26 Oct, 2016
10 : 00
Dr Troy Lui is a pivotal person for Yew Chung International School’s (YCIS) academic development; as Head of Chinese Curriculum and Research Division (CCRD), he leads a highly motivated team in pursuit of maximising students’ Chinese language acquisition and cultural understanding.
How long have you been with the Yew Chung Education Foundation and what is your role?
I joined in 1993; I met Dr Chan (Director of YCIS) 23 years ago through a shared cultural interest. She had a strong vision of creating the Chinese language and culture curriculum for her students which would marry well with the pioneering philosophy the Directorate developed many decades ago. Initially I was teaching and later a Principal within Yew Chung schools; this led to becoming more involved on a research level. What is used today stems from the basis of our original objectives; that being to ease away from the more traditional teaching style.
How is the department structured?
CCRD serves both Yew Chung International Schools, across the network, and also Yew Wah International Education Schools in China. I tend to oversee identification of areas for further development, the long-term structure and implementation within the schools whilst other members of the specialised team focus on school by section or Chinese as a First (CFL) or Additional Language (CAL).
How has the department evolved over the years?
I have observed, as YCIS schools have continued to expand through other locations outside Hong Kong, that each location may need slight modifications according to their student mix. It is my responsibility to develop a framework and work closely with each YCIS school to further develop their school based curriculum. For example, when we opened new schools for international students in China, there was a high increase in the need for CAL development. The challenge was to equip the individual school to meet their specific requirements, so really it can be bespoke by location. Over these years teacher training has been strategically implemented. Hiring high quality Chinese teachers is paramount but what is also important to us is the modification of their mind-set, depending on their experience and teaching style. It is our responsibility to help teachers deliver the way we believe students should learn. This support can require individual teacher observation or perhaps 1 - 3 day workshops and we have even led large scale seminars for all Chinese Primary and Secondary teachers. Ultimately we meet our education philosophy - global education - promoting transformation within the learner.
How do you work with the school leaders to implement any changes to the curriculum?
This is a fascinating part of my role; this requires good communication and the ability to understand the Co-Principals’ or teachers’ perspectives. Their responsibility is to achieve academic goals and meet benchmarks. For CCRD, we can be idealistic but we need to remember who actually communicates with the school’s stakeholders and who deals with daily challenges on site. I enjoy encouraging Co-Principals to work closely with CCRD and to keep in mind the same ultimate learning goals.
How does the Chinese Programme help non-native speakers become fluent in Mandarin?
One very important fact is that we have a different programme for First Language students and those with Chinese as an Additional Language. This means the materials will be different, the pace and the timing of certain aspects will differ. In Hong Kong students can learn traditional or simplified characters. Our schools can cater for any level as the structure is so well researched and implemented. We also need to ensure that the learning path will lead them to the appropriate IGCSE and IB Diploma level for the maximum success.
What tips would you give to parents who may be put off joining the school due to concerns that Mandarin is too difficult for their child to pick up?
We meet students’ levels, which means we have the curriculum set to meet even the beginner. We also have online learning exercises and fun challenges for access at home. Learning at YCIS is a very integrated approach and children are engaged in every subject, this carries through to Chinese too.
What are your thoughts on the benefits of bilingualism?
I would gauge this ability as having a strong mother-tongue (with no struggle to think and express) and if one can also use this language as a tool to help study and understand in different subject areas. Then another language becomes a tool for communication. Some may ask if Mandarin acquisition is really worthwhile or should YCIS consider adopting other languages. But let’s remember that a quarter of the world’s population speak Mandarin. I have met with many alumni over the years and Mandarin's increasing importance in the workplace is such a common acknowledgment.
What tips would you give to parents to really encourage their child’s rapid adoption of fluency in Mandarin outside of the classroom?
I would recommend learning on a cultural level, for example by joining our China Classroom Programme for the authentic language and culture immersion it delivers. But at home, simple gestures such as turning off the sound of the television and reading the Chinese subtitles or perhaps tuning into even easy level children’s television. Using Chinese to write the shopping list and insisting the outing involves Chinese speaking in all situations. Our China Classroom Programme helps build-in knowledge and awareness, it triggers one to think about global issues in Chinese, the history, reflect and build-up a sense of belonging and a sense of situation in Hong Kong.
Why should a parent have confidence in choosing YCIS’s Chinese Programme over another international school’s in Hong Kong?
We invest a great amount of resources in continuous research and development in CCRD; we support the continual progression by investing time and funds to a team of academics whose sole responsibility is to develop the curriculum. The public examination results for the IGCSE and IB Diploma Programme in the Chinese language options are also proof. I am proud we deliver the Chinese Studies section too; a co-taught subject built on a bilingual focus. This deepens the appreciation of culture embracement and brings a strong sense of relatedness to the language origin.
What else do you think parents should know?
I would like parents to know that here in YCIS Hong Kong, we provide a transition period in Primary Year 1, from Cantonese to Mandarin if required. Cantonese may be at colloquial level, but we seek for Mandarin to become a tool of communication and study. Our students can go on to study at university in Hong Kong or China, reaching a high level, but what students also gain at YCIS is the international environment exposure – this is very different to a local school. I see language for acquiring terminology and a way to express oneself. I am delighted to say that we are currently working on new learning apps and desktop materials to be accessed by our students at home. That’s another example of research and development evolving to support the schools.