Preparing Tender Minds for the Future World
If one agrees to what Robert Fulghum says that all one really needs to know is learned in kindergarten, early childhood education (ECE) is no doubt the cornerstone of education.
Effective and competent early childhood educators are indispensable for quality kindergarten education. Since September 2003, all newly appointed kindergarten teachers in Hong Kong have been required to possess a Qualified Kindergarten Teacher (QKT) qualification or its equivalent. All new principals from the 2009–10 school year should have a degree in ECE.
Jourdan Ho and Irene Ip were both qualified kindergarten teachers holding a Higher Diploma in Early Childhood Education when they enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts (Early Childhood Education) Programme (CHED). They decided to pursue a degree with two years of full-time study after assuring themselves of the commitment to educating preschool children.
Being no strangers to the field, they were attracted by the wide array of courses offered by CHED but at the same time a bit concerned whether they would be learning anything new. Their worries were soon eased. Jourdan said, ‘The programme builds on the foundation of our previous knowledge and is spontaneous in fine-tuning the contents to provide additional academic and professional training for us. It not only deepens but also broadens our understanding of ECE.’
The basic understanding of ECE acquired from the higher diploma course has fuelled Irene with the desire for an in-depth study. She is curious about what playing means to pre-school children and how it relates to their learning, how to develop a good curriculum, how to support those with special educational needs (SEN) and what contemporary issues in ECE there are in this fast-changing world. To her pleasant surprise, at the Faculty of Education, the treasure trove was wide open for her and other students to delve into.
The class size at 20 is small enough to facilitate effective interflow of ideas and cohesion, and at the same time big enough for a vibrant diversity. Students, being higher diploma course graduates from different institutions, came with various strengths, ranging from the writing of lesson plans to the making of effective teaching aids. ‘We have a cordial relationship and are well-connected. We are all willing to share and exchange ideas during and after class. Since there are only 20 of us, circulation of information is efficient,’ said Jourdan who has completed her studies. Her classmate Irene agreed, ‘Whenever anybody has a problem, others will take it as their own and are all ready to help.’
Irene appreciates how the programme has trained her to be a reflective practitioner. As some courses were open to non-ECE programme students, she got the chance to know prospective educators in other majors of her faculty. Courses like Educational Thoughts and Understanding Schooling and Education Policy in Hong Kong helped her to connect teaching to a larger social context and realize that a kindergarten teacher is preparing tender minds for the future world. She added that the professors from different departments of the Faculty of Education, namely, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Administration and Policy, Educational Psychology, and Sports Science and Physical Education, were willing to share their rich experiences on various fronts of education to enrich students’ learning beyond documented pedagogies and book theories.
The course on Introduction to Educational Research is a memorable learning experience for Irene. She chose the topic of parental involvement in children’s education. Guided through the research process step by step by her course instructor, she found that both her research skills and insight into the subject were largely enhanced. She is now confident in working on a research project relating to this topic in the coming year of her study.
CHED includes a highly valued internship component. Prof. Angela Siu, Programme Coordinator of CHED and Course Instructor of Internship, explained, ‘The internship of this programme provides opportunities for students to put knowledge and skills they learned from the programme into practice via engaging in a real-life experience in the child care related or education sector. Examples of activities for the internship include working with children to meet their diverse learning and emotional needs, conducting programmes relating to parent education, assisting in research projects, taking part in the promotion of activities in relation to children's physical and mental health.’
In view of the increased awareness of learner diversity, CHED places emphasis on the academic knowledge and professional competence to address SENs in children. Irene is interning in a kindergarten with some children who have special needs. She said, ‘I can’t wait to apply what I have learned to practice, and build up a good relationship with these children to know better about their needs.’ Jourdan is excited over the choices offered to her and would like to know more the curriculum and the daily routine of children in an international kindergarten. The commitments of the two young educators to the profession are strengthened as they sail through the two-year programme with supportive peers and teachers.
Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2018