“Education” and “culture” belong to two entirely different, but closely related fields. In discussing the future development of education and culture, this document will focus on “education”, but insert a “culture” component, which is related to education.
In 1989, in his Pastoral Exhortation, His Eminence Cardinal John-Baptist WU Cheng-Chung hailed Education, Pastoral Care and Social Service as the three pillars of the activities of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong. The Catholic Church’s contributions to education in the territory over the past l50 years are well known to all; the Church will continue to make further endeavours in this area.
The educative spirit of the Catholic Church originates from Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself was a great educator of mankind, who during three years of evangelization exerted an edifying and elevating influence on plain fishermen and greedy tax collectors. It may be seen from this that the essence of education lies in personal contact, persuasion, imparting and admonition. For all their importance, accessories such as relevant facilities, curricula and mechanisms are mere instruments. The educational ideal of the Catholic Church is based on the “holistic concept” in the Catholic philosophy of life, which aims at developing the total personality of man, not only by guiding man’s bodily life in keeping with the changes of society, times and culture, but also by enlightening man’s spiritual life. “Thus the Catholic school, taking into consideration as it should the conditions of an age of progress, prepares its pupils to contribute effectively to the welfare of the world of men and to work for the extension of the kingdom of God, so that by living an exemplary and apostolic life they may be, as it were, a saving leaven in the community.” (1)
According to the data available in the Hong Kong Catholic Church Directory for the Year 2000, Hong Kong has altogether 323 Catholic schools, of which 132 are run by the Diocese (including the Holy Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy and the Biblical Institute), 49 by Caritas, 138 by different religious congregations, and 4 operated privately by lay Catholics, with a total enrolment of 289,391 students, representing 30% of the total student population in Hong Kong. Among the students in Catholic schools, 6.56% are Catholics, and of the 11,645 teachers 27.26% are Catholics. As the biggest School Sponsoring Body in Hong Kong, the Catholic Diocese has a responsibility to play a prophetic role and see that diocesan schools work hand in hand with Religious and Caritas schools as well as schools operated by lay Catholic schools for the betterment of society and the advent of the kingdom of heaven.
In what follows, we shall first make a brief analysis of the current situations as well as the Catholic educational undertakings in Hong Kong. This will be followed by a description of our great aspiration to improve society through educational work, including a vision about the kind of community we wish to foster and the mission we set for ourselves in bringing up youth and students. Finally, in order to carry out our educational mission and turn our vision into reality, we shall make concrete recommendations on how to bring about reforms and innovations.
I. Anaysis Of Current Situations
The current conditions of education in Hong Kong are most intricate and complex. We shall first attempt a brief analysis of the social environment and youth problems. We shall then examine schools’ general negligence of Chinese culture and make a summary scrutiny of the shortcomings in Catholic educational undertakings.
- Social Environment
- Perplexities Bedeviling The Youth
- Inadequacy in Promoting Chinese Culture
- Religious Formation in Schools
- Pre-school And Adult Education
- Catholic University And Community Colleges
Recent decades have witnessed Hong Kong’s enormous achievements in commerce and industry as well as material development. But the social environment and moral standards in the territory have been deteriorating. In the process of its urbanization and commercialization, rampant utilitarianism and the fad of seeking material comforts are not without influence on parents’ and teachers’ conceptualization of values. Many parents consider providing their children with material comforts or necessities of life to be what the fulfillment of parental duty is all about. On their part, many teachers confine their efforts to imparting knowledge and skills for making a living, and would have very little to do with genuine education and character formation. Greed for monetary gains has led producers to flood the Hong Kong market with sex and violence movies and publications. Moral decadence led many youths and teenagers to go astray. In order to improve the social milieu in Hong Kong, there is a definite need to spare no efforts in promoting moral education in Hong Kong.
Youths will be the pillars of society. In our lively and energetic community, many youths are praiseworthy in their academic and group activities. However, there are also many youths who are struggling with all sorts of perplexities.
Children begin to receive education at the age of three, which is the beginning of lifelong learning. If educators teach without understanding children’s needs, they cannot achieve the objectives of education. Among youngsters of the schooling age, those in the primary and secondary schools are most likely to suffer from perplexities. Hence, it has become an important educational objective of Catholic schools to help such students solve the perplexities they face.
As the younger generation is the target of education, educators who fail to understand the needs of the youth will also fail to achieve the goals of education. For this reason, it has become an important objective of education to help solve the predicaments which are being faced by young people.
Today’s young people are confronted not by a simple society, but by an environment full of temptations. Furthermore, the development of school education does not synchronize with that of society and the blow to students’ psychological and mental growth cannot be neglected. Under the spell of modern trends, many young people have become intoxicated by an illusory world. Charmed with unhealthy ideas, many blindly go after love and passion, peer recognition, violent inclinations, materialistic worship and fetishism, at the expense of search for true living or a correct outlook on life. In the past, such phenomena occurred mostly to secondary school students, but nowadays, they happen to children in the upper primary classes, thus making counseling also an onerous task in primary schools.
When they experience feelings of affection, many young people lack communication skills and do not know how to express themselves. Egged on by the media, some young people turn to enchanting affection, which is by no means easy to come by. When confronted with difficulties, they do not know where to turn to unbosom themselves. Some students mistake sex for love and indulge themselves, which harms both their body and soul.
