Macao Bases for Primary and Secondary Education in Humanities and Science Nurture Future Leaders and Well-rounded Talents

Chinese & English│Kelvin U
Photo│Jack Ho, Hasen Cai, with some provided by the interview

In line with the needs of Macao’s future economic and social development, as well as youth development strategies, the University of Macau (UM), as a public university of Macao, continues to give top priority to nurturing students and equipping them with innovative, creative and critical thinking skills in order to produce high-calibre professionals in various fields. In light of this mission, UM recently inaugurated two Macao bases for primary and secondary education, one in humanities and social sciences; the other in STEM.

Addressing the Learning Needs of Students

Initiated by UM and jointly established with Macao Foundation, the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of Macao (DSEJ), the Chinese Educators Association of Macau (CEAM), and Macao Catholic Schools Association (MCSA), the Macao Base for Primary and Secondary Education in Humanities and Social Sciences is comprised of UM’s Centre for Chinese History and Culture (CCHC), the Confucius Institute, the Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Teaching and Training Centre, and the Centre for Macau Studies (CMS).

UM establishes the Macao Base for Primary & Secondary Education in Humanities & Social Sciences and the Macao Base for Primary & Secondary STEM Education

Meanwhile, with the Centre for Science and Engineering Promotion (CSEP) as the core component, the Macao Base for Primary and Secondary STEM Education will support science promotion in Macao and provide continuous training for local teachers and students. The two bases will collaborate with Macao’s educational institutions and primary and secondary schools to launch a series of training programmes and teaching activities to enhance education in humanities, languages, social sciences and STEM, laying a solid foundation for nurturing talent for the future of Macao and the Greater Bay Area.

Enhancing Humanities and Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Education

With respect to humanities education, the Confucius Institute and the Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Teaching and Training Centre at UM willwork closely together to develop training courses and activities suitable for primary and secondary school teachers and students. Prof Hong Gang Jin, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH) and director of the Confucius Institute, says that ‘The key to cultivating leadership and nurturing talents lies in our understanding of the nature of human beings, of how our society works, and of the laws that govern human development.

That is exactly the purpose of the entire educational system of humanities and social sciences. Only through understanding human beings in different aspects can a student develop his or her great talent and then innovate and start a business, and ultimately contribute to the community of human life as a whole.’ Prof Jin adds that the centre and the institute will provide opportunities through various channels for primary and secondary school teachers and students to learn languages, cultures, literature, philosophy, ethics and morality, so as to encourage students to start whole-person education that fosters spiritual, intellectual, humane, social and physical development from an early age.

In line with the development orientation of ‘One Centre’ and ‘One Platform’ of the SAR government, UM has spared no effort to cultivate Chinese-Portuguese bilingual talents and initiated various projects at different levels. Among them, offering trainings to Portuguese language teachers is one of the key projects of the base. In collaboration with the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau of Macao (DSEJ), the centre has launched a series of training programmes to teachers from primary and secondary schools whose first language is Chinese. Moreover, FAH has launched a Master of Arts in Second Language Acquisition programme for language instructors who teach Portuguese as a second language. At a recent international conference titled ‘Confluences in Portuguese: Linguistics, Literature and Translation,’ organised by FAH, many experts and scholars from Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique, France, Italy, Japan, mainland China, and Macao shared their research findings, experience, and expertise in the area of teaching Portuguese as a second language.

The Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Teaching and Training Centre and the Confucius Institute help students achieve well-rounded development

Prof Jin notes that such a regular conference has been an important professional gathering in the field of Portuguese Studies and Portuguese as a Foreign Language, as it provides a platform for participants to have an in-depth discussion on how to tailor teaching methods to students’ individual needs. Meanwhile, the Confucius Institute provides international Chinese courses to local residents whose native language is not Chinese, foreign employees, and international students. The courses will feature the Sino-Luso cultural and linguistic uniqueness of Macao.

Carrying Forward Chinese History and Culture

To enhance the awareness of Chinese traditional culture in local youth, the Centre of Chinese History and Culture (CCHC) at UM has initiated a great number of activities for primary and secondary school students to delve into the gem of Chinese civilisation. Earlier this year, CCHC and the General Association of Chinese Students of Macau (GACSM) signed collaboration agreements with four schools in Macao, namely Pui Ching Middle School, Escola Choi Nong Chi Tai, Macau Baptist College, and Escola Catolica Estrela do Mar, for the promotion of Chinese history and culture. CCHC has also held more than 30 public lectures by prominent scholars for primary and secondary school students.

