Characteristics of Hong Kong School Guidance and the Implementation of Comprehensive School Guidance

Generally speaking, ‘Guidance’, known as pastoral care in UK schools, seek to promote the whole person growth of students, the aim of guidance is to encourage students’ self esteem and the development of various aspects of their ‘self’, such as personal, moral and social and it is educational (Hui, 2000; Hue, 2007).In his latest article, Hue (2007) explained the whole school approach should be conceptualized as a model for guidance which emphasizes the united effort of all school personnel who, under the leadership of the school head, work together to create a positive learning environment enriched with care, trust and mutual respect. Apart from that, school guidance work is to help students to maximize their own potential acquire acceptable social skills, discriminate right from wrong, develop appropriate values.

It provides additional opportunities for students to develop their strengths and competencies

In addition to this goal, school guidance work should help prevent or overcome students’ problems through prompt assistance and appropriate advice.Whole School Approach to School Guidance and Comprehensive School Guidance Programs
The whole school approach to guidance can be conceptualized as a model, and it can be implemented through comprehensive school guidance programs. Gysbers (2005) pointed out that the comprehensive guidance program currently being used by many states and school districts in the United States consists three elements: content, organization framework and resources. In this article, I will try to analysis comprehensive guidance programs in Hong Kong based on Gysbers’ model since the Hong Kong Education Bureau also adopted the model for implementing guidance services in schools.Firstly, the content element identifies competencies considered important for students to master as a result of their participation in a comprehensive guidance program, it aims at developing students’ strengths and it could be the goal for the program. Secondly, the organization framework element contains two sections. The first section is three structural components; it includes the definition, rationale and assumptions. The second section consists four program components; they are guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support.

The students in SSS are mainly characterized by their underachievement, low motivation, behavioral problems, etc

The third element of the comprehensive guidance program is resources; the resources are personnel, financial and political resources.The goal for the comprehensive school guidance is to identify the competencies to be developed, it could be rest on the following objectives: raises students’ awareness of their feelings and develop their skills in handling emotion, helps students build up self confidence and enhance self-esteem, promote desirable learning and social behavior, facilitate students’ life planning, goal setting, and career formulating, and identify problematic areas in an early state and provide initial and frontline intervention to help students cope with their problems. He suggests the percentage for guidance curriculum programs for high school students should be 15-25 percent, individual planning as 25-35 percent, responsive services 25-35 and system support are 15-10 percent (Gysbers, 2003).Luk and Lung (2003) also proposed a similar 3Ps model for evaluating the guidance and counseling services in schools. The model stressed the importance of programs, personal and polities.In the following paragraphs, I will examine Hong Kong literatures concerning the characteristics of Hong Kong schools guidance and based on the above framework and model to see how the literatures’ findings promote or hamper the implementation of the comprehensive school guidance model in Hong Kong senior secondary schools setting. Following that, suggestions will be made to see how the comprehensive school guidance could be adapted.

Another hurdle is the lack of assessment tools for assessing students’ needs and evaluating programs’ effectiveness

