The Rise of Play-Based Learning in Hong Kong
Children of Asian parents are reputed to have a strict childhood focussed more on early education than social development. Playtime with other children is often replaced with tutoring sessions, music lessons, and other structured activities to help advance them towards future academic success. As more and more people around the world came to hear the call of the “Tiger Mom,” criticism surfaced, decrying the rigourous and stressful academic pressures children in Asian countries are allegedly put under on a regular basis. Being under the microscope is slowly shifting the perspective on education in Hong Kong, with many new theories on education are coming to light. As the focus moves away from test scores and assessment, one school in particular is hoping to step up as a forerunner in the rise of play-based learning in Hong Kong.
The International Froebel Society, the global educational organisation started in Germany in 1837, is hoping that its recently affiliated school in Kowloon City, Munsang College Kindergarten, will set the example in Hong Kong on ways in which children can learn through social activities and peer-to-peer interactions. The broader educational philosophy the organisation employs is one that emphasises activity, nature, and guided discovery through fun, game-based ways.
This new partnership comes at the heels of a recent review completed by the Education Bureau discovered that more than 400 kindergartens in Hong Kong were subjecting their young students to fast-paced, accelerated programmes that pushed well beyond bureau standards. The advanced curriculum has led to higher expectations, which has subsequently led to higher levels of pressure placed on Hong Kong’s young students. Although everyone can understand the desire to begin early childhood development as soon as possible, the undue stress and unrealistic expectations have shown its toll on Hong Kong’s young scholars.
One challenge facing those attempting to shift the current outlook on education is to find a common ground between high academic standards and more fluid approaches to education in young children. Local teachers working with Munsang College Kindergarten are learning and implementing more child-centred approaches that are less stringent than what they may be used to implementing in their classrooms. However, another challenge, and perhaps the more difficult hurdle to overcome, is changing the viewpoint of many Hong Kong parents, most of whom believe in stricter and more structured methods of learning which can directly result in higher test scores.
It may be too early to tell how this new way of teaching young students will work out in the long-term, but one thing is for sure. The experience of education and childhood in general in Hong Kong is changing and the future of Hong Kong had never looked brighter than it does at this very moment.