To scientifically measure local youth’s perceptions of the status of China and levels of understanding of Chinese history and culture, the centre launched Chinese History and Culture Perceptions Index Survey for Primary and Secondary School Students in Macao for the first time. Furthermore, the initial three issues of Macau Juveniles, a periodical publication launched by CCHC, introduce students to Chinese history and culture and new developments in the country in plain language. Meanwhile, taking into account the learning needs of students from local Portuguese and English schools whose native language is not Chinese, CCHC compiles children’s books that introduce intriguing Chinese folktales, fables and stories in Portuguese and English. So far the feedback from the schools about these pioneering projects has been positive.

Prof Hao Yufan, director of the CCHC, says that the university has an excellent international faculty and staff. Apart from doing well in research, they ought to play a role in transmitting Chinese culture to younger generations in Macao. In view of this, CCHC organises systematic training ofprimary and secondary school teachers, such as the first Master Programme of Chinese History and Culture. In collaboration with Tsinghua University (Beijing), the centre offers a training programme for instructors of courses in Chinese history and culture, and the participants will receive a certificate from Tsinghua University after they finish the programme. Prof Hao believes that such training will improve the quality of teaching of Chinese history and culture. Besides, CCHC offers the first certificate course in Macao and Chinese civilisation for all high school students in Macao, allowing them to take university classes in advance and appreciate the beauty of Chinese traditional culture.

UM offers the first certificate course in Macao and Chinese civilisation for all high school students in Macao

In partnership with the Chinese Educators Association of Macau, the centre will edit and revise the book of general knowledge of Chinese culture to prepare the local youth for standardised Chinese history examination. ‘We hope that in our continuous effort, young people will align themselves to traditional Chinese culture, and more favourable conditions could be made to attract them to be proud of their roots and to carry forward the Chinese traditions and cultures,’ says Prof Hao.

Disseminating the Knowledge of Macao

In order to enhance the understanding of primary and secondary school students about the social, economic and cultural issues of Macao, the Centre for Macau Studies (CMS) has launched a series of activities to interest students in learning about Macao. Prof Agnes Lam Iok Fong, director of the CMS, says that the CMS has engaged in researching different projects in Macao for 30 years and thus accumulated a large amount of Macao data. Now the CMS will establish a database for storing knowledge of Macao in an organised meaningful fashion which will be open to the public. ‘We’d like to encourage primary and secondary school students to use it frequently. They will find some interesting subjects, such as entomology, from which they will learn Leptanilla macauensis, an insect species from Macao. The database will soon be one of the primary sources for them to better understand Macao,’ says Prof Lam. In the first phrase, the CMS will work with the UM library to launch the Macao Economic Database. ‘This will be a comprehensive database, including all of Macao’s major economic indicators. It will help researchers, students, and the public to better understand the need of Macao’s economic and social development.’

Discovering Potential via STEM Education

As for promoting STEM education to primary and secondary schools in Macao, the Macao Base for Primary and Secondary STEM Education has launched various programmes with different education units for over a decade. All of the programmes engage local schools to make good use of the abundant resources of the Base of STEM Education and discover students’ interests and potential in science and technology. For instance, the base offers a training workshop in technological innovation for primary and secondary school teachers on a regular basis. Professors from UM’s Faculty of Science and Technology (FST) introduced the latest research and applications in their areas of expertise in the workshop this year. The workshop not only facilitates and enhances communication between secondary school teachers and the base, but also inspires new ideas. The base has also organised summer camps for STEM promotion for 11 years in a row to encourage local students to seek their interest in science, whilst building a strong mentorship with students who are active in international competitions and exchanges. Prof Tam Kam Weng, director of the CSEP, says that more than 80 per cent of the secondary schools in Macao have participated in or even collaborated with UM’s activities that promote STEM education.

In the near future, the base will launch an outreach programme for STEM education with the objective of further strengthening partnerships with local primary and secondary schools. Prof Tam says that the programme will go through several phases: first, a mobile platform for STEM education will be set up – vehicles will turn into mobile laboratories and tour to various schools, offering enjoyable science experiments for students. Second, the base will initiate the project of staying in touch with secondary schools – assigning individual professors as a point of contact with particular schools to help solve the problems encountered in promoting STEM education.

Primary and secondary school students from Macao participate in a science popularisation summer camp

This project aims to provide more comprehensive support to local schools for a better understanding of their actual needs. Lastly, the base will liaise with overseas counterparts, especially those from Portuguese-speaking countries, to establish a collaborative platform to promote STEM education, where primary and secondary school students of Macao will get to know the latest technologies and innovative ideas through international competitions and exchanges with various schools from around the world.

ISSUE 19 | 2018

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