The teacher who pushed the boundaries of Hong Kong education

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Edward Tse Kam-man is not your ordinary teacher. Having retired late last year, he looks back at his time as a visual arts instructor at Kwun Tong Maryknoll College with fondness.

Tse, 61, was ahead of his time when he started teaching at the boys’ school 34 years ago. Instead of sticking to the strict local school culture, Tse did away with seating plans and bought a fridge, water dispenser and coffee pot for his students. He also brought along a CD player because he felt music should be played in art classes.

Students were allowed to eat and drink when they wanted, and even swear. Tse stocked the art supplies room with all sorts of things, including baby oil, which came in handy when a student jammed his finger into a hole in a stool and couldn’t get it out.

The teacher got rid of homework entirely for Form One to Three pupils because “when local school students take work home, the parents do the homework,” he said.

“They just want a good grade, so they end up doing the drawing, the sticking, the cutting. It sends the wrong message to the students – that their work is not good enough.”

Tse does not believe in grading art work either, even for school, because he believes that art is not about what is right or wrong, but about freedom of expression. He calls the current art education system anti-education as it favours certain types of students, such as those good at repetition.

“[Grading] is very discouraging. The students all just sat together and had a good time making art, then they took the work home and the parents asked why they only got a C. The parents even asked what grades other students got. No one was happy. The parents wanted to know why the child wasn’t working harder, why they drew this and that … This shouldn’t be happening at all.”

So how exactly did Tse come up with such a unique classroom concept?

“I wanted students to trust me, not be afraid to show their true selves. They were constantly testing the teacher to see if they’d get in trouble. They wanted to know which side I was on – the school’s or theirs. My role is not to be a teacher. I am giving students a safe environment in which to express themselves, where they can break boundaries and build confidence.”

With his novel ways, Tse worried some fellow teachers. He received warning after warning, both verbal and written, from the school over his deliberately relaxed approach, but he always just came short of being fired. This is because his methods produced results.

“There are students who don’t normally behave and barely even come to school, but after spending some time in my class, their behaviour improves. There are also students who get bad grades, but still get accepted into university to study art.”

Parents did not complain about Tse’s teaching methods either because he says “they didn’t necessarily care about art. It’s considered a sidebar subject.”

That in itself is a problem for Tse, who, despite retiring, thinks something should be done about Hong Kong’s secondary education system. He says many universities in Hong Kong which take design or art students “don’t look at Diploma of Secondary Education results, but the education sector keeps pushing it anyway”.

“There’s something wrong with this examination method. Other than it not helping students get into university, it’s suffocating.

“The youth should take charge of their own creativity. Students today go around in circles, they copy each other. They’re not aware that they’ve fallen into a trap of wasting time and they don’t contribute to society. Who will break this cycle?”

Tse’s work pushing the boundaries of what is widely considered good education has earned him a place on the shortlist of the South China Morning Post’s Spirit of Hong Kong Awards. He was nominated by the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union in the Compassion Ambassador category.

Education official says industrial action harms education

Gavin Boyd

Northern Ireland’s top education official has accused teachers of harming children’s education by taking industrial action.

In a strongly worded letter to all teachers, Gavin Boyd also said they got better pay than their counterparts in England and Wales.

Teaching unions are refusing to co-operate with school inspections in a dispute over pay and workload.

Some are also taking occasional strike action.

The National Association of Schoolmasters and Women Teachers (NASUWT) has reacted angrily to Mr Boyd’s letter, accusing him of “fake news”.

Mr Boyd is chief executive of the Education Authority and represents the teaching employers in negotiations over the current pay dispute.

He wrote that the industrial action was “seriously affecting the education of children and young people” and “the effective operation of schools”.

‘Compares favourably’

School childrenImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionHe said teachers had been “confused by misinformation” on a number of issues

He also said teachers had been “confused by misinformation” on a number of issues.

“The average teacher’s pay in Northern Ireland is just over £40,000 per annum,” he added.

“This compares very favourably with other graduate professions locally and is actually higher than the average teacher’s pay in England and Wales.”

He said that teaching unions had rejected an overall offer of 2.5% on pay in 2015/16.

“There have been no reductions in teacher’s pay,” he said.

Mr Boyd conceded that national insurance and pension contributions had risen, but said these were “part of a wider government strategy to ensure public sector pensions remain affordable and sustainable”.

“Public sector pensions remain attractive and in general offer much better terms than those available in the private sector.”


However, the NASUWT’s general secretary Chris Keates said his letter would infuriate teachers.

“Teachers will not be persuaded or intimidated by the fake news presented in the letter,” she said.

“The value of teachers’ pay has fallen by around 20% since 2010.

chris keates
Image captionThe NASUWT’s general secretary, Chris Keates, said his letter would infuriate teachers

“The employers should start to devote more of their time to addressing the genuine concerns of teachers rather than peddling misinformation.”

In a related development, the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (INTO) has accused the Department of Education of “attempts at bullying” by writing to a Catholic archbishop about the ongoing industrial action.

‘Utter nonsense’

In a letter to members, INTO said that the Department of Education’s permanent secretary Derek Baker had written to Archbishop Eamon Martin.

