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iNQUIRE ‧ iNSPIRE ‧ iMPACT ‘i-Journey’ Paid Non-local Study Leave Scheme for Secondary School Teachers

Mr Benjamin Yung
Principal Assistant Secretary (Professional Development & Training)
 

     The 'i-Journey' Paid Non-local Study Leave Scheme for Secondary School Teachers (the Scheme) is a new and innovative professional development programme that was first introduced in the 2017/18 school year by the Education Bureau (EDB). Since then, 150 teachers have joined the Scheme. The about two-month paid study leave includes overseas structured experiential learning programmes, overseas school attachment activities and implementation of individual school-based initiatives/research upon returning to Hong Kong. The Scheme aims to enable teachers to bring vitality and creativity to learning and teaching, broaden the dimensions and depth of their professional development.

     The first cohort of 50 teachers have successfully completed the 'i-Journey' Scheme. The experience and insights they gained from implementing school-based projects are compiled in an electronic publication called 'iMPACT', which is available on the EDB's website (https://www.edb.gov.hk/i-journey). The publication is aiming at sharing with education sector, parents and other stakeholders their valuable experiences and encouraging interested teachers to apply for the Scheme.

     You may be curious about the meaning of 'i-Journey'. In fact, the letter 'i' refers to the three crucial elements of the Scheme: inquire, inspire and impact. Under the Scheme, serving secondary school teachers formulate individual proposals for school-based initiatives/research based on their interests and the specific themes of 'i-Journey' programmes (including 'Interdisciplinary Learning & Entrepreneurship Education', 'Catering for Students with Special Educational Needs', 'STEM Education' and 'Assessment Literacy'), and implement the projects according to school circumstances.

 

     'i-Journey' has achieved fruitful results in a few short years. Participating teachers were generally appreciative of the objectives and design of the Scheme, commending it as instrumental in broadening their perspectives and enhancing their professional capacity. They also found the overseas learning experience particularly inspiring. 'i-Journey' has fostered their enthusiasm and determination to further equip themselves. Some of them have formed professional learning communities to support each other and exchange ideas on curriculum designs and classroom teaching practices. Some teachers have also enrolled in academic programmes with a view to conducting in-depth research on subjects of interest to them. It is encouraging to note that a participating teacher has teamed up with academics and teachers they met overseas for conducting research, and that eventually earned them educational awards, while some others have presented their research papers at international education conferences.

     Among all the research topics, I was glad to see quite a number of ingenious projects, such as "Application of Drones in Interdisciplinary Learning and Entrepreneurship Education" and "STEM Space Challenge". I also witnessed the participating teachers' enthusiasm and their devotion to continuously refine their project proposals and to make preparation for overseas learning experience.

     The roughly five-week overseas learning experience was the highlight of the Scheme. Participating teachers learned about the latest educational theories and pedagogies, such as 'Creativity in the 21st Century' (Finland), 'Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment' (Australia), 'Problem-based Learning in STEM Education' (the UK), and 'STEM Classrooms' (Singapore) in prestigious universities around the world. Besides, they also participated in rewarding experiential school attachment activities, and engaged in collaborative lesson planning and teaching with their overseas counterparts. Their teaching strategies and skills were not only applauded by the overseas teachers but also warmly received by students.

     Apart from structured learning and school attachment activities offered by the universities, the programmes also included visits such as the Eden Project in the UK to see how community facilities can be effectively leveraged in the promotion of STEM education; the Finnish National Agency for Education to learn about the latest developments in Finnish school curricula and phenomenon-based learning; as well as an autism-friendly museum in Australia to study how Australians take care of students with special educational needs.

     I participated in the 'i-Journey' programmes in the UK and Singapore. Of all the learning activities and visits that I joined, the TeachMeet event in the UK impressed me the most. It was a regular meeting for teachers from different schools to put their heads together, discuss and exchange ideas on various education topics, which fully demonstrated teachers' passion for continuing professional development. Teachers in Singapore, on the other hand, were adept at using real life examples to pique students' interest in STEM explorations while developing their problem-solving skills. Participating teachers found these experiences invaluable, and were offered insights into how the effective teaching practices and curriculum design can be adapted in the Hong Kong context to motivate students' learning.

     Upon completion of the overseas learning experience, participating teachers consolidated their learning, revised their implementation plans and implemented their school-based research/projects under the professional guidance of academics of a local university and experienced principals. The participating teachers set off on another phase of their learning journeys which they took forward their research/project in the next school year and fostered a culture of professional development. The first cohort of 50 teachers who successfully completed their 'i-Journey' programmes shared their learning experience with the sector at the 'i-Journey' Fair, and received positive feedback. From time to time, they shared their valuable experiences with the public through various channels, such as 'i-Journey' briefings, the Learning and Teaching Expo, radio programmes and newspaper interviews.

     In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, the third cohort of 'i-Journey' programmes, which was originally scheduled to be held in the UK, Australia and Finland for the 2019/20 school year, has been postponed to the 2020/21 school year. We are closely monitoring the developments of the pandemic while making preparations for the fourth cohort of programmes. We hope to announce the details as soon as possible.

     The EDB will continue to staunchly support the continuous professional development of teachers by designing and identifying other suitable programmes and school attachment activities to enable more teachers, including primary school teachers, to participate in exchange activities in Hong Kong, the Mainland and other regions or countries, with a view to broadening their horizons and enhancing their understanding of the latest educational developments in different places.









2 August 2020