It is quite common for both parents to work outside. Under the pressure of their own work, they have less time to communicate with their children or to keep them company. Thus the lack of communication between young people and their family has become an issue that deserves our close attention. Some parents try to use material things to fill the inner emptiness of their children. This constitutes a deficiency in the children’s growing process, making it difficult for them to strike a normal balance between their parents’ love and concern on the one hand and the inclination towards materialistic values on the other. Because they work outside, parents have less time to share with their children than was formerly the case. On their part, young people need to cope with their studies and assignments, and when confronted with the impact of different values, they do not know how to share views with other members of their family. Owing to lack of communication between parents and children as well as differences in concepts of values and in living experiences, when young people come across problems in studies and assignments, and those resulting from clashes of different concepts of values, they do not know how to share their problems with their own family, instead, they turn to their peers for help. Yet, their peers have only limited experiences in life, and more often than not, provide the wrong kind of advice. This has been the source of numerous problems. There are many such cases in church schools. Teachers who can barely cope with their heavy workload find it beyond their ability to deal with problems of students’ character formation.
In front of rapid development of information technology, young people wallow in internet culture, making friends through the internet, ICQ and electronic games, but they are unable to make use of technology to help them in their search for spiritual values, traditional culture, and ethical and moral accomplishments. This will lead to an aftermath of social issues and problems.
What is more, under the influence of cartoons, many young people believe in using violence to solve problems, and try to emulate personalities in the cartoons. The vulgar language and the perverted and illusory protagonists in the cartoons affect the growth of youngsters. Such circumstances aggravate schools’ difficulties in promoting language studies and moral education.
Many schools have not given due attention to the invaluable elements in Chinese culture, nor have they guided school children to appreciate and identify themselves with where their “root” lies. This has resulted from several factors. Since the end of the l9th century, many Chinese intellectuals who are favourably disposed towards western civilization, have put the blame for China’s feudalism and backwardness on traditional Chinese culture with Confucianism as its backbone. The educational policy in the colonial period was biased towards introducing western civilization, science and technology; lay particular emphasis on the teaching of the English Language at the expense of Chinese; and strove to prepare young people for overseas studies and to produce civil servants and obedient citizens.
Then, the community’s process and urbanization and commercialization, many schools have put their emphasis on imparting knowledge and skills for making a living, to the detriment of character formation and cultural accomplishments. The situation has not changed for the better since the handover of the sovereignty of Hong Kong in l997. As Chinese culture is where Hong Kong people’s “root” lies, Catholic schools should promote the invaluable elements in Chinese culture and help students revive confidence in their own heritage. We should therefore make the promotion of Chinese culture one of the main emphases of our educational work.
A school should be a good place for evangelization a suitable milieu for the formation of faith. This is because the seeds of faith are brought to fruition by the importance which schools attach to the formation of faith as well as by the commitment of Catholic teachers and students. What is more, schools that have close links with parishes enjoy the additional benefit of parish support. However, the small percentages represented by Catholic teachers and students in their total numbers in the schools make it difficult to generate a religious atmosphere or a clear thrust in the formation of faith. The absence of pastoral workers in many schools hinders the provision of pastoral care.
The kinds of activities conducted in schools are not dissimilar from those organized by Small Christian communities. But they attract a cold response from some students. Are or are not the substance and modes of such activities incompatible with the needs of students? Do or do not students have preconceived ideas about religious activities being boring and of a routine nature?
Another phenomenon that gives one much food for thought concerns the responses which religious activities obtain from Catholic and non-Catholic students. Sometimes, non-Catholic students show a more positive response as well as greater zeal and commitment than Catholic students. By contrast, some Catholic students are more reserved and introvert, and attend activities in a perfunctory manner, thus without true participation. Those are usually students who were baptized at a much younger age. For lack of faith formation at home, their faith does not have a firm foundation. They labour under the impression of being compelled to join faith formation activities. Hence, they give a relatively cold response and adopt a more passive attitude.
A vast majority of schools have established at least one Catholic Students Society or some Christian communities. Such groups conduct periodical and rather frequent gatherings, with activities falling into such categories as “spiritual” (like retreats), “recreational” (like outings) and “concern for society” (like services). Relatively speaking, they seldom engage in imparting religious knowledge or assisting students with their personal growth. Basically, such groups are unable to exert influence in schools. Most students give preference to other extracurricular activity organizations.
In another perspective, coordination between schools and parishes is worth our attention. Students will sooner or later finish their studies and leave school. It is most important to make them proceed from schools’ Christian communities to those in the parish, where they can continue their journey of faith. It is therefore incumbent upon schools and parishes to set up networks to let youth pastoral care cater for the growth of the youth in an all-round manner. If pastoral workers in parishes can provide support to the faith formation activities in schools, it will facilitate students living and growing within their own parish after leaving school. Otherwise, their attrition rate might be fairly serious. In some cases, the relationship between schools and the parish is maintained just by the use of each other’s space or by inviting priests to say Mass, thereby resulting infrequent opportunities for “interaction” and also in a lack of contact between pastoral workers and students. Consequently, when students wish to learn catechism, they do not get a chance to do so because of lack of communication with the parish, which is of course a great pity!
