23 October 2007

simple pleasures

for the past chung yeung holiday, i went to dongguan, china with a few friends from work. although i was looking forward to the company, i had few other expectations (well, maybe cheap shopping!) of the three-day trip. those are probably the best trips though; little planning, no set schedules and lots of improvisation.

we went to random places that turned out to be very scenic and/or historical. (i love that china is steeped in history. you cannot help but stumble over something with rich historical/cultural associations.) we walked a LOT (a's feet are probably still sore), took several long bus rides and occasionally meandered away from our destination (this is not to be confused with getting lost). i was initially worried about the food, but apart from the congee the first day, our meals were good (in taste and price), particularly at the thai and korean restaurants.

the best part was definitely the company. i like small groups of people; five is a good number. moreover, these were persons i am very comfortable with. we laughed a lot, particularly at the crazy signs everywhere, and at p's attempts to buy a black suit. us three girls shared a bed, and that inevitably led to much giggling and squirming.

all in all, a wonderful weekend away. thanks a, p, p and i. when's our next trip?!

inspiring education

i read two different news articles yesterday that intrigued me. (both from the guardian, of course.) one was about a mixed jewish/arab school in jerusalem. each class has students (boys and girls) who are muslim, christian and jewish. there are two teachers for each class, one arab and one jewish. and the school has two principals as well, both women, one jewish and one arab. all three religions are taught and discussed. similarly, history is taught from both perspectives.

"We teach everything and we discuss the issues and we accept it is possible not to agree with each other," said Amin Khalaf, a co-founder of the Hand in Hand mixed education project. "But we have to know both sides."

The children admit it is often difficult. "Some of it is quite hard - questions about the independent state and the naqba," said Tamar Borman, a 13-year-old Jewish pupil. "Sometimes we argue and sometimes we cry. But it's nothing too big. And if we don't face the problems we won't be able to solve them."

the school seems to have created a new community, where students, parents and teachers of all three faiths genuinely co-exist. amidst the constant conflict, violence and suffering that plagues both israel and palestine, this is so tiny a step as to be almost irrelevant. but any journey starts with a single step. and that these kids can learn and grow together, is surely a good prospect for the future of both arabs and jews.

the second article was about 'extreme education' for poorer city kids in the UK and US. i admit i was taken aback by the idea of "10-hour days, parental contracts and zero tolerance behaviour policies", but if it gets the kids into college (and there is no abuse involved), why not? moreover, i have always been a fan of smaller schools and classes. the attention given to students in smaller schools, as well as the classroom interaction, is very different. perhaps hk schools could incorporate some of these ideas!

16 October 2007

a new education

for the past month or so i've been working as a research assistant for a professor in the education department. i've learnt about inquiry based learning, the HK education bureau's goals and schemes, the use of IT in education, and much more. the work is interesting, and i find myself wishing i was doing an MA in education rather than international and public affairs!

hk's education system has much room for improvement, and i am excited to be involved in projects addressing this. the last time i worked as a research assistant opened up a whole new career path.. dare i hope this experience will bring the same?