Recent studies reveal that excessive competition and the commercialisation of education in Hong Kong generate great pressure and unequal learning opportunities for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. These students tend to have less successful academic performance, a less positive attitude towards school and learning, lower self-esteem, and limited personal and social abilities.
Meanwhile, university students might be criticised for being less eager to serve the community.
To empower youth and spur personal growth, the CW Chu College Service Team at Chinese University initiated an innovative service project for socially disadvantaged students. From 2014 to 2016, a total of 115 students (mean age: 14.42) from a local “Band 3” secondary school took part in the project. Pre-camp workshops, a three-day camp and a post-camp reunion were organised for the participants every summer.
After attending the activities, participants showed substantial improvement in five domains: self-esteem, academic performance, interpersonal relationship, personal goal-setting and leadership. They indicated that the project empowered them to care about and build trust with others, and to put themselves in other people’s shoes for empathetic understanding and viewing situations from different perspectives.
Our evaluations also show that the participants widened their peer networks, improved their communication and interpersonal skills, strengthened their self-confidence, developed a more positive attitude towards studies, and were inspired to think about their future career and life goals.
In parallel, through organising the activities and interacting with the participants, our university students became more aware of Hong Kong’s social disparities, and strengthened their civic responsibility and commitment to serving the disadvantaged. They became more open-minded, while learning new skills in leadership and communication, and more confident and persistent in pursuing their dreams.
Education is more than knowledge-learning. This project is a good example of how experiential learning, a key component of education, can facilitate students’ holistic growth: in particular, enable them to develop a positive attitude and a caring heart for serving the community.
Prof Sek-ying Chair, on behalf of CW Chu College Service Team, Chinese University