September 29, 2015, Hong Kong – Over the summer, the Hong Kong Academy of Gifted Education (HKAGE) collaborated with GROWHOUSE Education Centre in providing an intensive summer programme in English literacy and critical thinking for their student members who are the awardees of the Hong Kong Budding Poets (English) Award. The purpose of the collaboration was to reward selected awardees (aged 10-16) for their outstanding poetry-writing with a bespoke nine-day programme on literary analysis and creative writing, such that their critical and artistic abilities could be honed and developed in a small classroom setting. Students were provided with personalised and detailed written assessment reports on their English skills and learning dispositions throughout the programme, and came away having produced various pieces of individual creative and analytical writing.
Critical thinking is fast becoming a more essential skill than ever in education and the working world. It lays the foundation for skills like independent inquiry and problem solving as expected of HKDSE, GCSE, A-Level, and IB students. As it has become the norm to be inundated with information daily, it is crucial that young learners develop the independence and confidence to make sense of different perspectives, such that they do not merely become passive receptors of information. Indeed, critical thinking forms the basis of lifelong learning, as it equips individuals with core values of judgment and empathy which extend from school to the workplace. This means using as many opportunities as possible to practice thinking independently and reading closely, which in turn ignites curiosity about the wider world.
The intensive summer programme took place in July and August, and the graduation ceremony on Tuesday, September 15 at GROWHOUSE Education Centre. Besides from the participants of the programme and their families, special guests included members of the HKAGE staff, including Associate Director (Academic Programme Development Division) Mr. Albert Hong and Student Services Manager Ms. Brenda Liu, Student Programme Development Officer Ms. Queenie Choi. Students had the opportunity to show parents around the Centre and introduce their work – in the form of mind maps, storyboards, annotated texts and independent creative writing – as displayed in the classroom.
The ceremony began with GROWHOUSE Senior Director Ms Jannie Tam delivering a speech on giftedness and how the Education Centre’s core curriculum, as designed by London Gifted and Talented (LG&T), caters to students’ self-discovery and holistic development. This was followed by Mr Albert Hong’s address of the graduates, which emphasised commitment as the key driving force behind academic success. Charlotte Hankin, Lead Teacher of GROWHOUSE, then gave a presentation on the importance of literacy to one’s personal development and engagement with the world, as well as an overview of the skills students learnt on the programme. Finally, GROWHOUSE Teacher & Programme Advisor Holly Mak explained the structure and specifics of the programme before graduates were personally congratulated and awarded their Certificates of Attainment.
Students were given the chance to share their views on how the summer programme had impacted their life and learning. One student remarked that she “enjoyed the fact that everyone had the chance to present their own ideas”, whilst several noticed that their “analytical skills had improved”, and their “understanding of texts deepened”. Above all, students were excited and stimulated by in-depth discussions and sharing, as well as the writing techniques they had learned. This enabled them to apply new knowledge into their own individual creative writing by the end of the course. Drawing from Stephen Fry, Lead Teacher Charlotte Hankin noted at the end of the ceremony, “We may be what we eat, but we most certainly ARE what we say and write. It places us in the world like no other quality we possess” – by the end of the programme students had built up their academic and social confidence, and came away with a reinvigorated passion for literacy.