The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, some Religious Congregations and Caritas operate kindergartens with the mission of educating children with love and commitment in keeping with the Christian spirit. These kindergartens are able to keep up with the improvements of the times and meet the needs of society. They help children to learn in a cheerful and effective manner, by providing them with an all-round and balanced environment for learning, based on their developmental needs. This enables children to develop initiative in learning, looking for new knowledge, forming a positive and pro-active outlook of life, and laying a foundation for lifelong learning. Each kindergarten has its own style and its own devices to attract pupils. Parents are free to choose suitable kindergartens for their children.
In recent decades, the livelihood of Hong Kong people has undergone major changes. Their work requires substantial knowledge, but knowledge changes continuously. Everybody has to cope with different domains of knowledge, hence they need to learn all the time. In response to such circumstances, Caritas has, since l963, adopted adult education as one of its principal thrusts in the education field. Through the provision of various kinds of service, Caritas has constantly promoted lifelong learning and a general learning culture in the community. All along, Caritas has maintained an open access policy, thus providing those in need with first or second opportunities for education, with the aim of equipping them with literacy and working skills, helping enhance their academic qualifications. Apart from helping people to cope with their working needs, Caritas adult education also contributes to their personal development and social participation.
With a longer life expectancy, the population of Hong Kong is getting older. Often because of their lower level of education, elderly people experience difficulty in getting along with others. On their part, through long periods of lack of contact with society, housewives are unable to keep up with modern changes and lag behind their children who are receiving education. This has led to serious problems of generation gap. Owing to cultural differences, immigrants from the Chinese mainland find it difficult to integrate themselves into the local community. The contributions which Caritas has been making to improve the lot of these underprivileged groups are genuine endeavours to put into effect the spirit of the Gospel. If a dimension of the Catholic faith is introduced into its services, they will serve as even better witnesses to evangelization.
Furthermore, lifelong learning has become a new trend in Hong Kong. In response to this trend, the Diocese should establish community colleges with a flexible admission policy, so as to allow young students and working adults to pursue studies at their convenience and also serve as one of the best channels for entry to the above-mentioned Catholic University. (2)
II. Vision And Mission
After the analysis of the current situations, in order to chart the future course of educational development, we must first ask ourselves what are our final aspirations. In other words, in using education to edify and reform the masses, in final analysis, what sort of community do we wish to foster? Such aspirations and long-range prospects may be called “Vision”.
For making our “Vision” come true, we must set up a “Mission” for us to put our heart and soul to. We should particularly consider what sort of persons we wish to produce for society when we educate children, teenagers and adolescents.
The “Vision” and “Mission” of our educational work are spelled out in the following paragraphs.
To foster a community which cherishes and promotes Christ’s teachings of love and service as well as the social values and love of life in its own culture, (3) and which strikes a balance between the development of the quality of livelihood and the development of the quality of spiritual life.
To make Christ the foundation of the whole educational enterprise, offering Him as the One Who ennobles man, gives meaning to human life, and is the Model for all people. (4)
To present the Christian concept of life according to the Gospel and the invaluable essence of Chinese culture, so as to generate human attitudes (5) and, in collaboration with parents (6), help youth and students to cultivate wisdom and virtues, pursue the truth, verify merits, and to develop into:
- Persons who hold dear the basic human rights and dignity (7), the values of honesty, fairness, justice, integrity, self-sacrifice and altruism, filial piety, diligence, frugality, the thirst for learning, respect for life (8), harmony, peace, reconciliation (9), tolerance and acceptance, and a strong sense of environmental responsibility (10) and the bond of brotherhood that makes all man one;
- Persons sound in body and mind, who are always full of vitality, take a positive and proactive attitude in all matters, and are ready to rise to challenges;
- Persons of compassion who have a preferential love of the poor (11) and serve generously people in need;
- Persons with civic responsibility who are eager and competent to make contributions to the social and moral well-being of the nation and the local community (12);
- Persons with a discerning mind and moral courage, capable of making a critical evaluation of social media trends and media output (13), and making positive recommendations;
- Persons with good taste, capable of appreciating the beauty in nature, art, music, literature, etc.,
- Persons with creativity, who develop individual innate potentials to the fullest, and motivated by “the truth which makes one free” (14), journey towards the “new heaven and new earth” (15).
In order to carry out their educational “mission”, and through the inculcation of the Christian spirit and the invaluable essence of Chinese culture, to turn their ultimate “vision” into reality, the Catholic School Sponsoring Bodies in Hong Kong must begin with a scrutiny of the education system and a curricular reform, provide a healthy campus life, and develop pastoral work. Then there ought to be close coordination among the Diocese, the parishes and the schools; and front-line educators must be provided with the kind of formation they need. This will be how, of one heart and mind, all who are involved in educational undertakings, should work together for the upbringing of the younger generation. Among other things, the establishment of a Catholic university and community colleges should be important tasks for the new era.
- Educational Mission
The major mission of Catholic education is as follows:
With Christ as the foundation of the whole educational enterprise, to endeavour to present the Christian concept of life according to the Gospel and the invaluable core of Chinese culture, so as to generate human attitudes and help youth and students to cultivate wisdom and virtues, pursue the truth, verify merits and develop into persons who cherish human values and who are sound in body and mind, moral courage, good taste and creativity.
