Mixed Marriages and the Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Programme

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Mixed Marriages and the Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Programme


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    Mixed Marriages and the Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Programme

    The Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Programme is a mixed

    marriage of Fulbright professors from America selected by the Council of

    International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) to come to Hong Kong to partner up

    with local universities to work on the development of general education as Hong

    Kong is reforming the structure and curriculum of its secondary and tertiary


    The Hosts Perceptions of the Guests: Feedback from the Local Universities

    Where there is yin, there is yang. On the one hand, there has been

    resentment expressed regarding the presumed role and function of Fulbrighters

    as consultants, although the term does not appear anywhere in the MOUs, in

    the award announcements by the CIES or the HKAC. On the other hand, there

    has been deep appreciation of their presence, with some even asking for more

    cohorts to come to set guidelines and platforms for programme assessment, to

    conduct field experiment, for 2013 - 2014 and 2014 2015, to study how GE has

    impacted 3+3+4, and to teach GE courses.

    Faculty resistance and apathy were evident. Excuses such as workload,

    the top-down UGC mandate, distrust of the new pedagogy, and an ignorance of

    the GE concept and its function were made to justify such resistance. At the

    same time, hearty appreciation of the Programme (FHKGEP) was also

    expressed. The Fulbrighters were perceived as having played the role of

    mediators, resolving internal tensions and helping local colleagues to see deeper

    messages and worthwhile changes with the GE reform, and of ambassadors,

    bringing the message even to senior administrators. This outside presence was

    seen as very important especially in the early years because they acted as

    stimulants and catalysts.

    Because of the prevailing opinion that there have not been enough

    colleagues who have ideas and innovative thought, the Fulbrighters have been

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    an intellectual resource while helping local colleagues to visualise what could be

    done. Equipped with experience and expertise, they knew where and how to

    help, comment and make suggestions, particularly when the resistance came

    from senior colleagues in the form of hierarchical bullying. In the local

    environment of resource-grabbing and scanty collegiality, the Fulbrighters were

    like comrade-in-arms who helped to make the process much less lonely and

    much less painful for those positively involved in the reform.

    As individuals, the Fulbrighters are mostly very nice personalities, very

    sincere, neither condescending nor aggressive, highly adaptable, very ready to

    help and lend support, extremely conscientious and constructive, as well as

    proactive. In some cases, it could be an issue of expectations. In general, the

    contributions of each individual Fulbrighter were enormous and they spent a lot

    of time on GE with the faculty.

    Professionally, these cohorts of Fulbrighters have made significant

    contributions. Their expertise had helped in the review of course proposals, on-

    the-job training for the local faculty, curriculum design and giving valuable input

    for implementation of GE courses. Through them, there was intramural

    university collaboration - a rare phenomenon in Hong Kong.

    An important function of the Fulbrighters was their role as sounding-

    boards to help local colleagues to reflect deeper. This give-and-take experience

    was perceived as invaluable as the Fulbrighters all came from different

    disciplines, different institutions and different backgrounds such that the diversity

    itself offered a range of perspectives. This same value, by contrast, has been

    seen by some as useless for Hong Kong, since most of the Fulbrighters came

    from smaller U.S. institutions, grew up in simpler, more rural environments and

    are unversed in Hong Kong society and academic culture.

    For this reason, it would be important for the Fulbrighters each to teach a

    course, that they may learn about Hong Kong students. Oddly, not every one of

    them was assigned teaching by the host institutions, a decision that contravenes

    the conditions of the Award and the MOUs.

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    Whether the match between host and guest worked out or not, as has

    been indicated, depended to a large extent on the senior administration. If the

    latter made an effort to engage the guest-scholar, much benefit could be reaped;

    if, however, the engagement was left to the faculty, very little would happen. In

    some institutions, Cohorts 3 & 4 were not employed effectively, thus leaving the

    guest-scholars on the fringes. All in all, the prevailing opinion was that none of

    the institutions had a good administration policy for the guest-scholars.

    Frequent reference to the Hong Kong-America Centre was made in a

    positive one, giving it credit for its role as enthusiastic facilitator engaging

    everyone in all the institutions across the spectrum, and finding its work of

    building bridges between institutions wonderful.