They said Mr Baker had requested that Archbishop Martin ensure that school governors co-operate with school inspections.

“Attempts at bullying, such as this, should be rejected as an unsubtle attempt to bring the action to an end,” they wrote.

However, in a statement to the BBC, the Department of Education responded by describing the claim as “utter nonsense”.

“The letter focuses exclusively on the statutory duty placed on governors in respect of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of pupils and seeks their cooperation with the ETI specifically in respect of child protection and safeguarding,” they said.

“The suggestion that the department’s letter amounts to bullying is utter nonsense”.


It’s time we educated children for the future, rather than limiting them to subjects of the past

virtual reality

In March, the House of Lords told us what has long been obvious: that we need to pay far more attention to the internet by coordinating our efforts towards improving children’s “digital literacy”.

A report, published by the Lords Communications Committee, states that students’ lives – “from health to education, from socialising to entertainment” – are now “mediated through technology”.

It also suggests that the best way to protect children online is through mandatory content control filters and privacy settings, and that a new children’s “digital tsar” should be appointed.

All of this is commendable and, like so many education initiatives, long overdue. But if we are going to teach children to use the internet properly we need to do more than controlling its ‘threats’.

Whether we like it or not, artificial intelligence, algorithms, advances in genetic engineering, nanotechnology and biology are already shaping our world at a pace we can scarcely comprehend. Rather than adding another ‘subject’, we should be looking at the whole purpose of education and asking whether our current systems are still fit for purpose.

For generations now we have viewed children as either tabula rasa, blank slates waiting to be filled with knowledge, or, as those who adhere to innatism maintain, minds brimming with knowledge from day one.

Both philosophies fed into the assembly line pedagogy, funneling talent into the narrow and restricted neck of an hourglass, to prepare them for world of work and leisure. What is increasingly evident, however, is that this approach is inadequate, even for those leaving school in the next decade.

Yes, by all means, let us give the internet a far more prominent place in our curriculum (although I doubt whether including it as part of the many-headed beast that is PSHE is the right place), and better still, embed it across the curriculum.

But let’s look further, much further, at what we are teaching, and its relevance over the next decade. We need to ask: should we even continue to teach the “3 R’s” in their conventional form.

In his recent TED talk “The Future of Learning”, education guru Sam Chaltain said that we “have to prepare our children for their future opposed to our past”. And that, clearly, is the challenge we face.

While we know change is coming (and the J curve for knowledge is likely to be with us by 2030), we do not appear to have a unified approach on how to prepare for it. Instead of being reactive, education has to become proactive, even predictive, looking beyond what we already know to a rapidly changing future.

As Yuval Noah Harari notes in his book ‘ Homo Deus’ , a report prepared in 2013 by Oxford researchers Frey and Osborne revealed that up to 47 per cent of current US jobs risk being replaced by computers and automation in the next 20 years – including doctors and pharmacists.

While we remain sceptical as to whether humans can really be replaced in such professions, we should take note of the pharmacy that opened in San Franciso in 2011. Providing two million prescriptions in its first year without a single mistake, this new high-tech pharmacy owes its success to the specialised algorithms and iPhones which now run the show.

Bletchley Park to house college for teenage codebreakers


As many occupations disappear altogether, in the same way that streaming has decimated video and music stores, new professions will undoubtedly surface, but it is likely they will require more flexibility and creativity than our current education system allows.

Artificial intelligence and algorithms are already playing a significant role in our day to day lives, so it will be no surprise when teachers also become surplus to requirements.

Meanwhile, we are so hung up on data that we are wasting huge amounts of human potential, squeezing the creativity out of young minds.  Looking forwards, the workforce of tomorrow will not be judged on their content knowledge, but rather a set of skills and dispositions which enables them to thrive in an economy that is changing, fast.

Recently I was visited by a friend who was New Zealand’s entrepreneur of the year in 2016. When I asked him about the quality of his new and prospective employees, he said his greatest concerns were their inability to problem-solve, their lack of imagination and the analytical skills to address causes rather than just managing the effects.

Sadly there is little in our education system that prepares children for employment now – let alone in 2040, when the world of work will be more complicated still.

So while we may welcome the paper from the House of Lords on internet safety, even accepting that it is reactive rather than pro-active, it is a small step on a very long journey. We know we cannot keep adding to an already full and essentially backward-looking curriculum.

If the students are to succeed in the future, we need to begin considering how we can best teach new competencies, new skills, new applications and new knowledge.

And that starts by acknowledging that today’s education system is still stuck in the past.


Karnataka SSLC or Class 10 board exam results to be declared soon


Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board (KSEEB) will declare the results of its Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) or Class 10 board examination on Friday.

Students can check their results here after they are declared. Key in the required details and click on submit to check your results.

About 8.77 lakh students registered for the exams, of which 4.69 lakh were boys and 4.07 lakh were girls.

In a tweet, Karnataka primary and secondary education minister Tanveer Sait recently said, “Much awaited PUC results to be announced on 11th may Thursday 2017 at 3.00 PM and SSLC results on 12th may Friday 2017 at 3.00 PM – official.”