- The above mission should be adopted as the primary aim which all Catholic schools and educator should go all out for and be used as basis for annual evaluations.
- Educational System and Curriculum
- Review of the Education System
The Diocese should develop a comprehensive education system embracing kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, community colleges and a university, which cherish the same ideals and dovetail their curricula.
- Curricular Reform to Promote Holistic Education
Holistic education should include spiritual, moral, intellectual, physical, social and aesthetic formation. In order to give students more time to receive holistic education, schools should make appropriate tailoring and consolidation of their curricula. Furthermore, with the provision of holistic education, schools should adopt multifaceted appraisals of students, which include not only intellectual assessment, but also evaluations in non-academic areas such as spiritual, moral, physical, social and aesthetic formation.
As far as possible, Catholic kindergartens should accept or apply for government subsidies, e.g. Quality Education Fund, in order to improve children’s education. In their curricular design, kindergartens should take into consideration children’s psychological, mental and physical development.
- Religious and Moral Courses (16)
The Diocese should formulate guidelines for the teaching of religious and moral studies. It should produce teaching materials which are related to people’s daily life and in keeping with the times, and which help the younger generation build up a positive outlook on life replete with true love. These teaching materials should guide them to adopt Christ and His perfect personality as their own model, i.e. using imitation of Christ’s spirit of love and service as an infinite motivation in their search for perfection. At the same time, experiences in daily life should often be quoted to stimulate students to brood over problems concerning the value of life, find their own directions in life and foster sound concepts of values. Social issues such as single parent families, new immigrants, the ‘money talks” policy, materialism, sex and violence, etc. should be discussed on the basis of ethical principles and Christian love. Besides, edifying and heuristic religious books should be introduced to students so as to give them opportunities to get in touch with Lord Jesus and to have a personal experience of His love.
Religious curriculum should have two components: formal and informal, which permeate, or liaise with, different subjects and all kinds of activities. Religious dimension should not stop at the planes of experiences and thinking, it should go further and deeper into those related to the meaning of life and concepts of values. In consonance with such a dimension, Catholic schools should form a Religious Group or a School-based Values Group dedicated to enhancing religious education to meet the mission goals of the school or the priority objectives of the relevant year.
Moral courses should help students to cherish human dignity and basic rights, honesty, fairness, justice, integrity, self-sacrifice and altruism, filial piety, respect for life, Diligence, frugality, harmony, peace, reconciliation, tolerance and acceptance, care for and appreciation of the needs of underprivileged groups. The courses should also foster students’ eagerness to serve people in need, strengthen students’ sense of environmental and civic responsibility, and make them cherish the bond of brotherhood that makes all men one.
The contents and teaching approaches of religious and moral courses should fit in with the levels of various classes. The courses should cover human ethics, the spirit of the Gospel, the meanings of Church rites and rituals, the social value of the faith, the relations between the development of high technology and mass media. When dealing with the values promoted by the Catholic Church, there should be a greater contrasting exposure to traditional Chinese concepts, so as to create links with the Chinese cultural root of the people of Hong Kong.
The top priority is to compile textbooks of religious and moral studies textbooks that fit in with various levels, they would solve the pedagogical difficulties of teachers on the one hand, and on the other, would help students to face the public examinations. Provided that the teaching materials are compiled and presented in a lively manner in accord with the times, they will be welcomed by students and will thereby reap the added benefit of evangelization.
- Faith and Culture (17)
The Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops which took place in 1999 emphasized that “the separation between the Gospel and culture is a tragedy of our times; it deals a heavy blow to evangelization and culture”. The message promulgated by Catholicism is to “Love God and Man” and to appreciate and protect those cultures of various peoples that honour God and love man.
As the culture of a nation is not separated from her language, schools should strengthen students’ learning of their mother tongue and their understanding of Chinese culture. As the use of mother tongue as medium of teaching enables more students to understand and to learn better, endeavous should be made to remove the public’s misunderstanding about the use of mother tongue and to help them to realize the effect and significance of adopting mother tongue as medium of teaching. Nevertheless, because of Hong Kong’s status as an international economic and cultural center, all walks of life have high demands for proficiency in both Chinese and English.
In addition to taking an active role in promoting Chinese language and culture, therefore, Catholic schools should enhance students’ knowledge of and proficiency in English. This is because proficiency in both Chinese and English and a pluralistic approach to teaching are necessary.
In order to promote Chinese culture, the school curriculum should include Chinese literary works and selected readings from ancient writings, which will help students to get to know and identify themselves with the time-honoured magnificent culture of their fatherland. Such selected readings will also help students to appreciate and implement the special traits and teachings of traditional Chinese morals, such as filial piety, sincerity, honesty, trustworthiness, kindness, peacefulness, esteem for teachers and their teachings, eagerness to learn, diligence, thrift, courage to serve a just cause, love of life, respect for the elderly, moderation in all things, self-sanctification for public service, the brotherhood of mankind, civic responsibility for the global community, etc. The school curriculum should also include an extensive introduction to Chinese adages which contain the popular wisdom of the Chinese people. These adages have been handed down through the centuries and have been on almost everybody’s lips so that they have worked on common people’s life styles and attitudes, and thus deserve being called one of the invaluable treasures of Chinese culture. The inclusion of Chinese literary works, selected readings from ancient writings and the Chinese sayings and adages in the school curriculum serves to assist students, on the one hand, to gain a personal knowledge of, and identify themselves with, what represents their own “root”, and, on the other hand, to drink in the essence of the moral messages and translate it into action in their daily life.
