Summerbridge Hong Kong: Why It Matters

With Hong Kong back under Chinese rule, Mainland China is trying to unify both locations by forcing Hong Kong to teach Mandarin as a second language as opposed to English. Therefore, English standards in Hong Kong have been continually decreasing in recent years. Furthermore, due to the massive amount of people in Hong Kong and the scarce number of universities, only 18% (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) of students end up furthering their education past secondary school at a government-funded institution. This creates an immensely competitive, test-oriented atmosphere within the Hong Kong educational system. This is why Summerbridge Hong Kong is so important. Summerbridge HK is a non-profit English-immersion educational program that fosters English language development as well as personal development among kids from economically disadvantaged and single-parent households. These kids do not have the same resources as others, and therefore don’t have the money to afford extra tutoring for the standardized tests. Summerbridge HK aims to teach these students English, while showing them that they are worth more than their test scores, and that there is so much to love about learning beyond a number on a paper in red ink.

 

The program emphasizes students teaching students, with all of its teachers in college or finishing up high school. Many of the teachers were born and raised in Hong Kong, and several were even students in the programs themselves. We were given full autonomy to create a curriculum that was designed to engage the students and get them to speak English as much as possible. Class topics ranged from Spoken Word Poetry to Human Biology to Creativity. After a week of Staff Orientation on the program itself and how to create a curriculum, we were ready to start classes. The program was held on Monday-Friday from 8:15-3:30. A typical schedule was structured roughly as follows:

 

8:15 – Get off the bus and all-school meeting

8:50 – Period 1

9:40 – Period 2

10:30 – Period 3

11:20 – Period 4

12:10 – Lunch

1 – Family time

2 – Sports and electives

3 – All-school meeting

3:30 – Back on the bus

 

During classes, the students are speaking English all the time, actively participating in discussions, and taking part in activities that show them that learning can be fun and valuable even without rigorous standardized testing.

 

Throughout the rest of the day, they are making meaningful relationships with their classmates and teachers, and breaking out of their comfort zones. By speaking English all the time, they are immersing themselves into a new language, becoming more thoughtful with their word choice, and developing personal skills according to the Summerbridge spirits. Through Special Event Days and their everyday activities, students developed Support (Spirit Day), Teamwork (Olympics), Bravery (Talent Show), and Love of Learning (Student Teaching Day). These spirits and their corresponding Special Event Days are what make Summerbridge truly special. These spirits, as well as Motivation, English All The Time, Respect, and more, all create an atmosphere that is conducive to personal growth and restructuring their attitudes toward education and themselves.

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I am so fortunate to have been able to work at Summerbridge Hong Kong this summer, to have made meaningful and lasting relationships with my coworkers and students, and to have served as an antonym for underprivileged Hong Kong students’ normal schooling, as well as to teach them (and them teach us in return) how to love to learn, love each other, and love themselves.

 

My family in HK

My family in HK

My CDC in HK

My CDC in HK

 

Source: http://www.eua.be/eua/jsp/en/upload/Panel_Leung.1112699548801.pdf

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