    The negative, regrettably, not only did not find the Programme (FHKGEP)

    useful, but also lamented the institutional resources having been wasted on it

    and queried the sums that were downloaded to the HKAC. This undertone of

    aversion to America originated from the interpretation of the function of the

    Programme as a kind of U.S. interference, with America presuming that it has

    been sending experts in the role of consultants to help Hong Kong to build its

    GE. Not few local colleagues found the idea of the Programme patronising,

    hence their sentiment, annoyance.

    When yin exhausts itself, yang appears.

    The Fulbright Hong Kong General Education Programme is hailed, as we

    have seen, by some as opportune to have brought in scholars from the United

    States. Yin yang operate simultaneously.

    The Guests Collective Reactions: Overall Comments Across the Four Fulbright

    GE Cohorts

    On the Host Institutions

    The hospitality of the hosts is vouched with enthusiasm and appreciation,

    the sophistication of the administrative system of Hong Kongs tertiary institutions

    is viewed with awe, and the efficiency and competence are greeted with

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    admiration. Hong Kong, with its colonial history, its current unique situation as a

    Special Administrative Region in the Peoples Republic of China, its privileges of

    rights and freedom, and its rule of law, is fascinating. Equally is its curious mix of

    an almost excessive materialist capitalist existence with strong undercurrents of

    an old world culture of elderly respect, family ties and friendliness to foreigners.

    But the hosts households. Faculty resistance, top-down administration,

    absence of transparency and openness, uncommunicativeness between senior

    administration and the rest of the institution, heavy faculty workload, senior

    administration and faculty ignorance of, indifference to, or inexperience with GE,

    top-down pedagogy by UGC mandating the Outcomes-Based Teaching and

    Learning methods, the low status of GE as an educational vision, the research-

    driven culture versus emphasis on teaching, and a subconscious academic

    arrogance conscious of high international ranking, are characteristics commonly

    perceived by all the guest-scholars. The solutions suggested are more

    communication, more transparency, more genuine openness within and without,

    with policies of faculty development and reward for teaching in place, and a

    conceptual and not merely practical appreciation of GE.

    On the HKAC

    This match-maker has been commonly lauded for being an excellent

    facilitator, great coordinator and task master who directed Team Fulbright to visit

    and consult with faculty and administration in all the tertiary institutions, whose

    leadership, vision, energy and enthusiasm have been absolutely fabulous. Its

    Executive Director was regarded as a de facto member of all of the four cohorts

    of Fulbrighters, and the professionalism of its staff appreciated.

    On the Programme (FHKGEP)

    The rewarding experience echoes across all four cohorts; the opportunity

    for its learning experience ardently appreciated while a healthy sense of

    professional fulfilment felt by the Fulbrighters for the help and support they have

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    lent to this momentous GE reform when Hong Kong is perched for

    unprecedented change in its educational systems.

    On the U.S. Consulate

    It goes without saying that the said Consulates support has been

    delightfully received.

    On the Benefactors

    Educators with visions, the Fulbright scholars appreciation of the vision of

    Mr. and Mrs. Po and Helen Chung makes language an inadequate tool for

    articulation. The foresight to connect Hong Kong with American experts on

    General Education renders the Programme that lasted for four consecutive years

    a match unprecedented both in the history of the Fulbright Award and in Hong

    Kongs higher education.

    Self-Perceived Contributions of Team Fulbright

    All four Teams perceived themselves as models of cooperation of scholars

    from different institutions, systems and backgrounds, and as such they were

    catalysts for inter-institutional connections and conversations between the local

    institutions. They therefore brought universities together to face common

    challenges through collaboration. By acting as a team to go around all the

    institutions, they enabled some institutions to share resources with the rest. It

    was an atmosphere of positive intramural support that they were helping to

    foster. Moreover, they helped break barriers between faculty by sowing the

    efficiency of collaboration and inspired constructive management, thereby not

    only improving communication but helping to move things forward. Through

    collaborative workshops, luncheon meetings, they helped institutions to see what

    it takes to make institutional changes successful, that is, consensus-building,

    transparency and active communication.

