Visit to Boroughmuir High School

By Mr. Ho Sai Cheong Ivan and Ms. Chow Ka Yan Karen,
TWGHs Kwok Yat Wai College

26/4/2016 Tuesday

On the 26th April, we spent a day at Boroughmuir High School, a co-educational school. It is a historical and well-established school founded in 1904, providing a rich and well-designed educational curriculum for students to achieve their full potential and embrace life’s challenges.

In the morning, we were warmly received by Mr. Demspter, the Head Teacher of Boroughmuir High School. He was very hospitable. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the Deputy Heads and the teachers too, sitting in the staff room having a chat over morning tea; they were all very welcoming and friendly.

Touring around the school campus was another insightful journey. The student ambassadors escorted us on a tour around the school. During the tour, we saw lots of students’ work and poster decorations. The eye-catching students’ work was one of the many things we were impressed with as we explored around the school. The idea of students’ work and signs dotted about the walls inspired us a lot. We too can make use of our school’s walls, both inside and outside the classroom, to display students’ work and instill a sense of pride in their learning.

 

After a comprehensive overview of the school, we went to observe some lessons. The English class we observed conducted by teacher Lesley Bloomer was quite enlightening. It was a form one English lesson. At first, students were asked to share their research with their peers. We found that the students were well-prepared for the research and they had extraordinarily high motivation in learning and a big thirst in knowing everything. Since Lesley was so considerate to tell us beforehand what we would see in her class, it was easy for us to fit into the learning context quickly. Yet, we were totally amazed to realize that in their presentations, instead of having to follow a fixed format, Lesley allowed the students to decide the details of their own presentations. In this way, students had the chance to show their ingenuity and make learning much more interesting in the process. This made me consider the possibility of applying this strategy in my own English class. We always set lots of boundaries in giving students assignments, hoping they would hand in an “ideal” assignment. However, an error-free product may reduce the fun in learning and increase students’ frustration. Moreover, we noticed that the students were rather autonomous in learning. It seemed natural for them to share their opinions with their peers, ask questions and react confidently to the teacher’s inquiries. It is widely recognized that students’ autonomy is fundamental in language learning. We were particularly impressed by the students’ general willingness and motivation to learn. We truly appreciate the Boroughmuir teachers’ efforts in creating this kind of open learning environment for their students.

In the afternoon, Mr. Archie McGlynn, Founder and Director of the Hong Kong Scotland School Improvement Partnership (HKSSIP) joined us for the sharing session with the student leaders from the Student Council. The students were thrilled to have us there and they participated enthusiastically throughout the sharing session. They were curious about the Hong Kong education system. It made me realize just how hard students in Hong Kong work and the constant level of stress that they endure throughout the school year. Actually, it blew me away to see these enlightened students from a new perspective. I asked students how they felt about homework. One of the girls from the junior form surprised me by saying that the homework was manageable and she liked being challenged. She knew that everything she was doing would be good for her future and she genuinely loved to learn. I believe that the Scottish education system enables all students to be keen learners and confident individuals as well as promoting student maturity and self-regulation, skills essential for thriving in the 21st century.

We finally came to discuss the planning and development of our partnership. We presented the Memorandum of Partnership document that we had drawn up back in Hong Kong to David and so marked the beginning of our partnership for the future.  Our partnership with Boroughmuir High school will open the door for both teachers and students to broaden their vision of the world and foster an understanding of their counterparts in Scotland, thanks to the coordination of Archie and Judith.

 

The day was very interesting and enjoyable. This visit has enabled me to widen my horizons and gain meaningful insights into refining my teaching methods and my students’ learning strategies. Most importantly, this experience has also led me to consider what new opportunities we can craft with students so that they can have more meaningful and experiential learning. This visit has really helped our school to establish links with Boroughmuir High school. It has definitely sowed the seeds for a wonderful partnership in future.

Further actions suggested by both schools are listed as below:

  • Student or teacher exchanges will be conducted under conditions that have been mutually agreed by both schools
  • Both schools will endeavour to maintain student and teacher exchange programs to provide the opportunity to study, contribute and live in the partner school community
  • Exchange information about curriculum, school policy and school events
  • Exchange teaching resources, course materials and teaching strategies
  • Exchange student work, email, letters, photos, student newspapers, etc. to promote mutual understanding
  • Exchange leadership development information between principals
  • Organise joint-school activities to visit partner school in Shanghai so as to provide opportunities for contact and interaction with a wider school community
  • Start an E Pen Pal / Pen Pal Scheme
  • Use video conferencing facilities to communicate live with students of our partner school during lessons

HKSSIP