「玫瑰崗從來不是Band 1, 成績只算比上不足，比下有餘。那年代頑劣學生也為數不少，記得曾經有人在校內放炸彈，八十年代的學生亦夾雜小混混、童黨成員。因此，每當聽到舊生評價母校學生一蟹不如一蟹，我總說這是大家成長了，變得成熟世故，對少年人的舉措看不過眼罷了。」
Stories of many movies about teachers and students were like the local blockbuster, “The Little Master”, which was about how teachers used their love and passion to educate and protect their students. Although Rosaryhill School has a much better maintained school campus than the old campus in “The Little Master”, Rosaryhill School shares one thing in common with the school in the movie; it is also a place that is full of love. Let us turn the clock back to a few years ago, the then Secondary Principal, Mr Robert Kwan, was like Miriam Yeung in the movie, who always stood near the school entrance every morning to greet students, which made students feel they were loved and welcomed by the school.
Back in 1963, Mr Robert Kwan was only 7 years old and he was studying Primary Two in Hennessy Government Primary School at that time. He was then one of the top students in his year; however, his troubles started to appear after his parents decided to transfer him to Rosaryhill School. When we asked Mr Kwan why his parents made such a huge decision suddenly, he said, “It was mainly because my parents thought that English was very important. First, Rosaryhill School was founded by a Catholic church; second, the school was just moved to a new campus from the old campus where Villa Monte Rosa is now. The campus became so much bigger so it needed more students to fill up the classrooms. Third, my aunt strongly suggested my parents to send me to Rosaryhill. Eventually my application got accepted and that was when my problems started to appear.”
It was because Mr Kwan had been going to a Chinese primary school so it was inevitable that he found it very difficult to catch up with the English lessons which were so much more difficult than the ones he had had before. Worrying that he would be punished for failing the English tests, Mr Kwan even imitated his parent’s signature on the test papers and eventually his wrongful act was caught by his teacher who even said to Mr Kwan,“You are hopeless. I think only God can save you!”
These words always stay in Mr Kwan’s mind, which always reminded himself to use proper words when he talked to his students. “Sometimes the above scene would suddenly appear in my mind when I was dealing with students for their wrongful acts. I can imagine how scared and worried they would feel about the type of punishment that they would face so I always tried to step in their shoes to help them to resolve their root problems.”
Mr Robert Kwan admits that he was not particularly strong academically during his primary school days. His active personality sometimes even made teachers feel helpless. His favorite activities were running and yelling around the huge campus so he became one of the naughtiest students in the eyes of his teachers. This naughty boy eventually became a well-behaved kid when Mr Kwan was promoted to Primary Four when he was appointed to be a school prefect at the same time. Such appointment can be said to be the turning point in Mr Kwan’s life because since then such appointment gave him a strong sense of responsibility and he started to remind himself that he should be more aware of his own behavior in front of other students. Due to this change of attitude towards his life, Mr Kwan’s academic performance also gradually improved. He started off in Class G in Primary Two and he was slowly “promoted” to Class C in Primary Five and he was ranked the first in his class that year.
From Biology to Chemistry
Mr Robert Kwan is known to be a good chemistry teacher; however, he told us that his passion was actually in biology during his secondary school days. He frankly told us he hated mathematics and his physics’ marks were only average. “I liked biology because it was not difficult. My biology teacher at that time only asked us to copy his notes from the blackboard as his teaching skills were just average. Fortunately my marks in the subject were always quite high. However, during the summer after Form Four, I discovered that the biology teacher had only covered one third of the syllabus for the Hong Kong Certificate Examination of Education and there were still a lots of course materials that we had not been taught, I then studied extremely hard the rest of the syllabus by myself that summer.”
After having studied so hard for the two public examinations, Mr Kwan’s hard work were paid off when he got very satisfactory results in Advanced Level Examination. “Back in those days, the best 150 students always got accepted into the Faculty of Medicine. However, I was ranked just outside the top 150; therefore I picked Chemistry and Computer Science since I had already lost my interest in biology after matriculation.”
