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The programme is a two-year full-time degree programme for Higher Diploma holders in Early Childhood Education, aiming at providing additional academic and professional training for qualified kindergarten teachers to become effective and competent early childhood educators. The programme adopts a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing upon expertise from different departments of the Faculty of Education. It also emphasizes training in both theoretical and practical work.

The coursework equips students with more in-depth knowledge in child development and early childhood education. The internship is compulsory and aims at widening students’ perspectives and strengthening their professional skills in working with the young children with diverse learning needs. The scope of work includes working with individual children to facilitate their cognitive and social-emotional development, conducting programmes relating to parent education, assisting in research projects, and promoting activities in relation to children’s physical and mental health. The evidence-based practices enhance students’ pedagogical skills to foster the holistic development of children and their sensitivity to design a responsive curriculum to meet learners’ diversity. The research component provides students with experience in conducting scientific work.

Preparing Tender Minds for the Future World

Robert Fulghum once said that all one really needs to know is learned in kindergarten. Indeed, 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 qualification or its equivalent. All new principals from the 2009–10 school year are required to have a degree in ECE.

Ka Wai Lee and Chenyl Tseng were both qualified kindergarten teachers holding a Higher Diploma in ECE 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 could learn something new. It turns out that all of their worrying was for naught. ‘The programme offers various opportunities to enrich my subject knowledge and polish my teaching skills. Our professors are very supportive and encouraging. They are willing to devote their time to students and put our learning experience as top priority,’ said Chenyl.

The basic understanding of ECE acquired from the higher diploma course has fuelled Ka Wai 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, the way to develop a good curriculum and to support those with special educational needs (SEN), and the contemporary issues in ECE that are occurring 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 to offer 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 Ka Wai who had completed her studies.

Ka Wai 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 made her 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 Ka Wai. She chose the topic ‘Changes of kindergarten teacher’s teaching model’ in Visual Arts activities. 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. 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 a childcare-related or education sector. Examples of internship activities include working with children to meet their diverse learning and emotional needs, conducting programmes relating to parent education, assisting in research projects, and 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 children with SENs. Ka Wai 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 my future career. I wish to build a good relationship with kindergarteners and to know better about their needs.’

Published: Summer 2017
Last Updated: Summer 2020