The Buddy Programme

The Buddy Programme

Grace Chencen Cai, one of the project team members, sharing her own experience with the high school students in Guilin

Secondary school students in Mainland China, like their counterparts everywhere, have to make major decisions about their future. But many Chinese students are at a disadvantage because their schools offer little opportunity to talk to people from different fields about their options. A group of HKU students tried to fill that gap through an outreach project that was inspired by personal experience.

The HKU Buddy Programme involved seven students from different faculties who spent a week at the High School Affiliated with Guangxi Normal University in Guilin, where they talked about their learning experiences in different subjects of study so the secondary school students could get a broader idea of the options available at university.

The week also involved team-building games, discussions of globally-important issues such as renewable energies, and an introduction to a new classroom technology developed by engineering students, the iClass.

Ammie Wang Xiaofei, a third-year Bachelor of Engineering student at the time of the project, was the team leader and she said she had been motivated to launch HKU Buddy by her own experience as a secondary school student in northern China.

"I feel strongly that there is a distinct difference between the high school learning cultures in Mainland China and Hong Kong. Some high school students in Mainland China have limited resources to get to know various occupations when they are at a critical period of their lives for choosing a career or deciding on further education," she said. "I thought it would be good for them to have mentors they could talk to."

The Guilin students responded enthusiastically to the opportunity and were keen to share their concerns.

"A lot of the students wanted to talk about their ideas and confusion about their future. They were wondering what schools to attend, what careers to pursue, and what skills they need to develop. They wanted advice, such as basic information about HKU, but they also wanted to discuss their concerns about their future, such as whether certain majors would be suitable for them and where they could find more information about their dream careers."

The Guilin school provided practical support, such as staff helpers and classroom facilities, while Dr Wilton Fok of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering and Professor Ben Young of the Department of Civil Engineering were their mentors. "This project not only helped the local students who learned from HKU students, but it also helped our students learn how to be teachers and exchange their knowledge with others," Dr Fok said.

Ammie said they were also happy to be able to do this project during the year of the University's centenary celebrations.