Newly Emerged Senior Secondary Schools (SSSs) and its CharacteristicsAfter the 1997 Asian financial turmoil, the Hong Kong SAR government noticed the economy was undergoing an accelerated economic restructuring. The economy is shifting from labor-intensive industries to knowledge-based industries. Hong Kong’s promising future is now heavily depending on excellent services provided to the world, namely financial services, legal services, accounting services and tourism. Although there are many differences between all these service sectors, one thing is in common, they are all about advanced knowledge and services.With the new opportunities, new challenges are also emerging. The success of knowledge-based economy very much depends on talents who are creative and innovative. In view of the highest unemployment rate among all age groups, how to cultivate adolescent potential pose new challenges to the education sectors, especially secondary and tertiary sectors which mainly provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills and knowledge needed in the society.In response to the question, the Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau (now known as Education Development Bureau) proposes new initiative in 2002 aims at providing alternative senior secondary education to the Form three school leavers. Four senior secondary schools (SSSs) were established in 2003 and the schools were providing schooling from Form four to Form seven. Since the schools are funded under the government direct subsidize scheme, the curriculum and school structure and curriculum are much flexible than the traditional schools and it is conducive for schools to response to diverse students’ needs.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Content Elements)Desirable content elementsThe content element identifies competencies considered important for students to master as a result of their participation in a comprehensive guidance program and the identified competence serves as a goal and direction for the programs design (Gysbers, 2005). The competencies could be rest on the following objectives: raises students’ awareness of their feelings and develop their skills in handling emotion, helps students build up self confidence and enhance self-esteem, promote desirable learning and social behavior, facilitate students’ life planning, goal setting, and career formulating, and identify problematic areas in an early state and provide initial and frontline intervention to help students cope with their problems.Yuen (2002) suggests the content element of the program, life skills competencies should be balanced with those of personal/social, career, and academic for educating the whole person.Strengths in Hong Kong schools’ settingHui (2000) suggested developmental guidance curriculum should be integrated in some degree into the academic curriculum, so that guidance will be seen, not as distinct from students’ learning and cognitive development, but as integral to school experience. Since the aim of establishing the SSSs is to cater the needs of some disadvantaged students, life skills are emphasized in the school curriculum through various forms of implementation. Some of the SSSs have already integrated life skills as their formal curriculum; the contents cover competencies like personal/social, career, and academic with the aims at nurturing the whole person development. In 2007, one of the SSSs integrated the Other Learning Experience (OLE) program newly proposed by the Education Development bureau to their formal curriculum. It provides additional opportunities for students to develop their strengths and competencies.Research (Cheung and Rudowicz, 2003) shown that students stratified in low-band schools may be particularly vulnerable to the big-fish-little-pond effect, which erodes the self-esteem of students in ability-grouped classroom observed in Hong Kong and other places. Cheung (1997) pointed out academic performance in school may be associated with deviant behavior. Poor academic results may generate a low self-concept and a low perceived personal control, which may, in turn, be conducive to involvement in delinquency. In reality, students admitted to SSSs could be characterized as low motivated, possess negative or low self concept, academic underachiever, undesirable behavioral pattern, immature emotional control, lack of social skills and poor parent-child relationship. SSSs are well aware of these characteristics and many of its programs are designed to enhance students’ positive self concept and develop their self-esteem.In his research, Hui (1998) found that students gave high ranks to teacher concern and care and to guidance as ways of helping students deal with their problems. Students think guidance offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) found that 82.1 percent of guidance teachers and 61.5 percent of class teachers are involved in guidance work. In the classroom guidance programs, teachers are the main worker in implementing the programs. The front line staff for content design and competencies identification could be one of the strength for implementing the comprehensive guidance programs.Hurdles suggested by local researchesFor evaluating the purpose of intervention, my observation is that guidance programs in SSS schools are mainly preventive and remedial at nature, little time are being spent on developmental group programs. Since students’ behavioral problems are the biggest problem the schools facing and need to be tackled and controlled, the content of programs provided may focus on preventing problems from happening and it hardly proactively nurtures the competencies of students. Hui (1998) suggested in evaluating the helpfulness of various guidance activities, guidance and group guidance programs offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking for both teachers and students groups, whereas class periods and talks ranked the lowest. When little time is left for designing guidance programs, talks may be the most convenient option. If guidance programs are mainly focusing on talk level, the helpfulness of these programs may not as beneficial as other kind of guidance programs, when students’ individual’s needs may not be well-response and it affects students’ motivation for participation.Hui (2000) pointed out while endorsing whole school approach to guidance, the role of all teachers in guidance should be shared. It means the collaboration of all functional teams and departments rather than the sole involvement of guidance team. In reality, in view of disciplinary issues in schools, SSSs are in higher risk to develop and dominated by the discipline culture. Hue (2007) discovered Chinese held the traditional view that ‘discipline is the prerequisite of effective teaching’. In Chinese, it was expressed as ‘xian guan hou jiao’. This view suggested that instead of guidance, discipline is perceived as a mean to lead to effective teaching. With this notion, school culture will be dominated by ‘powerful’, ‘strong’, ‘aggressive’, ‘firm’, ‘strict’ and ‘tight’. On the other hand, the guidance or counseling team may be ‘weak’ and ‘being a subordinate of the discipline team’. It not only hampers the development of the comprehensive guidance approach and distort the rationale and assumption of guidance programs, but also destructive for nurturing a ‘caring’ environment. Programs being developed may focus too much on behavioral control rather than the psychosocial development of competencies.Brief section summaryThe SSSs’ integration of life skills curriculum could response to the students’ needs, it can help nurturing the whole person development. Apart from the life skills curriculum, little time was spent on developmental programs, but due to the SSSs’ characteristic may require some refocus on the priority of guidance services. It may be much desirable for schools to spend more resources in reactive services. Whole school approach may require a much more focus and accurate assessment for responding to students’ needs.