Benefits of Other Learning Experiences doubtful

After the final bell rings at four o’clock, Colin Chan, a  high school senior from Diocesan Boys’ School  in Mong Kok, still stays at school until late evening.

He would join the archery training every Tuesday and Thursday, and rehearsal of school orchestra every Monday and Friday. During weekends, he volunteers for an organization that helps tourists.

Although the academic pressure is generally high for Chan with much homework and tests from eight subjects, he still enjoys a lot with his after-school activities. “The activities help me to widen my exposure and learn new skills,” Chan said.

The extra-curricular activities are part of the Other Learning Experiences (OLE), a compulsory component under new Senior Secondary Curriculum for Form Four to Six implemented in local schools since September 2009. OLE is to complement the core and elective academic subjects for the whole-person development of students. Schools would offer a range of activities for students to participate in five areas, namely Moral and Civic Education, Community Service, Career-related Experiences, Aesthetic Development and Physical Development. At the end of Form Six, students have to submit a “Student Learning Profile”, a record of OLE, to the universities for the consideration of undergraduate admission.

Although the concept seems to be a good intention by the government to develop students’ in different aspects, students, graduates and teachers expressed some negative assessments of it.

Students may join a variety of activities organised by external organisations, but some schools only count those activities organised by school as other learning experiences. Diocesan Boys’ School is one of them. “I had done more than 100 hours of voluntary service organised by a local non-profit organisation last year, but sadly those hours don’t count as OLE”, Chan said. He feels that some of his efforts and skills learnt were not appreciated.

Recognition of is also a problem. Looking back the experience, some secondary school graduates doubted the usefulness of other learning experiences for increasing the chance of admitting into the university.

“Many of my university classmates did not have a track record of other learning experiences but they had good public examination results,” said Hillie Lau, a final year student majoring Geography at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Lau was among the first batch of secondary school students who in 2012 graduated under the new curriculum, which included the other learning experiences in the curriculum.

Another senior secondary graduate, Harley Kwok, currently a second year student majoring in Public Health at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, echoes Lau’s view.

“In my opinion, the admission of an undergraduate programme are mostly based on public examination result, and partly based on interview performance,” Kwok said. She thinks that extra-curricular activities are only bonus.

According to admission websites of the top three universities in Hong Kong – The University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology  –other learning experiences is not part of the university entrance requirements.

Among these universities, two only briefly mentioned other learning experiences on their websites. The Chinese University of Hong Kong states that it would “consider the experiences and achievements in other learning experiences” as submitted in the application form and student learning profile may “provide topics for discussion during interviews”; The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology states that students are “strongly encouraged” to upload student learning profile in the application system.

Aside from students, secondary school teachers voiced their complaints as well. They are much busier with organising activities for students.

“Some teachers including me are frustrated with the additional workload brought by other learning experiences,” said Tammy Wong, a career guidance teacher at Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School in Shatin. “Most of the activities were not taken place before the commencement of the new curriculum.”

The activities at Wong’s school in recent years include Arts Festival to feature students’ performance in music and dance, and Careers Day to invite alumni to share their job experiences to fulfil the requirement of other learning experiences for the area of Aesthetic Development and Career-related Experiences respectively.

In June this year, the government announced the total time for other learning experiences would be reduced from 15-35 per cent to 10-15 per cent of the whole curriculum from this academic year after conducting a comprehensive review on New Academic Structure.

Wong welcomes the news. However, she thinks more resources such as detailed guidelines and funding should be given from the government.

“The manpower of our school is limited, more resources and materials should be provided so that we can deliver the other learning experiences to students more effectively,” said Wong.

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