the end either; far too small and expensive. But I really miss pizza actually... greasy cheesy tomatoey breadiness is hard to come by here. The Pizza places are all 'upscale' and its impossible to buy by the slice. Whatever, there are plenty of other greasy foods to tide me over until next June. And on that note I'll point out that I'm nearly half-way done with my time in HK. OH MY GOD!!! It's shocking; the time has zippppped by faster the speed of light. Not that I haven't learned, experienced, and accomplished many many things, but it just doesn't seem like I've been living in Hong Kong for 4 months already. But what have I done here so far? Well, apart from the fact that I've matured greatly, am much more independent, more capable of fending for myself, and have a new view of life, there are a couple of more calculable things I've done. My knowledge of the Cantonese language has jumped from 0 to extremely basic conversational ability necessary for life, plus I know many abnormal/random words and phrases good solely for the purpose of showing off. I am now learning to write a few characters too. Hard as hell, but I'm oh-so-gradually learning how to draw those pictographs legibly. For the past two Sunday's I've been going to Tuen Mun to learn some Kung Fu basics as well. It's a great release of energy/stress to smack those pads with all my might! Plus I'm learning South Chinese kung-fu in South China; how cool is that?!?! I'm not sure if I have enough time/commitment to become a master or anything, but just as a fun, unique way to spend Sundays, its perfect. What else? I'm in my school's singing contest (the whole class joined much to my chagrin) and we will be singing an old-school 70's HK song called ShaLaLa in front of the school. It's in English, but still getting on a stage, even collectively, is something I doubt I'd ever do in America. But circumstance is forcing me, so it shall be done. I'll give more info when it actually happens. Okay so I guess I'll just continue by saying more things I've done lately. AFS organized a volunteering activity for all exchange students at a charity in HK called 'Crossroads'. We did an interesting activity which simulated the daily life of the world's slum-dwellers, and it was actually quite eye-opening and enjoyable. After that we just did some standard volunteer work; packing boxes, moving furniture, carrying things around, folding clothes. Otherwise I've been having gobs of fun doing countless different things with my various groups of friends. Eating and window-shopping are recurring though. Hong Kong's malls are simply unescapable, and the desire/necessity to eat never seems to wane. I got a ticket to Muse, coming to HK next February! One of my all-time favorites, and I'm going to get to see them live! Sooo excited. Christmas is coming! Meaningless to me actually, but still I will mention that Hong Kong likes decorations. A lot. Almost every building is now covered in twinkly little lights, with generic Christmassy music playing everywhere, and specialized advertising for the holiday season has arrived en masse. Even the people who work at Tuen Mun Town Centre Information Centre are wearing Santa hats... I would be lying if I said all this wasn't PISSING ME OFF already. I am the grinch. No matter if I'm in Iowa or Hong Kong, the Christmas spirit just ends up making me angry. It's inexplicable really, but I just have a cultivated hatred for all things Christmas. And thats all my exhausted brain is capable of providing my fingers to type today. Until next time... byebyela!