    More specifically, Team Fulbright also acted as GE specialists

    academically, administratively and strategically. They clarified goals, designed

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    courses, articulated administrative structures such as for procedures and

    committees for vetting course and programme proposals, and improved review

    processes. They participated in faculty development workshops, acted as

    instructors, informed coaches and trainers of the new pedagogy, stressing

    interdisciplinarity and team teaching while underscoring the basic principles of

    Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning, and best practices. They were also

    heavily involved in reviewing course proposals.

    Chronological Sketch of Individual Fulbright Contribution to Institutional

    Development of GE

    Each sketch is put together from the Fulbright reports screened

    chronologically. To protect their identity, individuals and institutions remain


    Institution A

    GE leadership existed upon the Fulbrighter 1s arrival, whose presence

    facilitated more campus involvement and information sharing, more engagement

    from senior administrator, putting Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning in

    order and moving things forward. A few difficulties were identified: staffing,

    programme planning, budgeting, the need for GE policy and procedures to be in

    place and the existence of internal strife. Two suggestions were proposed: that

    of setting the budget for the next year and deliberating on rewarding teaching.

    Fulbrighter 2 quotes rationale for GE, graduate attributes, PILOs and

    CILOs from the website, thus reflecting the progress made. Two stages of

    development were reported, with 2006 - 2008 as the Experimental Stage and

    2009 - 2012 as the Gearing-up Stage.

    Fulbrighter 2A came with the last cohort to find her host institution making

    major changes. A niche was found to emphasise discovery in student learning.

    GE was rebranded as Gateway Education. Fulbrighter 2A found herself a voting

    member of two committees, the Gateway Education Programme Committee

    (GEPC) and the General Education Evaluation Programme (GEEP), where she

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    played an active role in meetings, discussions and drafting of PILO 10. The

    institution of GEPC ensures a firm step towards faculty ownership and

    sustainability of GE as reflected by strong representation of colleges and schools

    on the committee. Fulbrighter 2A assisted over thirty faculty in the development

    of GE courses for science and engineering. The reluctance by these disciplines

    to offer interdisciplinary courses was expressed to the guest-scholar as a form of

    reticence to overstep themselves in another field. Her experience at her home

    institution with Discovery Learning was brought to bear when she helped faculty

    at Institution A to embrace its discovery-enriched curriculum. Fulbrighter 2A was

    further engaged in vetting applicants for the post of Senior Education

    Development Officer to enhance EDGE support of discovery learning as well as

    vetting the Fulbright applicants. She was included in reviewing Teaching

    Development Grant proposals in addition to having conducted a number of

    workshops either singularly or with other Fulbrighters at the host university, its

    community college, other universities and community colleges on

    interdisciplinarity, undergraduate research, or her own specialty of book design,

    the latter of which she did so also in Seoul, Osaka and Indonesia. As her host

    institution actually hosted the International GE Conference in June 2012,

    Fulbrighter 2A supported it by sitting on the Advisory and Programme

    Committees while designing the logo and conference identity.

    Institution B

    Fulbrighter 3 arrived finding the host institution resentful of the guests

    presence, with consultancy being a major issue. Efforts were made to divert

    Fulbrighter 3s attention on GE with the result that a new role was recast in the

    administration of GE. Workshops were offered on PILOs while services were

    rendered to other local institutions, which worked out well. Institutional top-down

    approach to Outcomes-Based Teaching and Learning caused much faculty

    resistance. Suggestion was made to the host institution to devise a reward

    system for teaching GE.

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    Fulbrighter 4 saw the predecessors role in curriculum design the year

    before which should be completed in the current year along with the need for

    vetting the courses. A conceptual problem facing GE is the balance that should

    be maintained between content and engagement although, given Hong Kongs

    situation, the emphasis might have to be placed on a student-centred pedagogy.

    The greatest obstacles at the host institution at the time were: a faculty who

    would not buy-in GE; a culture of parents pragmatic expectations complemented

    by students expediency towards course work; and requirements which were

    often perceived as an unavoidable part of a sentence that has to be endured.

    A distinction was pointed out between University GE and College GE by

    Fulbrighter 5. W...


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