Education for Sustainability in Hong Kong

Today I walked in on a conversation between two people who had submitted a simple bid to a government Hong Kong department to develop an EfS project. This time to get the bid they need to show how they will quantify what they have offered to teachers. Teachers in this instance includes both those working in International schools and local schools. The pressure on both is tremendous. Local teachers have time limits to deliver packets of information to children each week, even very young children, and the children are tested at the end of each week. The teacher’s and children are assessed by their performance and the pressure to cover the material is unending.

Black butterfly hovers above fuchsia flower.
Butterfly feeding near The Hong Kong trail.

The result is anxiety and depression, from both teachers and children, parents hopeless trapped between wanting the best for their children in terms of getting a job in this highly competitive system and their happiness. When they last tried this project they estimated 75% of the teachers they worked with had no knowledge of the meaning of ‘biodiversity’, and even if they did no space to add it to their curriculum. The nature of local schools, unlike the IB system does not value inquiry or project based learning but rote learning for Friday’s test, so the students going through this process are working so hard without picking up the important skills they will need in the work place, and more importantly in life.

We didn’t have time to solve all of the problems but concluded that the starting point to engage local and international teachers to find out more about their experience, to find what they value and link this in to EfS, whether this is through the history, culture, nature of Hong Kong or human responses to it in art, literature, dance, film. And use this curriculum to humanise their day, to add reflective thinking into the day of teachers, to stop and reflect. The problem of how to fit it into the schedule will come, as will moulding the whole system to the needs of children, but the beginning must be to recognise what is important to each one of us and in doing so we stand the best chance of connecting each person with their aspirations for a more sustainable approach to education in this fast and competitive city.


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