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星期五 2016年10月07號

【SCMP Education Post:Study in the UK】Keeping minds and the social media bug in check

Hong Kong children attending UK boarding schools do require smartphones to keep in touch with their parents, but parents also need to know schools have measures in place to ensure children unplug from their online world. Schools employ a variety of methods to ensure that children’s mental health and emotional well-being are in order, and some of the techniques might just surprise you ...

A recent report by Deloitte has confirmed that the UK has never been more addicted to smartphones. Is it partly down to FOMO (the fear of missing out) and thus a desire to stay continually connected with what others are doing? Or is it a simple overreaction to a trend which is still relatively new? Whatever the reasons, balance is required and children have to shoulder some of the responsibility too.


A “whole-school approach” is a term that is bandied about quite often within the UK independent school scene


A recent parliamentary debate threw up some startling recommendations on the side of education minister, Edward Timpson. First of all, according to Mr Timpson, children should be taught Buddhist mindfulness meditation techniques as a means to aid them “unplug from their online world”. Not only that, mindfulness should be incorporated into a school’s regular programme on a day-to-day basis. Consequently, according to Timpson, children will be in the position to “enjoy good mental health and emotional wellbeing”.


A “whole-school approach” is a term that is bandied about quite often within the UK independent school scene. Mr Timpson, of course, wants to see collective action on the part of school communities to improve learning conditions and student well-being. But behind typical PR promises and catchy terminology, and away from the dormitories where children are hooked up to the Internet, what are schools already doing to please the likes of Mr Timpson and, perhaps unintentionally, control the overuse of Smartphones?


Let us first cite an example from Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School in Elstree, Hertfordshire, where an inspiring Chemistry teacher named Anjna Pindoria offers lower sixth students, teachers and year 10 students yoga lessons. These are eight week courses and Ms Pindoria is adamant that the classes improve the psychological and physical well-being of those instructed.


The fact that Haberdashers’ recognises the benefits of yoga, and that it may ease the academic demands in addition to social pressures, says a great deal about the school’s attitude to its Enrichment and Enhancement Programme. More relevantly, Ms Pindoria says that yoga provides pupils with the chance to “switch off” from all the social interaction on their mobile phones.


Adopting a “whole-school approach” is very much to the taste of Tonbridge School, which is at the forefront of teaching mindfulness - and does so to all Year 10 pupils. The idea is to put pupils in the here and now - they concentrate on the present and forget about social media and academic work. The school’s course focuses on several key skills, including savouring activities, such as walking, and establishing calm and concentration. Pupils are also expected to practise at home.


Other top schools prefer to use their immediate surroundings and the Great Outdoors to help keep pupils mentally fresh and away from the screens. Abbotsholme, for instance, has its own working farm. All pupils from the Juniors to Year 9 have timetable slots devoted to farm activities. As for those who volunteer to on the farm at 7.45am, I cannot personally think a worthier and more refreshing way to start the day.


Through the examples I have provided, I am trying to highlight some serious points. First of all, independent school students are just as susceptible to mental health challenges than those from state schools. However, I think boarding schools have the measures, facilities, support systems and ideas in place to keep pupils’ mental health in good shape.


An important survey, which was carried out in accordance with the 2015 Headmasters’ and Headteachers’ Conference (HMC), revealed that 94 per cent of schools reported that misuse of social media was an issue and, for 65% of heads, a “serious concern”.


I must respond to these figures. The vital issue here is not about nipping social media use in the bud and banning it completely, because Hong Kong children need social media applications to stay in touch with loved ones at home. It is more about persistence on the part of schools to continue to offer unconventional (meditative and mindfulness) programmes to pupils to show them the brighter side of life.


Original article:


1 寄宿百科 2 英國大學
3 談英國 4 赴英須知
5 赴英遊學 6 選校攻略
7 留英所得 8 親子關係
9 英名校大比拼 10 留英專家分享

陳思銘(Samuel Chan) 並非如一般外界人所認為的「富二代留學生」,家人數代都在流浮山經營海鮮買賣,父母學歷程度雖然不高,但努力工作賺錢把Samuel從小(9歲)就供養到英國寄宿學校格雷舍姆學院 (Gresham College)讀書,才能讓他早早就體會到英式教育優越全世界的原因。
Samuel Chan在留英之前亦都曾苦於在香港的教育體系中掙扎求存,但是香港朝令夕改的教育制度卻令他的成續止步不前,甚至感到老師也對自己失去興趣。直到接受英式教育後,他深深感受到兩地學制的差異:在英國,永遠是先發掘學生的興趣,再透過「興趣」作為推動其學習的原動力,釋放潛能。在英國,他獲得了使自己能夠表達自己並嘗試新事物的信心,最終以優秀的成續升讀英國頂尖的學府。
Samuel Chan留英長達15年,在諾定咸大學(University of Nottingham)獲得經濟學學士後,在華威大學(The University of Warwick)攻讀完政治經濟系碩士後回流香港。回流香港的Samuel鑑有感於香港教育制度無法充分釋放學生潛力,於是回流英國的他創辦了英識教育,以幫助更多有志留學英國的同學提供各類支援及顧問服務。
白手興手固然辛苦,但奮鬥數年英識教育終獲香港品牌發展局頒發「香港服務名牌」的升學教育中心,亦是同業首間獲此認證的品牌。後來,Samuel於2017年奪得「英國傑出校友獎」,該獎是英國文化協會及多家英國高等院校的共同構思,並由英國文化協舉辦,評選活動獲不少名人及王室人員支持及參與。可見,讓身為香港人的「陳思銘」的名字深深烙印在英國學術界傑出人仕的陳列櫃中。雖然事業受到肯定,但Samuel並不安於現狀,後來在2020年更創立Britannia Gateway 的學術培訓平台,提供更多元化的課程以幫助客戶適應英國課程。

論名氣,Oundle 未追得上 Eton、Wycombe Abbey 等頂級名校,但學校的學術成績在英國依然名列前茅。作為傳統名校,Oundle 非常重視全人發展,為學生提供多元課餘活動選擇。學校奉行英國碩果僅存的 House Dining System,或是令香港家長趨之若鶩的一大原因。
Bromsgrove 的師生比例是一比八,比一般的寄宿學校低。此外,綜合我曾到訪的學校,此校硬件設施之完善,可入選全英設備最佳的三大校園。校方不惜工本為學生提供舒適環境,甚至收購附近的酒店改建成宿舍,令宿生有名符其實的「五星級享受」。此校極具前瞻性,是國際化的英國宿校。
Brighton College 是英國首屈一指的私校,是香港家長最愛的寄宿學校之一。 看一間學校,除了教育宗旨、多元化活動、成績之外,更要看校長的魄力。十年前,校長 Mr. Richard Cairns 成為 Brighton College 校長後,把學校由全英國接近 150 名推至首 20 名。除了在教育方針上大力推動改革之外,也為了保持學生的求知慾而非常努力,是難得的好校長。
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