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It takes a village

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (January 17, 2019)


Yesterday was an emotional day for me. My two and a half year old son attended class at my learning centre for the first time. And it nearly brought tears to my eyes.


When I founded JEMS ten years ago, I had not imagined this day would come. At the time, I didn’t have children, wasn’t even married nor dating. I founded JEMS with the vision and passion of seeing children develop their character values. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education”. We don’t just want to raise children who are intellectually smart but morally weak; rather that their moral strength would enable them to best use their intellectual capacities. As the Chinese phrase goes, ‘品學________’ – we strive to have children thrive in both their character and academics.


So, ten years ago, I zealously started writing curriculum and opening a centre that would focus on cultivating children’s character and values such as responsibility, respect and compassion. I still remember when I first started, some people lauded it as a noble cause but others questioned whether it was a viable, or even necessary, endeavor to take on. “Aren’t parents supposed to teach these things?” “Who’s going to spend time and money to have their children learn these soft skills?” “I never went to a centre to learn these things. Why should my kids?” Despite all the, perhaps well meaning, challenges, I went ahead with faith believing that this is what children need to learn and if children are going to classes to learn how to speak better, calculate faster, play instruments better and memorise more, then why not a place to learn to be better people?


So, the journey started a decade ago. And I’m pleased to share that we have been able to help countless children and their families in their journey of character education. We have seen students grow in their sense of responsibility, their compassion for their community and their sense of courage and values. And we continue to grow in our size and impact and there’s nothing that makes me happier than seeing children thrive.


And so yesterday, my son had the privilege of benefitting from this education. Many people have asked me why I would send my son to JEMS. “Can’t you teach him yourself?” “Why does he need it if he’s learning at home?” I’d like to state my reasons here. Of course I’m teaching him these character values myself and at home but that’s also what we’re expecting from every other parent who sends their kids to JEMS. JEMS isn’t a replacement for parenting nor an outsourced centre to teach character. Parents have the primary responsibility of instilling positive values in their children and if parents aren’t being role models and active educators in their child’s character development, children lack this area of development. But saying that, parents aren’t the only character educators. Every person in a child’s life teaches him lessons in character – whether good or bad. So JEMS is a partner to parents who also value these character virtues because it takes a village to raise a child. The more people in my village who ‘speak’ the same values as me, the more likely my child will absorb, internalise and live out those values., And that’s ultimately my goal.


Additionally, so many relational character virtues such as respect, sharing, teamwork and friendship have to be learnt in a social context so being in an environment where he’s with peers who are learning the same positive values is necessary. Plus it’s an added bonus when he has so much fun that he told me during our bedtime talk that he wants to “sleep at JEMS”.


So, who’s in your child’s village? Build a village for your child that collectively speaks the same positive character values and you’ll find that your child will speak that language himself soon.



#Friendship#community #character_education #build_a_village

教養小孩 眾志成城


昨天對我而言是感性的一天。我的兩歲半兒子第一次到我的學習中心上課,令我淚盈於睫。


十年前當我創辦JEMS時,從沒想過會有這樣的一天。那時候,我沒有孩子,其實根本就未結婚,連拍拖也沒有。我憑著一個願景和一份熱情,就是希望看到小朋友們可以發展出良好品格,而去創辦JEMS。馬丁路德金曾說過:「智慧加上品格,才是教育的真正目標。」我們並不想培育出智慧高但道德低的孩子;反而是,孩子有了好道行才會更好好善用他們的智慧和天分。正所謂「品學兼優」──就是希望孩子在品格和學術都能並駕齊驅。


因此在十年前,我認真地編寫課程並建立學習中心,就是為了專注於培育小孩子的品德與價值觀,例如責任感、尊重和同理心等等。猶記得剛開始時,有人稱讚這是崇高的事業,亦有人質疑這是否可行?是否有必要?是否值得堅持去做?「父母不是都會教這些嗎?」「誰會肯付出時間和金錢去讓自己的孩子學這些軟技能?」「我自己都沒有上過這種課,為何要我的孩子上?」雖有這種種善意的「挑戰」,我還是憑信念勇往直前,深信這些都是孩子需要學習的;若然孩子會上課去學習更流利的語言、學習計算得更快、學習演奏樂器和學習更強記憶,為什麼不可以有個地方讓他們學習去做更好的人?


於是這個旅程就此走了十年。如今我可以很欣慰地與大家分享,我們幫助了無數的孩子與家長一同走在這品格教育的旅程上。我們見證了學生在責任感、在對社區的同理心,以及在自信心與價值觀上,都有可喜的成長。而我們的學習中心亦不斷擴充、影響力大增,但最令我開心的是見到孩子們茁壯成長。


昨日,我兒子就有幸受益於這個教育中心。許多人問我,為何我還需要自己兒子到JEMS上課。「你不能自己教嗎?」「他在家中不是已在學習了嗎?」我想在此分享我的想法。當然,我有在家自行教導他這些品格價值,而這其實是每位JEMS學生的家長都應當做的。JEMS並不是親子教育的替代品,亦不是品德教育的外判中心。父母本身是有最大責任去向孩子灌輸正向價值,如父母本身沒有做好榜樣,又不積極做孩子的品格導師,孩子就會欠缺這方面的發展。話雖如此,但父母並非唯一的品格導師。孩子一生中遇到的每一個人,都在教導他品格的課題──但卻有好有壞。故JEMS是父母的伙伴,因為我們都認同這些美德,而教養一個小孩需要眾志成城。「城」中愈多人表達與我同樣的價值觀,我的孩子就愈有機會吸收接受,謹記於心,並付諸實行。這就是我的終極目標。再者,許多人際關係的美德,例如尊重、分享、團隊精神及友誼等,需要在實際社交的環境中,與同伴一起去學習。然後,當我兒子在上床前告訴我,他覺得課堂十分好玩甚至想在JEMS過夜,那實在是對我額外的獎勵。


想想看,你孩子的這座「城」有些甚麼人?當一班擁有同樣正面價值觀的人,為你的孩子眾志成城,你的孩子很快亦會擁抱那些正面價值觀。


christine@jems.com.hk

劉馬露明