Everything begins from a “Timetable”
After having studied for three years at the university, Mr Robert Kwan had to make a decision for his future career. “Most science graduates back in my days became school teachers”, he said. Nevertheless, Mr Kwan originally wanted to choose a different career path. “At that time computer science was a new subject and computer was a new profession so my computer knowledge was in big demand at that time. I remember that Hong Kong Electric was recruiting programmer and I tried really hard to prepare for the application and interview; however, due to the poor interviewing skills and lack of interviewing experience, I performed poorly at the interview so I was not hired by the company. Eventually, a small company offered me a job; however, but they only offered to pay me HK$800 monthly; after I had compared the offer provided to the other university graduates with similar qualifications, which was about HK$2,100 per month, I decided to turn down the offer.”
Even before he graduated from university, Mr Kwan had always been asked to go back to school to assist planning the timetable for teachers and classes during summer holidays. Having failed to find a suitable job, Mr Kwan continued to go back to Rosaryhill School to assist on part-time basis in some administrative work and it was when he was offered a teaching post at Rosaryhill when a Chemistry teacher resigned from the school that summer. This was how Mr Robert Kwan began his 37-teaching career in Rosaryhill School.
It took no time for Mr Kwan to adapt the teaching environment since he started working as a part-time tutor even before he finished Secondary School. After having accumulated years of teaching experience, Mr Kwan also found his passion in teaching.
Mr Kwan was formally appointed to be a Science teacher in September 1978 and he was assigned to take care of club activities a year later. Two years later he was further promoted to be Assistant Deputy Principal and the Panel Head of Chemistry Department. Mr Kwan surprised us when he told us he was also starting to consider whether he should continue his teaching career at that time despite the fact that his career was going so well in such a short period of time. “It was because pay rise in private schools was rather slow when compared to the subsidized schools. Moreover, at that time a friend of mine told me that there was a vacancy in the electronic company in where he was working at, so I was thinking if I should leave the school environment and try myself in the outside world. I remember while I was thinking about my options, I discovered that the school gave me a pay rise that month! I then immediately gave up the idea of leaving the school.”
“The dramatic development of the story started from the fact that the then government was planning to improve the remuneration of teachers in private schools and the school management also frankly told me that they were also planning to change the private Secondary Section to subsidized school two years later. As the future became clearer, I then applied to study the teaching certificate course. Teaching also gave me lots of job satisfaction,.”
Subsequently, Mr Kwan’s monthly salary was increased gradually from HK$1,800 to about HK$5,000 in the span of 5 years and he was further promoted to be the Deputy Principal in 1992.
School for “blue blood”?
Rosaryhill School is always labelled by outsiders as a “noble school”. Mr Kwan said, “There is no doubt that most of the students in the early years came from upper class.”
“Rosaryhill used to be the school with the largest student population in Hong Kong. At that time we had 12 classes in Form One, Class A to Class F in the Boys Section and Class G to Class L in the Girls Section. The best result of our student in the Hong Kong School Certificate of Education was seven As and one C. “
“Honestly, our school has never been considered as an elite school although we do not belong to the weak category either. We even had had some really naughty students in the past. I remember one student even set a timer bomb in school and we also had some problematic students in the 1980s too. From time to time people asked me how come students become naughtier and naughtier over time; in my view, maybe we always have naughty students every year, it is just because those who said this have forgotten how naughty they themselves used to be.”
On the other hand, it is a fact that students’ academic performance have been deteriorating over the last 10-15 years. Since 1990s Mr Robert Kwan taught higher Forms only. He said “Although students have more and more resources to receive education, their learning abilities have been dropping, I realized that there were still many things that I needed to improve. I then took a long time to look for the cause of the problem. I discovered that many students joined our school in Form Four so the standard of our Form Four students varied a lot as their knowledge foundation are all different. Therefore, I decided to go back to Form Four classrooms, which I had not done for years, to help the students to build their knowledge base from there.” Mr Kwan said.
Qualities of good teacher
Mr Kwan shared with us that education is not one way but a two-way communication between teachers and students.
“Teachers must always be well prepared before they step into the classrooms. It is because students can tell whether you are prepared for the class or not and they will not tolerate unprepared teachers. Furthermore, I think teachers should always think how to use different teaching methods to deal with students’ problems. I believe that as long as we are willing to spend the time to do our job, our students can feel it.”
