Turning dreams into reality

A recent survey found that students – especially gifted ones – are eager for clear pathways and career-related experience for their futures, leading to a proposal that educators provide resources to cope with demand.

Conducted by the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, the survey found that nearly 80 percent of its students were looking for career-related programs. Science, social sciences and academic research were the most popular directions, pursued by more than 70 percent of the students polled.

Science subjects remain the most popular among students (nearly 75 percent), while social sciences and medicine ranked second and third, both with around 44 percent of students pursuing them.

The most popular industries among the academy’s students were human health (30.7 percent) and education (14.9 percent), while professional services and information and communications were preferred by no more than 8 percent of students, ranking third and fourth respectively.

Though gifted students’ needs were reflected, Jimmy Wong Kam-yiu, the executive director of the academy, said he believes it is not enough to passively give students what they expect.

“For example, students are overwhelmingly interested in science subjects for their tertiary education. However, instead of just giving them what they want, we should go a step further,” Wong said. “Given their limited exposure and vision at these young ages, we should strive to offer them more exposure than just the sciences. Only when they have a broader view of their community and global trends can they explore their real interests, develop their dreams and identify their pathways for the future.”

As a result, the academy has launched the Talent Development Approach to standardize and optimize course design from September.

The approach includes its established individualized mentorship programs, such as the Hong Kong Gifted Apprentice Program – which has gained support from community leaders and renowned organizations such as the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute and the Hong Kong Newly Emerged Sports Association.

Louis Kwok, a secondary five student who is the winner of the Hong Kong Outstanding Students Award, joined the apprenticeship program at 12 and was one of its youngest mentees.

“The apprenticeship was a key step for me to develop my abilities earlier than others,” he said. “Not only did it provide me with knowledge and social connections, it also shaped my path.”

One of his future goals is to become a tech entrepreneur.

Under the apprenticeship, his passion for robotics and innovation has been further developed with his mentor Crystal Fok, the director of Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks, and his fellow mentees, who are from different social backgrounds.

Another of Fok’s apprentices, secondary five student Michael Sun, who is passionate about using STEM and innovation for the benefit of humankind, was also Wong’s mentee.

Sun’s latest invention, a microswimmer, has bought him fame in numerous competitions, including second place for the Grand Award and the INCOSE Special Award of Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair 2021 and Hong Kong Young Scientist of the Year Award 2020.

“The apprenticeship has helped my personal development not only by giving me valuable insight and knowledge into the fields I am interested in, but also by improving my communication, organization and leadership skills,” Sun said.

Wong’s current apprentice, secondary five student Jenny Jiang, is fascinated by physics and just won second runner-up in the International Physics (Safe Cracking) Tournament organized by the Davidson Institute of Science Education in Israel with four teammates, beating 39 teams from all over the world.

She enjoys the personalized learning experience, which enables her to explore all possibilities with one-on-one guidance from Wong.

“Through the individual thematic project, my planning and problem-solving skills were polished, as were my time management skills, self-motivation and creativity, which were required for this project,” she said. “This kind of learning experience is very different from schools’ passive learning approach.”

Academy chairman Alan Lam said: “We know that there are fantasies but, at the same time, possibilities and ambiguities lying ahead for our gifted teens who are making every endeavor to explore their future.

“With the expertise, extensive life experience and the devotion of the coaches and mentors, these talented youths will be able to find guiding light for their pathways to the future.”

(This article was published at The Standard on July 27, 2021: Education: Turning dreams to reality )

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