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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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...