For four days in February, the all-girls’ Tak Nga Secondary School and the all-boys St Francis Xavier Secondary School took part in a student exchange programme, where eight students from each school swapped places for two days each.
The story behind the exchange
Heidi Pak Hing-tung, a spokeswoman for St Francis Xavier’s College, told Young Post that the programme had been initiated by their school principal, Joseph Iu, and that he had been inspired by the success of their annual student exchange programme with their brother school St Francis Xavier’s School Tsuen Wan.
“Iu was inspired to extend the current student exchange programme, and to organise similar programmes with other schools,” Pak added. “While searching for other Catholic none-boy secondary schools to partner with, he came across Cheung Ka-wai, who is the principal of Tak Nga Secondary School. She was interested in a student exchange programme. That’s when both schools decided to organise a four-day exchange programme.”
A new way of learning
Bonnie Leung Wing-yee, a Tak Nga Secondary School English teacher, welcomed two St Francis Xavier School boys to her Form Four classes. Leung says that she was pleased with the outcome of this new programme, and that it introduced a new way of learning to both genders.
“One boy from St Francis Xavier Secondary School was very tall, and he stood at around 180 centimetres tall. A lot of girls in the school, who are a lot shorter, were amazed at his height. On the last day the students were taking selfies and exchanging contacts [with each other to keep in touch via] Instagram and Facebook.”
Kary Chan, a Form 4C student, said that this programme was interesting as “it was the first time we had had boys in our classrooms”.
This sense of newness and uniqueness did not phase Kary though. Although she normally only ever goes to school with a bunch of girls, she was happy talking to and working with a group of boys that she didn’t know. “We had group discussions and presentations in both the Chinese and English lessons. There’s not a big difference between boys than girls. We conducted the lessons as we normally would and we got to communicate with the boys.”
Haley Lee Yan, a Form 4C student was initially a little anxious about the programme but she soon began to see the positives to the exchange.
“All of us were nervous about studying in a boy’s school, but we felt at ease as the students there helped us adapt quickly.
“On the first day, most of the boys there were a bit standoffish. However, they would lend a helping hands [when needed] and were kind and hospitable. I liked that they had an active learning attitude. They were [always] willing to answer teachers’ questions,” Haley said. “We didn’t want to leave after our two days were up. We gained a lot. We learnt more about their school culture, made many new friends and learnt how to communicate with others effectively.”
Jessica Liang Zixin, a Form 4D student agreed.
“The boys that came to our school did group work with our classmates. The genius [of the boys] was revealed during our physics lessons, and we really appreciated how they could easily solve difficult physics questions.”
“There was a harmonious atmosphere at their school, where the teachers and students were kind and helpful. When we ran into difficulties, they would do everything they could to help us. This exchange programme helped us realise our shortcomings because [we saw how we measured up against] a different school. We also made friends with the students there – though we could have got to know each other more if we had a longer exchange.”
What the boys had to say
Elton Lo, another Form Four student from St Francis Xavier College, was surprised by how enthusiastic and forthcoming the girls were in comparison to the boys.
“In my opinion,” Elton said, “the girls were more lively and active than we were. Before the start of the programme, I thought that the girls would be shy and quiet, but they were all very enthusiastic and [took the initiative to] talk with us. When we asked them to take a class photo with us, they said yes – and even asked us to take selfies with them. In contrast, we were quite shy when they came to our school. I think boys ought to learn appreciation from the girls, and [try to be] braver.”
Nissem Lam, another Form Four student, said that he felt more comfortable around his mates. “We can just be ourselves. But when we were playing basketball [with the girls], we had to be more careful.”
More to come in the future?
Because of how successful the programme was, Pak says that more students can look forward to having similar events in the future.
“It’s hoped that more student exchange programmes will get organised in the future, perhaps for a longer duration, with other Catholic schools or even extending to S3.”