Since the turn of the 21st century, China has witnessed a Confucian revival. Whether it is to support a spiritual need, strengthen a cultural identity or fill an ideological vacuum, this renewal has been supported by schools, non-government organisations and even president Xi Jinping himself.
Confucianism is getting a helping hand in Hong Kong too with the opening of Chinese Academy, a new through-train private school, which will base the education of social values on Confucian teachings, while promoting the need for important studies on how this 2,500 year old philosophy can fit our age.
Jointly established by the Confucius Hall, which was set up in 1928 in Hong Kong and the International Chinese Academy Education Foundation (ICAEF), which has a more recent history being established in 2015 by educators, the school’s three-pronged value-foundation is promoting Chinese culture and Confucianism, while ensuring students’ academic excellence and offering a global perspective.
“We are now combining these assets to build a new paradigm of premium education with a focus on the fusion of Chinese traditional principles and Western modern systems in the contemporary global setting,” says Prof Edmund Kwok, deputy chairman of Confucius Hall.
The school-based bilingual immersion curriculum draws out important elements from Hong Kong, China, Finland, UK, US, Canada and Singapore, according to Ramida Din, principal of Chinese Academy.
There are seven key learning areas, including English and Chinese languages, maths, integrated inquiry studies that include science and humanities, the arts, PS and health education, as well as IT and computer literacy.
The school will use both Putonghua and English as the language of teaching. At the beginning more Chinese will be used, but it will gradually give space to using more English in teaching.
Based on the children’s intrinsic curiosity, teaching will be relevant to life and customised for each student’s individual needs. Self-expression and teamwork will be strongly encouraged, and students’ global perspective will be developed.
Din also says that there is a strong focus on interactive, inquiry-based and self-directed learning. Specific methods used to teach classes include Di Zi Gui and the Analects.
“We will use the classics but, for little kids, the most important is how you apply them to daily life in modern society,” she says. “We don’t want to tell them ‘you should do this or that.’ We don’t just want to instil the Confucian values in children, we want to develop them.”
Values will also be introduced through discussing current events, such as the fireman who recently gave his life to save a couple, and introducing concepts such as righteousness – morally right or justifiable action.
Core elements of gifted education will be introduced to support gifted students’ accelerated learning and enrichment, such as higher order thinking skills, creativity and social competence. The school will prepare tailor-made educational plans for highly exceptional students.
Situated on the premises of Confucius Hall on Caroline Hill Road, Causeway Bay, the school will open in the next academic year, subject to EDB approval. In 2017/18, they plan to admit three classes of grade one and two students with up to 28 students per class. In 2018, the number of classes will increase and a kindergarten will be added, followed by a secondary school section in 2021. By then, the total number of students is planned to reach 500.
The annual school fee is set at HK$112,000 over 10 months and annual capital levy is charged at $36,000. Scholarships and fee remission will be offered to talented students with financial needs.
A wide range of campus facilities are planned, such as activity centre, swimming pool, STEM lab, maker space, organic farm, sports stadium, music rehearsal and performance theatre, among others.
The school is supported by scholars from Oxford, Cambridge and the University of Hong Kong, and doctoral research is undertaken on synthesising Confucian principles and values with modern every-day life and international education standards.
Students will also be able to attend a summer exchange programme, which will take them to Oxford to attend a course tailor-made for them, while teachers will benefit from an in-depth continuing professional development programme.