Cultural refinement is an important aspect of education. It includes cultivating good taste and aesthetic understanding capable of appreciating not only literature, but also what is beautiful in nature, music, chess, calligraphy, painting architecture, sculpture, landscape gardening, dramas operas, dances, etc.
There is also a need to get an in-depth understanding of the culture of the modern youth so as to be able to give them effective guidance and to introduce the Gospel to them.
No matter how hard Catholic schools may try, they will not succeed in preventing the invasion of the unhealthy customs, trends and culture of society. Catholic schools cannot protect their own virtue in isolation from the rest of the world. Rather they must criticize the errors of the times and launch counter currents of culture for students’ choice. Such counter currents may revert the trends and prevail over them. An interaction between the spirit of the Gospel in Catholicism and the treasures of civilization in Chinese culture will add radiance and beauty to each other. Schools should therefore integrate the two so that hand in hand they might do a more effective job of spreading the Gospel and providing pastoral care to the youth of Hong Kong.
- Physical and Mental Health
Schools should strengthen physical education and sports activities and foster physical and mental health. They should help students to form the habit of engaging in daily physical exercises; guide them in managing their time among work, pleasure and rest; assist them to develop pastimes and hobbies that are conducive to physical and mental health, to know how to relax and how to reduce and remove mental strain, and to gain a sound understanding of food hygiene, nutrition and mental health. All this will enable students to become persons sound in body and mind, who are always in high spirits and full of vitality, take a positive and proactive attitude in all matters, and are ready to rise to challenges.
- Elicitation Approach To Teaching
Schools should use extensively an elicitation approach to teaching, train students’ ability to observe, imagine, infer, discern, and solve problems, and also in inspiring and fostering students’ interest in self-motivated and self-initiated studies, in forming a lifelong unswerving eagerness to learn, and a strong determination for continual improvement.
In the teaching of various courses, care should be taken to integrate the knowledge from various sources in the light of the Gospel and to lead students to the eternal fountain of all knowledge. (18)
- Campus life
- Developing A Campus Immersed In A Religious Atmosphere (19)
Catholic education should be committed to providing students with a healthy and correct outlook on life, ecology and the universe, specially by introducing to them the spirit of the Gospel and the fine elements in Chinese culture. There is a need for all the teaching and non-teaching staff of the school to join in to create a religious atmosphere. This cannot be the duty of the teachers of a single subject.
There ought to be suitable exhibits and decorations on the campus of a Catholic school, which enable teachers, students and visitors to feel a religious ambience. Schools should therefore install or display within their campus the statues of patron saints, crucifixes, verses from the Bible, etc. as symbols of faith. When possible, schools should establish a chapel or a prayer room, provide a quiet place where staff and students can pray and meditate. Schools should set aside a religious section in the school library, where religious books and church publications are available, thus providing staff and students with opportunities to learn about and deepen their faith.
- Energetically Promoting Religious Activities (20)
Catholic schools should live in the blessings and grace of God. Therefore, each day of campus life ought to begin and end with prayers. Schools should design different lively and varied forms of prayers for the morning assembly and for the ending of classes. This will allow the students to realize the constant linkage between faith and life. Apart from Biblical studies and moral education courses, schools should set aside time for religious activities, such as arranging Scripture reading, Masses, preaching, faith and life camps, retreats, etc. in accordance with different Liturgical seasons. If possible, contests and appreciation sessions related to religious arts (like hymns, Gospel plays, ritual dances, paintings, wall newspapers, essays, etc.) should be organized so as to strengthen staff and students’ knowledge about the Church and the practice of their faith. There is a need to organize Catholic Students Societies and Catholic Staff Associations for the purpose of strengthening the links among Catholic students and staff.
Schools should organize annual religious activities days, inviting spiritual directors to promote Catholic students’ and staff’s religious practice and enhance their spiritual development.
In order to enhance their interest and fit in with their needs, students and staff should be invited to join hands in planning and organizing various religious activities.
- Providing Abundant Extracurricular Activities
Schools should provide all sorts extracurricular activities for students to participate in. Attending school is the most precious time for developing ideals and potentials, getting to know their own inherent aptitudes and interests, forming gregarious and dynamic attitudes, as well as furthering their moral awakening and spiritual growth. Schools are mini societies, which are the best places for students to learn to discipline themselves. Apart from organizing activities, contests and games, students’ unions perform such functions as learning to manage students’ welfare, conducting opinion surveys, synthesizing views, making constructive recommendations to the school authorities.
Students should be helped to develop their potentials and strengths and to care about schoolmates, their own school and the community at large, and to be eager to make positive contributions to society.
- Pastoral Care In Schools
- School Chaplain and Pastoral Assistants
Each school should, through a good management of resources, employ a professional to assume responsibility for administering pastoral care to its students, whether clergy, religious, or lay pastoral assistants. School chaplains and pastoral assistants can assist students with their religious formation, run catechumen classes, establish Small Christian Communities, organize teachers’ Bible Reading Groups, provide opportunities for all teachers and students to listen to Bible readings, or conduct school-wide liturgical services or prayer gatherings. They can further hold periodical meetings with different classes of students to talk about problems of life, faith and vocation, and provide individuals or small groups with spiritual counseling. They can also assist in the work of fostering the pastoral zeal of the school principals and staff.