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Organizational Framework)In the organizational framework aspects, it consist two sections, section one includes three structural components, which is the definition, rationale and assumptions. Section two consists four program components; they are guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support.Section One (Desirable structural design)Gysbers (2005) pointed out that the definition includes mission statement of the guidance program and focuses on its centrality within the school district’ total educational program. Rationale discusses the importance of guidance as an equal partner in the educational system and provides reasons why students need to acquire the competencies. Finally, the assumptions are the principles that shape and guide the program.If we transforming the statement into action, care and concern for all students should be emphasized as the fundamental of the comprehensive guidance program and the value should be integrated into the school structural design (Yuen, 2002). Although there is no journal article particularly examines the newly emerged SSSs guidance teachers, some journal articles have examined the Hong Kong Chinese guidance teachers’ belief and shed some light on the SSSs structural strengths.Strengths identified in Hong Kong ContextFor understanding the positive attitudes towards guidance perception of guidance, Yuen (2002) investigated 24 secondary school guidance teachers. In his study, the positive belief is defined as the ideals and philosophical assumptions that are conducive to school counseling and guidance. He found that nearly all the guidance teachers that the researcher interviewed had positive beliefs in school guidance. The guidance teachers believed in guiding student development in affective aspects and proper values; teachers’ works were not solely bounded by intellectual and academic education. The guidance teachers’ beliefs in school guidance are very close to the assumptions and principles set out in the Education Department and the guideline stated on official policy papers are the beliefs shared by the frontline teachers. With the teachers being the frontline workers of the comprehensive school guidance programs, it is conducive for them to conceptualize the rationale for developing students’ competencies. This finding can lay a good foundation for teachers to guide and shape the comprehensive school guidance programs.Hui (2002) found that majority of teachers’ interpretation of whole school approach has gone beyond merely the involvement of all teachers in guidance to a more sophisticated level, involving whole-school planning, administration and a positive school climate. It can be viewed as the guidance programs are being an equal partner in the educational system.Hurdles suggested by local literaturesIn a study (Hui, 2000), a caring climate as a crucial factor for the implementation and development of developmental guidance. In nature, the SSSs are stratified by the admitted students’ ability. All of the four SSSs were in essence called band three schools in Hong Kong. The students in SSS are mainly characterized by their underachievement, low motivation, behavioral problems, etc. Cheung (1997) pointed out academic performance in school may be associated with deviant behavior. Poor academic results may generate a low self-concept and a low perceived personal control, which may, in turn, be conducive to involvement in delinquency. Hue (2007) reviewed several journals concerning Hong Kong discipline style. He noticed most teachers managed school discipline in a custodial style and importance of discipline was emphasized more than guidance. In some schools, the positive aspect of the caring system was distorted as part of the provision of discipline. It was mainly the effect of an overdeveloped discipline team while guidance was underdeveloped. In a guidance training workshop, some of the SSSs teachers also shared the observation made by Hue, they thought discipline was always on the fore front for handling students’ behaviors, counseling and guidance were being placed on a lower priority with lesser teachers’ support. Rationale and assumptions for guidance programs may shift towards control, problems rather than nurturing students’ positive developmentIn another study for investigating teachers’ perceptions towards whole school approach to guidance, Hui (2002) found that majority of teachers did not regard schools were practicing whole school approach. Teachers having a common guidance goal and as integration of guidance themes into subject teaching were not perceived as shared view of other teachers. Crucial factors such as team spirit, communication, an inviting school ethos, and teacher involvement in policy making were perceived as less apparent in schools. Teachers’ reservations about parental involvement in guidance also suggested a resistance to working with parents as partners.Section Two (Desirable program design)Four program components including guidance curriculum, individual planning, responsive services and system support. The major program component is the system support. Without continuing support, the other three components of the guidance program are ineffective (Gysbers, 2005). For the program components, Yuen (2002) suggested the guidance curriculum should offer opportunities for all students to experience growth and change enhancement through classroom and school-wide activities. Individual needs of students are met through individual guidance and planning. Student problems are solved through consultation, personal counseling and referrals.Strengths in Hong Kong schoolsCheung and Ngai (2007) pointed out that friendship among delinquents is a risk factor for delinquency. While time with friends intensifies the benefit of developmental group activities, friends’ support is unlikely to be responsible for the enhanced benefit. This is because time spent with friends has a significant positive effect on the youths’ delinquency. Programs