01 Jul, 2022
09 : 09
Developing from a school with a few children to an international network covering infancy to tertiary education, Yew Chung Yew Wah, or YCYW, is celebrating its 90th anniversary. Established in 1932 in Hong Kong, the school, initially named Yew Chung, was founded by Tsang Chor-hang with a vision to save the country through education during tumultuous periods of world history and the titanic struggle that China experienced. Looking back on almost a century of history, YCYW has been dedicated to nurturing the holistic development of students and grooming their global perspectives and has made achievements in international education with creative pedagogy and constant practices. “YCYW has adhered to the original value of focusing on personal character formation in our education over the decades. It is essential to build the country and a person’s life development,” said Betty Chan Po-king, who is Tsang’s daughter and now the CEO and school supervisor of YCYW.
Pioneer in concept
Following in her mother’s steps, Chan returned to Hong Kong to take over the YC schools in the 1970s when she graduated from the University of Hawaii with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in early child-hood education, or ECE. Awarded the Ameri-can Association of University Women scholarship, Chan then attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for a doc-toral program tutored by ECE educator Bernard Spodek. She completed her PhD at Union Institute and University in 1985.
The educational researcher received honorary doctorate degrees in humane letters and laws from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Bath respectively. She was also awarded the honorary fellowship by the Education University of Hong Kong.
In the 1970s, a lot of families in Hong Kong tended to emigrate to foreign countries or send their children to study abroad.
“As an educator, I felt obliged to set a balanced program in schools to help students acquire international education at home,” Chan said.
During this period, Chan not only took over from her mother and continued YC’s commitment to quality education, but also introduced the ECE concept, which contributed greatly to Hong Kong’s education system.
For the ECE, Chan highlighted the importance of learning through play and creating an open class environment. This pedagogical technique originated from Chan’s learning experience.
“In my university studies, my professor always told me that ‘you have to find some games’,” Chan recalled. “I was confused. How can I find games while having my lessons?”
But it turned out that Chan, the former student who questioned her teachers, finally acquired knowledge and unexpectedly dis-covered her passions through practice in a relaxed atmosphere.
Inspired by personal experiences, Chan promoted the learning through play concept.
“My favorite age is 3. It is the beginning and an important period of a person’s life,” Chan said. “The younger the children are, the more knowledge they can absorb and the more interests they can find.”
In 2004, Chan, who was the first Asian invited to speak at the Alliance for International Education World Conference in Duesseldorf, Germany, shared her views on the ECE.
To better implement her teaching concept, Chan had designed courses featuring hands-on activities at YC schools such as setting interest corners in each classroom, as part of the efforts to motivate students to engage in learning through play.
In 1985, Chan introduced the ECE to the Chinese mainland by holding an exhibition, Pillars of Tomorrow, in Beijing.
The executive and her team presented the YC schools’ classroom setting in Hong Kong at the exhibition, which was the first of its kind to introduce the ECE model of Hong Kong after the opening-up of China.
Invited by the local education authority, thereafter, Chan successfully brought the ECE concept to the Chinese mainland with the first Yew Chung established in Shanghai in 1993 and the first Yew Wah in Yantai, Shandong province, in 2000.
The Yew Wah international schools, the twin series of YC schools, were co-founded by Chan and Paul Yip Kwok-wah in 1998 in an effort to bring quality education to Chinese and expatriate students in mainland cities. To date, the YCYW international schools have opened in cities such as Shanghai, Yan-tai, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Beijing, Qingdao, Rizhao, Guangzhou and Tongxiang.
“International does not mean Western. International should be a fusion of different cultures. The education of international schools means to be able to help students realize a balanced development,” Chan said.
YCYW adopts bilingual teaching in Chinese and English. It also opens optional language courses including German, French, Spanish and Korean. Moreover, the school has curriculums ranging from science and technology to culture and arts, aiming to pro-duce well-rounded students to reach their potentials rather than just excelling in exams.
Languages are a tool for students to adapt to a multicultural context and help them gain more exposure to history and learn more knowledge, Chan said.
YCYW knows that students learn best when they are involved in activities that stimulate inquiry in areas of their personal interest, and that digital literacy is vital for today’s learners, the school supervisor said.
Taking advantage of the large school network, its upper secondary students can take one online subject from another YCYW school through the YCYW Online program, offering them more subject options.
Apart from classroom instruction, the international school puts patriotic education high on its agenda. Chan said: “We have students from different countries. We teach them to love their countries while respecting others’ cultures.”
Baby to Bachelor
In 2018, the Yew Chung College of Early Childhood Education, a degree-awarding institution, was established in Hong Kong, meaning YCYW had completed its network from infancy to tertiary education, also known as the Baby to Bachelor cycle.
YCCECE is the only specialist tertiary institution of its kind in Hong Kong. It offers a Bachelor of Education, higher diploma and a diploma in ECE, as well as an array of professional development courses for early child-hood educators and industry professionals.
“Forming the education network from kindergarten, and primary and secondary schools to college is not easy. We have achieved this based on our decades of practices,” Chan said.
Teaching cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence, especially for the ECE, Chan said, explaining education requires teachers to impart knowledge as well as to teach by words and influence by deeds.“
The bachelor’s degree also means YCYW has fulfilled the commitment to nurturing a better next generation,” she added.
To date, YCYW has expanded its global footprint in more than 20 locations spanning Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland and other countries and regions including the United States and the United Kingdom.“
“With an unshakable vision, YCYW continues to play a major role in promoting international education, intercultural under-standing and global citizenship from early childhood to tertiary education, actively con-tributing to our home country and the wider world,” Chan said.
Source: China Daily Special Coverage - Page 8, FRIDAY, July 1, 2022