Pastoral assistants can coordinate pastoral care activities in the school and the parish. It will be appropriate for schools to employ young lay people to serve as pastoral assistants, for young people will have a stronger appeal for students.
The Diocese should establish a School Pastoral Care Group responsible for studying the possibility and feasibility of “One Chaplain for Each School” and problems relating to the development of such a policy and relevant formation and support. The Group should also provide guidance and support for the current pastoral work in the schools.
- Counselling Students
Schools should mobilize all teachers, in their various capacities, to provide counseling to students. They should encourage teachers to develop good relations with students, to adopt a humble attitude as they try to understand students’ needs and aspirations, to display wisdom and loving care, counsel students with a friend’s heart, and to assist them in coping with problems they encounter in studies, in life and in friendship.
- Fostering Students’ Spirit of Service
School should encourage each student to do some voluntary work periodically. This will enable students to form the habit of providing generous service to schoolmates and people in need, with loving care and altruism. For instance, pupils in the lower primary classes can serve as pupils on duty on a rotation basis, with duties relating to cleaning and the maintenance of order in the classroom or on campus. Students in the upper primary classes and in secondary schools, apart from serving as students on duty within the school, can help students in lower classes with their studies, through arrangements made by their teachers. Schools can also make arrangements for students to pay visits and undertake other voluntary work outside. A performance pledge may be made for each student to render one hour of voluntary service every week.
Encouraging students to do voluntary work will not only able them to carry out by actual efforts the Christian spirit of love and service, but will also have the significance of fostering a good ethos and a healthy and positive culture. When a review is made of their voluntary work, students should be invited to examine its effectiveness and limitations, so as to address problems relating to systems and procedures.
- Family Life Education
Family and society often exert a bigger influence on teenagers and adolescents than the school. Many problem students have grown up in problem families, such as families with single or divorced parents, or those lacking parental care. In order to help students to draw strength from their religious faith and ethical values so as to face their problems with a positive attitude, the Catholic Diocese has published a series of “Love and life” education learning units, which provides materials for teaching the significance of marriage, true meaning of family life, virtue of chastity, sex education, human relations and the meaning of life. These materials can give correct concepts to help students face problems of pre-marital sex, cohabitation, broken marriages in families, etc. These units were compiled and written by the teachers themselves, and were published after trial teaching and revisions. It is recommended schools encourage teachers of different subjects to merge the contents of such units into relevant fields of studies.
The education which schools provide to students may well influence parents, allowing them to absorb correct signals and values, and bringing about positive changes.
Channelling through Parents and Teachers Associations, schools can further conduct seminars, experience sharing forums, and special topics learning sessions to provide parents with theories and implementation methods for educating children, so that parents may become effective and stable partners in educational work.
For sex education, top choice should be given to talks, activities and support provided by the Catholic Marriage Advisory Council and Caritas Family Service, so as to ensure that the information supplied to students conforms to the Catholic faith.
In order to perform their duty of educating children in a proper manner, parents and schools should adopt a humble attitude when they try to understand children’s needs and aspirations at various stages from early childhood to teenage and adolescence, and then, with wisdom and loving care, provide them with proper help. Families and schools must go about this sacred work of educating children hand in hand and supporting each other. Parents and teachers, therefore, should have frequent contacts and exchange views.
Parents and Teachers Associations serve as one of the channels of communication between families and schools. Campus newsletters, teachers’ comments written in students’ report books, teachers’ visits to students’ families, teachers’ appointments with parents, parents day, new students day, etc. are all conducive to promoting cooperation between parents and teachers.
- Coordination Among Schools, Diocese And Parishes
The Diocese should play a more active role in promoting coordination and communication among various organizations concerned with youth and education, such as Catholic Education Office, Diocesan Youth Commission, Diocesan Catechetical Commission, so that they may contribute to the all-round education of youth in a more effective manner.
The Diocese should strengthen the functions of the Catholic Education Office so that it may play a role in coordinating communication and cooperation among Catholic schools, in making effective uses of the resources of the schools (including human and physical resources, hardware and software), taking an interest in and making positive responses to government policies relating to education, and enabling all Catholic schools to develop the relationship of partners in striving to reach their common objectives with one heart and mind. On the other hand, forums or lectures should be organized for the benefit of the principals, staff or teachers of religious studies of various schools to enable them to share experiences, learn from one another’s strengths and make progresses hand in hand.
Diocesan schools and Religious schools should strengthen their communication with one another, find out their common objectives, support one another, and conduct large scale religious activities for all the Catholic schools in Hong Kong (like the “Journey of the Wind” conducted on Mission Sunday in 1998), which are likely to be rewarded with good results. On the other hand, individual schools should use their specialties and resources to develop their strengths in order to serve the best interests of their students.
