Fact-checking a principal concern

Local | Mandy Zheng 26 Jun 2020

Mandy Zheng

Fact-checking is an important skill for students, the soon-to-be principal of Creative Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O said.

Anthony Adames, a veteran teacher who has lived in Hong Kong since 2001, will succeed school founding principal Cheung Siu-ming, following his retirement in August.

Established in 2006, CSS is an English medium direct subsidy school offering both international and local curricula, the International Baccalaureate and Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.

Like most schools in the city, it has endured the Covid-19 pandemic and the year-long political turmoil, despite both showing little signs of alleviating.

"It's particularly difficult to be a principal in Hong Kong at this moment in time," Adames said.

Having worked at two local schools previously, Adames believes his primary mission at CSS is to encourage pupils to respect diversity in culture, politics and views of society.

"Students should be prepared for a life of being active residents to engage in communities both locally and globally," he said.

To achieve that, he said one necessary skill that youngsters need is fact-checking, "not just taking information from one source."

But Adames felt "blessed" that the school is somewhat isolated geographically from the outside, where social unrest has been more frequent.

"Sometimes when driving out of the school gate at night I wonder: what am I going to find on the road home?" he said. "But [inside the campus] we can focus solely on the kids."

Still, the multilingual Australian educator has his own concerns about taking over CSS.

"I definitely have very, very big shoes to fill," Adames said.

Cheung said his attitude toward political influence on the campus has remained unchanged since the Umbrella movement in 2014.

"Schools are not courts of social tension in our society. We want our school to be a haven of learning," he said. "We expect students to know that other people with different views can also be right."

The son of two local educators, Cheung left the city for the United Kingdom as a secondary four student, later receiving his teaching qualification at the University of Bristol. But he returned in 1994, curious to see how the education sector would evolve after the handover in 1997.

In the next two decades, Cheung had been the principal at three newly founded schools and witnessed some changes in the sector.

"When I went to school, it was normal for teachers to hit students with rulers, and for female teaching staff to receive much less salary than men," he recalled.

"Changes can only happen when people say, 'this is not right, let's do something better.'"

The bespectacled scholar was emotional when he thought of the very first batch of CSS graduates.

"One of our best-performing students was in the school's first rock band. He'll play again at the graduation ceremony this year."

"That for me will be a nice way to round off."

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