Global Reach: Grantee Partners

Teach Unlimited Foundation

​Context:

In 2004, Hong Kong went through the latest education reform that is valid until today. The HK education system has always been and remains to this day focused on academic outcomes. The merit of the 2004 reform was to restructure the curriculum framework in three main components: 1. knowledge, 2. skills and values, and 3. attitudes – to which values and attitudes had been added. Unfortunately in schools, the focus on these two elements is very often overshadowed by pure ‘knowledge’ achievements as academic results linked to university admission take over – even though less than 40% of students can secure a place at local universities. As a result, it is a sad reality that Hong Kong’s high-pressure education system coupled with heavy exams causes immense stress on students: During the academic year September 2015 through June 2016 alone, there was a spike in the number of students who took their lives: 35 committed suicide. The blame is to put on a system that still does not take at heart or, due to limited resources, has to compromise the focus on values, attitudes and the personal development of a young person as intended by the 2004 education reform. School teachers are often overwhelmed with school administration and curriculum related tasks. School social workers dealing with critical cases have often heavy caseloads and are under-resourced.

However, equipping especially marginalized youth with positive attitude and life skills is more critical than ever in HK. Students in the lowest tier schools (so called Band 3 schools) often receive government assistance. According to data of the Teach Unlimited Foundation (TUF), 50% or more of the families of students in many of their partner schools receive government assistance. While low socio-economic status may entail or even lead to a poor self-image, it is the lack of confidence in their learning ability and their ability to succeed that accounts for greater damage. These students know that they are in the lowest banding schools and see themselves as failures from young ages. Often they have lower academic and career expectations as well as self-satisfaction.

The latter is confirmed by a HK Thematic Household Survey conducted during November 2017 to January 2018 that mainly collected information on the educational history and employment profile of Young and Middle-aged Persons (YMP, referring to persons aged 22 to 47). This study revealed that – with no surprise – the educational attainment and occupation of YMP was correlated with that of their parents. For example: For those YMP whose fathers had completed primary education and below, only 25.4% attained post-secondary education at degree level. For employed YMP whose fathers had worked in non-high-skilled occupations when the YMP was 15 years old, only 8.9% to 13.6% of YMP worked as managers and/or administrators, with notably higher proportions of YMP working as managers and administrators (26.4%) from fathers who had worked in high-skilled occupation groups. As a result, there is a need to improve the self-esteem, learning attitude and learning motivation of young people from marginalized households in Hong Kong. There is a need to build their resilience, to grow their will to take ownership of their learning and lives, and to develop their life skills to inspire them for a better future.

Organisation:

The Teach Unlimited Foundation (TUF) is a non-profit organisation founded in 2011 in Hong Kong by a group of local parents concerned about the quality of education for marginalized students in Hong Kong. The organisation is in support of socially and financially marginalized young people focusing on improving their learning attitude, learning motivation and self-esteem through mentorship and additional learning support. By instilling positive attitudes, TUF is motivating them to aspire to a better future and to take ownership on their lives. TUF’s support students via three programmes: 1) Support the education and personal development of marginalized students through enhancing their learning attitude, learning motivation and self-esteem. 2) Develop socially conscious university graduates as mentors and role models to advance the cause with and for young people their mentor in participating in a 2-year leadership development programme. 3) Model an effective approach to mentorship and promote its integration into education in Hong Kong via long-term partnership with schools. TUF reaches its mission by training university graduates to be TUF Programme Mentors. Stationed full-time in partner schools for two years, they serve as role models for students and plan and deliver TUF programmes, which complement the school curriculum and comprise: 1) personalized and structured individual mentoring; 2) small group learning activities during and after class, as well as 3) special school-wide projects. This TUF year-long flagship project first piloted in 2013-2014 and its three core elements is called the Dream Pursuing Project (DPP). Greatly benefitting students, TUF Programme Mentors and schools, the essence of the DPP is the mentorship of students under a structured approach, emphasizing self-exploration, reflection and goal setting. During the DPP, once per year, there is also a joint-school event called Dream Pursuing Day (DPD), first launched in 2016-2017, where students participate in a full day of interactive activities to explore their future possibilities and careers. In response to COVID-19, in 2020, TUF has been adapting the DPD into virtual format. To date, TUF has worked with 24 schools in HK, and in 2021-2022, they plan to work in 5 schools.

Current Grant:

EMpower’s 5th grant to Teach Unlimited Foundation Limited (TUF) will, first, directly support 100 marginalized students (50 are 10-14 years old and 50 aged 15-19, half of them are girls and young women) with mentoring to boost their self-esteem, learning attitude and learning motivation and inspire them for a better future (professional) life. They will be supported in 5 TUF partner schools by 10 TUF programme mentors (2 in each school) and 5 teachers supporting the TUF mentors (1 in each school). EMpower will, secondly, support capacity development for TUF staff and mentors: 1. to offer stronger mentoring to TUF programme mentors, 2. to strengthen the monitoring of the programme and 3. to improve the outreach to potential new partner schools and mentors. To that end, EMpower will support two core components: 1. The Dream Pursuing Project for 100 students with different activities and 2. Capacity Development for 6 TUF staff and 10 TUF programme mentors with different trainings.

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