It is recommended to establish a liaison organization (similar to the Federation of Catholic Students) entrusted with the responsibility of promoting the development of youth groups in Catholic schools and the launching of religious activities. This responsibility may be assumed by the Youth Commission or the Students’ Youth Movement. Cooperation could be fostered on a district basis, for instance, for the benefit of all the schools within the same Deanery. This could help in making arrangements for school chaplains, catechism classes, spiritual and counselling activities for teachers and students, as well as sharing gatherings for committee members and advisors of Catholic Students Societies, which may lead to inter-school functions.
Catholic organizations, like Caritas, can provide housewives with parenting courses, to help them understand their children’s living culture, thereby reducing generation gaps.
The Parish Councils should at least once a year convene district-wide meetings or forums, inviting Church institutions (schools, social centres, hospitals or homes for the elderly, etc.) to send delegates to attend, for the purpose of strengthening communication, and developing collaboration for the benefit of the whole district. Such collaboration may include providing space for gatherings and providing care for the youth, launching youth centres with special emphasis on the healthy growth of the younger generation.
Parishes may lengthen their opening hours (which will necessitate the employment of evening staff) to provide students with self-study rooms and the youth with space for cultural and recreational activities. This will strengthen the parishes’ links with the district and enable them to be in rapport with young people.
It is recommended to encourage parishes to run Sunday schools for the kindergartens and primary schools within the district, so that pupils’ faith formation may begin at an early age. Parishes and schools should coordinate their faith formation work for children who have been baptized. As far as Christian living is concerned, the administering of the Sacraments is the responsibility of the parish. For instance, instructions before First Communion and Confirmation are to be provided by the Sunday School. This will permit children to establish a close family relationship with the Church. The parishes may also invite teachers who are in charge of religious formation to come and provide support for the formation of students in the parishes.
The Parishes can cooperate with Caritas to offer leisure and hobby courses to help reduce pressures in daily lives and literacy and social classes to help the elderly to get along with others.
All Catholic schools, be they run by Religious Congregations, the Diocese or Caritas, should maintain a collaborative relationship with the Diocese and the parishes, strengthening communication and mutual support. Schools should participate in and publicize the important activities in the Diocese and the parish. They should also encourage students to attend activities in the Diocese and in the nearby church, like visiting the Cathedral and other churches and taking part in the liturgy, the Sunday school and activities of the parish to which they belong. Organized activities may include providing students with opportunities to help the elderly and children in the parish.
Schools should have close links with the parish to which they belong, and provide active support to, and take part in, parish activities. School representatives should hold periodical meetings with the clergy of the parish to discuss matters relating to collaboration.
Catholic schools can organize catechumen classes. They may invite parents and devout lay people to help with pastoral work in the schools. If they are short of teaching manpower, they may seek help or referral in the parish. It is recommended that the parish follow up with the religious life of baptized students and their participation in the Sacraments so as to prevent students’ faith coming to an end after leaving school.
- Formation Of Educators
In order to carry out their educational mission, the Catholic School Sponsoring Bodies in Hong Kong must seek talents, train leaders, foster a healthy religious environment and continually strengthen the formation of teaching staff.
The decision-making and top management people of schools must consider it as their serious duty to carry out the Catholic educational mission and make it the essential focus of their institutional work.
Catholic schools (including kindergartens, primary and secondary schools) should provided principals and Catholic staff with more religious formation, clearly require all staff to identify themselves with and carry out the Catholic educational mission and respect the Church’s position.
Sponsoring Bodies must further set up a formation mechanism which will imbue all fellow educators with Catholic educational spirit and enable them to achieve their schools’ mission goals. Sponsoring bodies should also do their best to provide educators with the necessary environment and support, to enable them to realize that their education work is a special vocation in Christ, thereby giving them a strong sense of mission in performing their duties; helping their human nature achieve renewal and sanctification in Christ and advance towards an all-round development of the total personality, so as to bring about an early advent of the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Catholic educators should live up to a profound faith and spread the Gospel by both precept and example. Catholic teachers need to share pastoral work. Principals and teachers should set good examples in their speech and action. All non-teaching staff, including minor staff, should maintain a good attitude of service. Such behaviour will exert a positive influence on students.
In order to actively promote religious education, the supervisors and principals of Catholic schools should be assumed by the clergy, religious or lay people who have a zealous commitment to religious education. Religious studies, Biblical studies and moral education should be taught by Catholic teachers who are dedicated to evangelization and have the necessary knowledge and training in the subjects concerned.
- Diocese and Schools Providing Teachers with Formation and Support
Catholic educators should live their faith and should receive training so that they can conduct activities of evangelization. Schools should encourage and subsidize Catholic teachers in continually pursuing theological programmes which include religious studies, Biblical studies, moral education, catechism, pastoral care, etc.
The Catechetical Centre, Catholic Biblical Institute, the College of Theology and Philosophy and other Diocesan institutions should offer more short-term, year-long or credit-bearing programmes and courses in Theology and Philosophy or courses for the teaching of catechism to meet the needs of educators. Teachers should be allowed to choose from a whole range of courses from the introductory level to degree standard, so as to suit their needs.
The non-teaching workload of teachers, particularly of Catholic teachers, ought to be reduced if possible, so as to permit them to pay attention to students’ general and spiritual needs. Specially, there is a need to reduce the teaching hours of Catholic teachers to enable them to look after extracurricular activities of religious nature. Schools may well arrange annual retreats for all the teaching and non-teaching staff, so as to strengthen their spiritual formation.
