Alumni Feature
── Learning through Play since early childhood• Alumna Cecilia Fan Sze-ki

Early childhood education, with its far-reaching impact on children’s learning and their development of fundamental skills, plays a significant part in whole-person development.  Alumna Fan Sze-ki, Cecilia graduated from the Department of Early Childhood Education (2009).  As a secondary school graduate, she aspired to be a kindergarten teacher with the belief that a teacher plays an important role for students, the school and the community.  She also believes that children’s preschool years cannot be underestimated.  Certain things may look seemingly insignificant but for them during early childhood, these are precisely things that may cause an impact for a lifetime.  In this connection, she firmly believes in the value of a teacher and therefore made up her mind to develop a career in early childhood education by becoming a teacher for children before their whole-person development period.

After graduation from HKIEd, Cecilia chose to teach in a kindergarten with predominantly minority students.  It was then that she discovered these children were always being neglected in the community.  Apart from their parents, they made lots of contact with teachers, who might therefore be able to play a pivotal role in their life.  However, it was also during this period when Cecilia became aware of her own inability to meet expectations in the formal classroom.  Not only teachers, but students could also feel the constraints imposed by subject demands.  Sometimes they would even be forced to go along with the direction of today's mainstream society, stifling all creativity.

In view of this, after a year in school, Cecilia began preparations for the setting up of a private educational institution which promotes the concept of ‘learning through play’ by guiding students to learn in a relaxed way through games, while developing proper values from childhood.  Lessons for ‘learning through play’ are different from formal classes: students play different roles in a simulated city.  They are free to seek their own professional interest, such as lawyers, doctors, police and designers, etc.  In fact, jobs that most children welcome are not firefighters, doctors and so on, but workers in the logistics field because they love to rely on personal abilities for hard work.  “This is probably the face of innocent children.  They look forward to simple practical work, but in reality, parents often impose personal thoughts on their children to the extent that they gradually give up their original ideas and interests.  This is the change that we need.” Cecilia pointed out.

Unforgettable to Cecilia was an occasion when a group of students from low-income families, supported by charity funding, came to visit her school.  When they first entered the venue for a simulated city, they all looked stunned by the glamour of the view.  Cecilia was greatly surprised by this scene.  After the game was finished, all students were able to exchange for presents of different value with the money earned through their "work" in the city.  Cecilia noticed that one of the little girls owned ten dollars, but her friend wanted to borrow five dollars from her in exchange for a notebook.  Without uttering a word, the little girl gave what was needed to her friend and with the remaining five dollars she exchanged for a candy to give to her younger brother.  Even in our present-day world so stuffed with material wealth, perhaps not everyone is in interested in sharing; but a child from a low-income family can be so generous.  Cecilia saw what she saw and realized that a child's growth was not dependent on the amount of provisions, but rather on whether the child felt rich and satisfied in her heart.  After this incident, Cecilia became even more convinced of the importance of cultivating values in children when they grow up.  If proper education is given during kids’ playtime, it may have a profound impact on their long-term development.

On the road towards early childhood education, Cecilia was greatly inspired and benefited from Dr. Cheng Pui Wah, Doris’ teaching when studying at HKIEd.  Dr. Cheng is an authority on ‘learning through play’.  During the process of developing ‘learning through play’, Dr. Cheng often provided her valuable advice and shared with her the value of ‘learning through play’.  Cecilia was indeed greatly inspired.  Apart from this, Cecilia was especially thankful to Dr. Cheng for taking care of her in her college days.  “Dr. Cheng is a teacher who cares a lot about her students.  When teaching us as a group of freshmen, she looked after us like her own children.” she said.  Cecilia recalled the year when they enjoyed the opportunity to observe lessons together in Shanghai, but some of the students were taking the plane the very first time and they felt very nervous.  Dr. Cheng gave them guidance during the journey, suggesting that it was time they learnt self-reliance.  Under the patient guidance of Dr. Cheng, students grew up a lot after returning from Shanghai.  Cecilia also took the opportunity to thank philanthropists including Mr. Wilson Pong, community leaders, seniors in child care work and alumni who have supported student development, so that she and her fellow students were able to join an Australian study tour.  Cecilia frankly pointed out that this was yet another chance for students to go through the valuable experience of ‘transformation’.  She appreciated the profound influence of teachers and the Institute on students.

Cecilia believes that all educators should find the uniqueness in every student because even though they are young children, they are still able to exercise infinite creativity beyond the expectations of an adult world.  Becoming a teacher for children, Cecilia has gained unanticipated satisfaction and pleasure.  Satisfaction came from every lesson gone through with students, from groups of lively and innocent students, from the mutual trust shared with parents.  Students may have left for years, Cecilia are still in contact with them and their parents and may even arrange get-together.  It is obvious that no matter how time flies, the relationship will not change because there is trust and care holding them together.  Very humbly Cecilia said she is still not a successful teacher.  She believes that in addition to adequate preparation, a teacher should also make a commitment to the community.  She encouraged young HKIEd students to prepare a heart for education, which will be the only way to pass on the torch.

(Second right) Alumna Cecilia Fan Sze-ki

HKIEd Department of Early Childhood Education Dr. Doris Cheng Pui Wah and alumna Cecilia Fan Sze-ki

Student reporter Lau Ka-lai (HKIEd BEd Chinese Language 4th Year) and alumna Cecilia Fan Sze-ki