Education Carnival injects inspiration into early childhood educationEducation | 20 Apr 2021
Now in its 8th rendition, the Mini Education Carnival (MEC) ended on a high note on April 10, with a large gathering of future educators, parents, children, and early childhood education experts all gaining new insights from the event.
Organized by Li Ka Shing School of Professional and Continuing Education, The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK LiPACE), this year’s event is billed as an ‘Advanced Educational Games and Information Show’ to advocate play-based learning among young children.
In this one-of-a-kind event, LiPACE Higher Diploma, Diploma and Diploma Yi Jin students studying early childhood education were given the opportunities to put theories into practice in every game booth, story-telling session and drama show. To encourage creativity in designing learning and teaching resources, student teachers were responsible for hand-making DIY props such as backdrop, photo frame and banner from the ground up, while integrating a blend of event planning skills.
Opening doors of opportunities
Launched in 2008, OUHK LiPACE is the first self-financing tertiary institution offering early childhood educators training course taught in English. Widely recognized in the education field, the all-round Higher Diploma in Early Childhood Education (ECE) offers a comprehensive range of learning activities, including practical workshops, visits to early childhood education-related settings, industry expert seminars, overseas exchanges, and kindergarten internship opportunity.
Faced with broad career options, graduates are eligible to work as Qualified Kindergarten Teachers (issued by the Education Bureau), Child Care Workers and Child Care Supervisors (issued by the Social Welfare Department) in Hong Kong, or any career related to early childhood education, such as educational toy designers.
The programme also supports excellent articulation to further studies. Graduates, for instance, may choose to enter the Bachelor of Education with Honours in Early Childhood Education (Leadership and Special Educational Needs) in the senior year at OUHK or related UGC-funded degree programmes at other universities.
Multi-purpose learning platform
At the MEC, each team of 5 to 6 students was to develop game booths that hone in on one of the ‘6 Learning Areas’ outlined in the Kindergarten Education Curriculum Guide (2017). The ‘Grocery Store’ booth, made with a variety of materials, for instance, seeks to promote healthy eating habits among children. Children participants have to determine if a food is healthy or not, then map it onto the food pyramid integrating beautiful Indian and Pakistani features like yarn. Another highlight is the ‘Three Little Cats and a Dirty Cat’, an immersive educational drama adapted from the famous fable ‘The Three Little Pigs’ that teach kids to maintain personal hygiene in pandemic times.
Carman Chan, a 2020 graduate of Higher Diploma in ECE, is currently a full-time teacher at a Buddhist kindergarten in Hong Kong. She said that her current school was impressed when she showed them at the interview a video of the MEC that she helped organize. “The higher diploma takes only 2 years to complete,” said she. “It not only helps build a solid foundation to enter the early childhood education field, but also allows me to achieve my career goals in a short span of time.”
Promoting social integration
The 3i – inclusiveness, internationalization in place, intercultural awareness for business – are the core foci of the programme. Amanda Wu, Acting Senior Lecturer of the Early Childhood Team at LiPACE, underscored the importance of celebrating student diversity.
“We have students from all kinds of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including locals, Pakistani, Indian, Nepali, Filipino, and mainland China. Within the dynamic learning environment, students are learning and interacting with each other,” said Wu, who added that principals from both public and private kindergartens often come to the MEC to source talents and have indeed hired many of the students on the spot.
Built on such philosophy is a range of cultural activities. Kausar Shabnam, a non-Chinese Year 2 student of Higher Diploma in ECE, said she got to experience ethnic minority cultures and sports in one of the myriad workshops. “I’ve come to realize that being an early childhood educator is not merely about reciting book knowledge, but requires different skillsets and an international mindset. The programme equips us with all the crucial skills,” she said.
Overseas opportunities abound
One of the means to promote intercultural learning is through collaborating with non-local partners. On the day of the MEC, a group of students took part in a Mandarin live broadcast with higher education institutions in mainland China and Taiwan, including Aba Teachers College, Sichuan Changjiang Vocational College and Tajen University, whereby they exchanged academic ideas and shared what the game booths and storytelling sessions are about.
“Our students have the chance to virtually exchange at the kindergarten under Aba Teachers College, and we’re looking to offer even more overseas learning opportunities at our partner institutions as the pandemic eases,” said Bruno Chiu, Assistant Lecturer of the Early Childhood Team at LiPACE.
One such opportunity took students to kindergartens, primary schools and teacher training institutes in Beijing. “The Beijing Study Tour is highly enriching. We had the chance to chat with ECE programme leaders and gain knowledge on how to facilitate a seamless transition from kindergarten education to primary,” said Andy Yu, a 2020 graduate of Higher Diploma in ECE, who is now studying the Bachelor of Science in Applied Child Development at The University of Hong Kong.
Learning from the best
Industry professionals, including educational kit designer, arts therapist and physiotherapist are regularly invited to share their expertise in the Lecture Series.
Jennifer Lam, Year 1 students of Higher Diploma in ECE and a former toy buyer, said the lecture given by one of the toy industry leaders is especially memorable. “I’ve derived much inspiration from the sharing of their management executives and designers, and learnt about how to design educational toys to reach a broad range of children,” she said.
Besides hard skills, students also glean from the programme an essential part of meaningful education.
"If you ask me what’s the most valuable thing I’ve learnt from the experienced teachers, it is to instill love and happiness in my teaching approach so that my children will grow up to be competent, successful individuals. I think the programme really brings out the best in us," said Sran Amanjot Kaur, a non-Chinese Year 1 student of Higher Diploma in ECE.
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