Schools should strengthen the teaching and non-teaching staff’s sense of mission while working in the school. It should be emphasized to Catholic teachers that besides their ordinary duties, they should assume responsibilities in spreading the Gospel. Schools should care about the physical and mental health of their staff, and provide them with opportunities for spiritual development and formation. This will help them to instill the Christian spirit into their teaching and administrative work and their daily life, so that their good examples my produce edifying effects on students.
Schools should arrange spiritual activities for Catholic teachers on a periodical basis, including annual retreats, gatherings of Small Christian Communities (which ought to be established within the school for Catholic teaching and non-teaching staff), Biblical sharings, etc. With a view to promoting the Christian spirit of mutual aid, love and support, schools can invite non-Catholic teachers and non-teaching staff to join such gatherings; this might reap the benefit of evangelization.
- Establishment of a Catholic University and Community Colleges
In response to the lifelong learning campaign in Hong Kong, community colleges should be launched as soon as possible. With a flexible admission policy, they will provide young students and working adults with opportunities for further studies. They should offer extensive extramural courses in the areas of theology, philosophy, Chinese culture, psychological health, music, painting, drama, calligraphy, creative writing, art appreciation, etc., designed to enrich the spiritual and cultural life of the faithful and the general public.
Hong Kong is a part of China, situated on the edge of the Chinese mainland which, with a population of 1.2 billion, does not even have a single Catholic university. In keeping with the spirit of the Declaration On Christian Education, the Diocese should consider Hong Kong to be a strategic location and establish a Catholic university here as soon as possible.
In the light of the continuously evolving environment in Hong Kong and the changes in people’s thinking and behaviour brought about by the convergence of Chinese and western cultures and the impact of science and technology, the Diocese should develop a Catholic University on the foundation already laid down by Caritas Francis Hsu College and the College of Theology and Philosophy of the Holy Spirit Seminary. With a mission to develop students into persons imbued with the Christian spirit of love and service, The Catholic University will not only provide the faithful with a holistic faith formation and turn out good teachers for Catholic schools but will also assume the important responsibility of evangelizing to the intelligentsia in Hong Kong and the whole of China. The Catholic University will of course help deepen Christian students’ faith in Christ, but will also assist non-Christian students to foster noble spiritual values and living ideals. Under the principle of respecting freedom of belief, the Catholic University will never compel anybody to embrace the Catholic faith. But, the kind of education it will provide will free students from narrow individualism, extend their vision and broaden their intellectual horizons. It will assist students to take a wider and longer view and consider major issues from the perspective of a life filled with even greater splendours and the more enduring happiness for individuals, the whole community and the entire human race, thereby producing persons imbued with the spirit of Christian love and a strong sense of social consciousness.
In the cultivation of virtue and character formation, example counts more than precept. Therefore, the Catholic university will need to be staffed by many clergy, religious, and devout lay people, whether in teaching, administration or student affairs, who will quietly inspire students with their altruistic spirit of sacrifice and their zeal to serve Christ.
Another very important task for the Catholic university will be to bring about an integration of the words to live by in Catholicism and the words to live by in Chinese culture, so that each will shine that much more brightly in the other’s company. Theology and philosophy (undergraduate departments and research institutes) that are to be among the strong disciplines of the Catholic university should endeavour to find the way to transform traditional Chinese moral values so as to enable them to regain life and vivacity, and exert an edifying influence on modern society.
In the foregoing paragraphs, we have come up with recommendations on such issues as education system and curricular reform, campus life, pastoral care in schools, services for new immigrants, coordination among Diocese, parishes and schools, formation of educators, and the establishment of a Catholic university and community colleges. The biggest and ultimate aim of these recommendations is to endeavour, under the premise of promoting the Christian philosophy of life and the invaluable elements in Chinese culture, to help students to develop into persons who hold human values close to their heart, who are sound in body and mind, rich in compassion, with a sense of civic responsibility, a discerning mind and moral courage, and an ability to innovate.
Jesus Christ wants the faithful to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”, to put their heart and mind to sanctifying humankind. In the words of Guanzi, “it takes ten years to grow a tree, but a hundred to educate a man.” But, for the Church, the educational mission is a great undertaking that will last for thousands of years. In order to bring this sacred mission to fruition, the Hong Kong Catholic Board of Education should, through the Catholic Education Office, guide all Diocesan, Religious and Caritas schools to implement the above recommendations, with one heart and mind. On the other hand, since the establishment of a Catholic university will be a completely new undertaking, a separate committee should be set up to chart its course of development and take charge of all related matters.
- Declaration On Christian Education
- Ibid 10
- The Catholic School On The Threshold of The Third Millennium 14
- The Catholic School 34,35
- Lay Catholics In School – Witness To Faith 18
- The Catholic School On The Threshold of The Third Millennium 20
- Ecclesia-In Asia 33
- Ibid 6
- Ibid 38
- Ibid 41
- Ibid 34
- Ibid 45 47
- Ibid 48
- Jn 8:32
- Rev 21:1
- The Religious Dimension of Education In A Catholic School 88-95
- The Catholic School 38-43
- Ibid 41
- The Religious Dimension of Education In A Catholic School 24-30
- Ibid 47-50