Hong Kong Twinning Programme, Hong Kong
Between the 3rd and 8th December 2013, a group of ten Year 4 students and three accompanying teachers from Dunman High School participated in the 2013 Cultural Collage organised by the Po Leung Kok Ngan Po Ling College, Hong Kong. The main objective of this biennial event is for participants to appreciate different cultures through interaction with students from other countries. This year marked the fifth time Dunman High participated in the Cultural Collage, where school participants from Singapore, Shanghai, Shaoguan (in Guangdong Province), and New Zealand were hosted by their Hong Kong counterparts. During the six days in Hong Kong, our students took part in many interesting and enriching activities such as attending academic lessons, embarking on learning journeys to top universities (e.g. Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and the Chinese University of Hong Kong), and visiting places of interest (e.g. Disneyland, Stanley, the Peak, and the Golden Bauhinia Square). Besides learning more about Hong Kong through these activities, both our students and teachers have also forged new friendships and gained better understanding of other cultures and educational policies and practices through close interaction and sharing with the various overseas participants.
Daily Highlights & Learning Points
The Dunman High School delegation arrived a day before the Cultural Collage to visit Disneyland for team-building purposes. The group had a great time at the theme park and bonded with each other through the various thrilling rides. However, it was not all fun only as the students were tasked to reflect on the examples of adaptation of Western norms in Asian culture which they observed in Disneyland, Hong Kong.
The delegation visited the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) in the morning. This visit was arranged by the Dunman High School teachers to encourage the students to plan for their tertiary education early (i.e. even before they officially start Senior High). The group was given an introduction to the university and faculties as well as some of the courses offered. They also attended a talk by Prof Koh Tat Koon (a Singapore Professor based in HKUST) and enjoyed a relaxing tour around campus. During the subsequent de-brief, the students were reminded of the importance of doing research on the universities and courses they are interested in early. They were also encouraged to consider a range of choices (from the “dream” courses to the “more realistic” ones) and familiarise themselves with the requirements for admission. They were advised to research on what these universities are looking for in terms of attributes and to talk to people who have direct contact with these universities (e.g. seniors or the Scholarships and Higher Education Committee teachers-in-charge). Furthermore, the students were recommended to start planning for their personal portfolios and to work out concrete steps to beef them up. Another learning point for the students is that they were encouraged take a serious look at some of the universities in this region. It is important for them not to have a narrow view that all good universities are only found in the UK, US or Australia. With the shift of the economic focus to the east, it is timely for the students to be cognisant of its impact on the tertiary education sector as well.
The delegation arrived at the Ngan Po Ling College in the late afternoon and was given a warm welcome by the host school. The participants from the various schools also participated in a “Dance Party” and got to know each other better through this informal and fun platform. The students headed to their buddies’ homes after the Dance Party, where they began their 4-night stay with their host families.
The students visited two universities (The Polytechnic University of Hong Kong and The Chinese University of Hong Kong) and participated in activities organised by these institutions. These activities enabled the participants to have a preview of university life (in particular in Hong Kong) and also bonded them closer together at the same time. The teachers, on the other hand, were invited to a professional sharing session organised by the host school. Educators from the various regions (Shanghai, Shaoguan, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore) shared about their broad educational policies and initiatives as well as their schools’ signature programmes. The sharing session was useful in letting the educators gain better understanding to external policies and practices and greater awareness of contextual opportunities and limitations at the same time.
The day began with short addresses made by the respective participating schools during morning assembly. It was followed by the Closing Ceremony graced by the VVIPs (including the Deputy Consul-General from the Consulate-General of the Republic of Singapore for Hong Kong & Macau SAR – Mr Chng Tze Chia, the Po Leung Kuk (PLK) Chairman – Mr Eric Cheng, and the PLK Principal Education Secretary – Mr Clifton Yeung). Our students put up a well-received cultural performance during the Ceremony and presented themselves as worthy ambassadors for the school and Singapore indeed! The day continued with a special culinary lesson for the students in the afternoon and culminated with a Cultural Night for the participants. The students enjoyed and learnt more about the different cultures through these well-planned activities.