Mr Kwan added one more important requirement for teachers “It is very important for us to try to think from students’ perspective. I remember I was given a double warning when I was Form 5 for studying in the corridor outside classroom and for forgetting to bring my Student ID Card.” This bad experience gave Mr Kwan a good lesson. He realized that before giving any punishments to students, he should first try to find out the reason behind the mistake. A good teacher should assist the student to solve the fundamental problems. He told us that since many students nowadays have family problems which make their problems more complicated than before; therefore, it requires more patience when dealing with these sorts of students as it takes time for students to open up their problems to teachers.
What about qualities to be deputy principal? “Deputy Principal is required to do a lot of administration work. It also requires me to communicate with different teachers who would have all sorts of requests. A deputy principal should know it is impossible to please the whole world but he/she should remember where the bottom line is because the underlying principles need to be insisted upon.”
Strength of Rosaryhill
When one talks about the strength of Rosaryhill School when compared to other schools, no one would deny that our past students always have a strong sense of attachment to Rosaryhill School.
“Our school offers a great variety of things for students especially our teachers have different talents which allow our students to explore their various talents in different areas. Therefore, we provide a wide range of activities such as drama, school choir and different sports activities in order to create an environment for the students to nurture their respective interest. It is because apart from the jobs in the mainstream, we believe that students could also develop their careers in other areas like sports, performing arts or even religion.” It is also because of this unique education philosophy, Rosaryhill School offers a wider variety of extra-curricular activities than other schools thus relationships between teachers and students are also closer, which even extend after they have left Rosaryhill.
Love seed blossomed on Rosaryhill
Apart from the fruitful childhood and a successful career at Rosaryhill School, Mr Robert Kwan also found the love of his life, Mrs Virginia Kwan, in Rosaryhill School.
The love story started when Mr Kwan started his Catechism class after he was baptized the year before. Mr Kwan was studying in Form 6 at that time whilst Mrs Kwan was a Form 3 student. They both joined the choir of the Religious Department, where they were friends first then they slowly developed an affection for each other, which continued to grow for the next 35 years.
Mr Kwan has one son and one daughter. His son looks up to him as a role model as Mr Kwan is very knowledgeable in many different areas, which made it very logical that his son follows Mr Kwan’s footstep to study science at university. As a kind and caring father, Mr Kwan told us that since he knew the education system so well so he assisted his children to take an easier route without encountering too many hurdles in their studies.
Current education system
On the other hand, as a school principal, Mr Kwan shared with us his frustrations with the education policy in recent years, “ As a school principal and teacher, I really felt quite frustrated to see reform of Hong Kong’s education system has been politicalized in the recent years and the policy changed so frequently.”
Furthermore, with the increase of the availability of education resources such as various education funds, exchange programs, scholarships, apart from their teaching duties, teachers have been facing tremendous amount of pressure doing administrative work. “Nowadays teachers spend only 60% of their work time on teaching as they are required to spend much of their work time on dealing with other tasks such as filling out application forms for education funds and writing relevant reports, which I think is not right and fair for teachers.”
Mr Jonathan Kwok in Mr Kwan’s eyes
Mr Jonathan Kwok joined Rosaryhill School in the same year as Mr Kwan and they also retired in the same year. We are curious about how they see each other. “We are all human beings so we all have our emotions; however, since we share the same education philosophy, we always respect each other and try to find a solution together when conflicts happen.”
Both Mr Kwan and Mr Kwok believe that through the participation of extra curricular activities, students can learn how to tackle problems and interpersonal skills. “I believe that a person’s success should not be judged only by his academic results. I certainly agree that academic result is important as it helps to clear the initial hurdles but students’ overall abilities are always developed through their respective extra curricular activities. According to my own observation, our most successful past students were not the ones who had the best academic results but they all spent a great deal of time on extra curricular activities.”
In the eyes of Mr Kwan, Mr Jonathan Kwok was the most crucial person in extra curricular activities as Mr Kwok brought a lot of new ideas to the school. “He created, designed and implemented many events and activities in our school so I think he should get a lot of credits as he did make a great deal of efforts in maintaining good relationships with our students, past students and various organizations outside.”
Lastly, we are grateful to both Mr Kwan and Mr Kwok for their devoted service in the last 37 years, which have benefited thousands of students.
Translation by Edward Ng