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South China Morning Post: School looks to widen its character-building appeal

Jan 11 2016

A learning centre that focuses on building character in pupils rather than just teaching them how to pass exams is hoping to reach out to grass roots families as more parents recognise the value of moral education.

The founder of JEMS Learning House, Christine Ma-Lau, daughter of MTR Corp chairman Frederick Ma Si-hang, says she is seeking partnerships with non-governmental organisations and primary schools.

"I am still seeking out the best ways on how we can reach out to the community and benefit grass roots families with our programmes," she said during a ceremony to celebrate the expansion of the centre's fourth floor. The profit-making learning centre, the first of its kind in the city, was founded in 2009. It offers English-speaking courses to children aged between two and 12 with the aim of building character and instilling positive values. Its programme, ranging from HK$400 to HK$600 per class, provides lessons on identity development, relationship building and community service, with a focus on nine character values: uniqueness, perseverance, responsibility, teamwork, friendship, respect, giving, empathy and compassion.

Ma-Lau's previous experience in working with teenagers made her understand that the roots of the problems they faced, including low self-esteem, peer pressure as well as bullying, were connected with their own character. However, she noted that local schools mostly focus on academic matters and text books, which prompted her to launch her own project as she felt that more parents were looking for classes that stressed moral education.

"Prevention is better than cure," Ma-Lau said.

"So we hope to focus on building the roots of character in young children so they know how to appreciate their uniqueness, tackle challenges and build up relationships." Former financial secretary Antony Leung Kam-chung, whose three children have joined the programmes, agreed that good education comprised not only academic teaching but character building and the instillation of positive values.

"Chinese parents only focus on exam-oriented education, which puts too much pressure on students," he said. "But character building can enable them to overcome challenges in life, which is very important for their future."



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