The last two days of the trip were reserved for local sight-seeing for the participants. On 7 December, the group visited popular tourist spots such as Stanley, the Peak, and the Golden Bauhinia Square to have a quick feel of the pulse of the vibrant city and a preview of what it has to offer. On the final day, our students went on a group outing with their buddies and their classmates to spend some quality time together before the flight back to Singapore.
In conclusion, the Cultural Collage 2013 was an enjoyable and enriching experience for both the students and teachers. Not only had the delegation learnt more about Hong Kong and the other regions, each participant also gained unique experiences through close interaction with other people. In particular, for the one or two who had a less-than-perfect buddy, they have come to learn that it is not always possible to choose the people whom they come in contact with in life, and hence it is important to develop the skills to empathise and to live/work alongside others. They also have to learn to see the good side in people and to recognise their own blind spots as well.
Food, shopping and flurry of hurried footsteps down brightly lit streets; that was my perception of Hong Kong right before the cultural collage took place. I did not get to shop much, neither was I basking in an endless stream of Dim Sum dishes, but what I took away was much greater than food or clothes.
What differentiates a Singaporean from a Hong Kong citizen is the fighting spirit they possess. From small, daily life situations to their demeanour when discussing about controversial political topics, their energy and aggression was blatant. I remember a few incidents where the restaurant staff, tour guide and customers would be bantering, each fighting for their own rights and wanting their way. With the limited Cantonese that I knew, I could understand that none of them were at fault, they all just did not want to be at a disadvantage. This spirit was reflected when my host family was discussing about current political issues with me during meals. I could see the dissatisfaction they had with their current government and how determined they were to witness changes occur, like for example, more aid to be provided for the special needs. As opposed to the passive, obedient culture in Singapore, where youths had little political awareness and most citizens would just accept their fates or post hate anonymously online. Also, when we visited Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, I was quite taken aback to see a board full of insults, flaming political figures and advocating gay rights. Such a thing would have caused a ruckus in Singapore.
I also noticed that most students were effectively trilingual, most were proficient in English, Chinese and Cantonese. It made me feel like Singapore bilingual education system was put to shame, since Hong Kong does not even boast about its multi-lingual ability. Hong Kong’s cosmopolitan, bustling urban culture is in many ways, similar to Singapore, yet I feel our people have much to learn from our counterpart in China.
13Y4E Tricia Ng
This trip to Hong Kong has given me countless deep insights on the world around us as well as the world in me. Honestly, I would not say that things had gone exactly as planned but nonetheless, it was those setbacks that have distinguished this trip from the many. It was those unplanned, unpredictable, uncontrollable happenings that made this trip that much more meaningful for me and I wouldn’t be lying when I say that this few days would hold a special place in my memories.
Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you taste different flavours and experience different aromas. Likewise, even though my journey in Hong Kong was not the most conventional and perfect one, it has given me the chance to see what others might not, be it about the people around me or my own personality. There are many different kinds of people in the world, some nicer than others, some more friendly than others but everyone has a story behind every tantrum they throw or in every action they do. We have to understand that. We have to accept that. This would be one of the greater insights I have taken away from this short 6 days – empathy.
On a less serious note, being able to see the many different places has also allowed me to realize how lucky we are to live, work and play in a country like Singapore. We always lament our hot and humid weather, our stressful life, maybe even about the curry smell next door, but only by stepping outside our very own doorstep can we really understand how great a country Singapore is. While we are childishly complaining about such trivial and insignificant things, we tend to overlook the life we Singaporeans are blissfully living in. Jobs, education, housing. I feel that we have all taken this for granted and we need to learn to appreciate and be grateful for whatever we have while understanding what we cannot have at the same time.
Which brings me to my second learning point – Always look on the brighter side of life. Not only a catchy and fun song, but also a very important life lesson. We have to be open to whatever that comes our way, good or bad, and make the best out of it. There’s always the brighter side of things, and if you can’t seem to grasp it, it just means that you’re not looking hard enough. Sometimes, you need to take a step back in order to get a hold of the bigger picture. As for me, even though I might not have spent as much time experiencing the taste of Hong Kong, I felt that I have gained more if not the most compared to my peers.
I think the greatest take away from this trip is not the lessons we have learnt, but the friendships we have forged, both with the Hong Kong buddies and our school mates. I feel that the bonds we have formed with each other would not stop where this cultural collage ends, they will last a lifetime.
13Y4I Nicholas Woo