designed for this group of adolescence is required to defuse the detrimental influences of delinquent friends and apply developmental group work to restructure their companionship. Since the SSSs enroll all new Form four students every year, it poses serious challenge to the SSSs because students come from diverse backgrounds. Some of the SSSs do design orientation programs for the students as their guidance curriculum and teachers act as the observer and leader for the groups.Hui (1998) suggests in evaluating the helpfulness of various guidance activities, guidance offered by teachers whom students knew well had a higher ranking for both teachers and students groups, whereas group guidance programs, class periods and talks ranked the lowest. Luk Fong (2005) suggested that unlike many other places in the world, guidance lessons in Hong Kong are taught mainly by class teachers rather than school counselors. This may be related to the traditions in Chinese communities, particularly the Confucian traditions, which stress a teacher-directed and didactic approach. Programs mainly focus on collective rather than the individual and on effort rather than ability, while emphasizing a holistic and idealistic tendency. This characteristic is beneficial to the comprehensive school guidance work in schools and students can nurture their competencies.In Hong Kong, many western concepts may not fit the local context. Some teachers also reported Western idea like ‘I-Message’ and empathy did not work in the classroom. Then teachers tried the best to make the lessons more personal yet more solid to suit the age of the students and relate more to the students’ selves. It enabled students to understand themselves at a deeper level and self-reflection (Luk Fong, 2005). This kind of guidance curriculum can provide all students opportunities to experience growth and change enhancement through classroom and school-wide activists.Hurdles in Hong Kong SchoolsLuk Fong (2005) suggested that being able to read and handle pupils’ emotions and to resolve conflicts is of paramount importance for teaching guidance lessons. This is especially so where indirectness and subtlety in emotional and personal expressions are the norms of Chinese pupils in Hong Kong. Students in SSSs are also characterized by their over-sensitive to criticism and self-protection, self disclosure in classroom is deemed to be impossible. In conceptualizing students’ needs and competencies to be developed, teachers are of paramount importance, but the lack of training in this area may pose greater challenge to implementation and design of comprehensive school guidance. Also, the large class size in Hong Kong may pose challenge to teachers who are responsible for implementing the programs. The constant struggle between allowing the students’ freedom to talk and keeping a large class under control necessitates a well-defined set of classroom routines. Another hurdle is the lack of assessment tools for assessing students’ needs and evaluating programs’ effectiveness.As Khoo and Oakes (2003) points out misbehaving students would perceive that coping with the outgroup-derogation strategy rather than individual-competition one would be more effective in coping with negative social comparison, when failure is attributed to a lack of ability rather than a lack of effort. Their observation is that male misbehaving students would have higher evaluation for the outgroup-derogation strategy compared to female misbehaving students. It means a collective approach for group programs may not be effective and different programs should be adopted for different groups of students are much important. But Luk Fong (2005) pointed out the East focuses on collective rather than individual and it may not be effectively response to individual needs, therefore collective approach for group programs may not be effective and different programs should be adopted for different groups of students are much importantSome of the themes are introduced as piece-meal during form assemblies. Talks or group programs are usually’ add-on’ activities to the schools’ timetable. It reduces its effectiveness. Although SSSs put emphasize on the life skills development, students’ characteristic poses new challenges to the program designers. In the SSS, guidance or counseling team were overwhelmed by case work, as suggested by Hui (1998), low band schools a greater amount of time was spent on handling referred case work in comparison with middle and top band schools. Low band schools higher priority was given to case work referred and case work (responsive services) initiated by students, while lower priority was assigned to developmental group programs, whether with voluntary or required student participation. Time and resources are stretched to the limits and little time and resources can be mobilized for developing guidance programs.Brief Section summaryThe rationality of programs shared by school personnel are conducive to students’ development, but the cultural differences, lack of training and staff support may greatly jeopardize the effectiveness of guidance programs and services at this moment. Little time and resources can be mobilized for developing guidance services due to the much essential development of the new school system.Comprehensive School guidance in SSSs (Resources)Three kinds of resources are required; they are personnel, financial and political resources (Gysbers, 2005).Strengths possessed by SSSsChan (2005) found that the least endorsed or more firmly rejected positions were those that dealt with views that people were basically evil, and that a counselor should become an expert in one theory. This openness and flexibility of these teachers indicated that they more likely endorsed not restricting themselves to practice under one theory. He suggested it prove to be beneficial to the comprehensive guidance and counseling programs in Hong Kong.In view of the students’ problems, some SSSs employed teachers who have social work or counseling training as their school guidance team leaders or members. In one SSS, they got a full-time student counselor and even employ an Auxiliary Police officer as their staff for handling students’ affairs. The expertise possessed by the staff is very conducive in planning and developing comprehensive school guidance programs.Some of the resources outside schools could be mobilized for students’ development of competencies are the programs offered by the Education Department and various Hong Kong disciplinary force called ‘SMART teens’, the programs are offered free to schools and students can develop various strengths during the 6 days 5 night training camp. Teachers are also invited to the camp for participation and observation so that some of the strengths of the students can be further developed after the camp and brings its effects back to school and everyday life.One of the characteristic of SSSs is the Applied Learning (APL). It was firstly introduced into the senior secondary school system in 2005 to diversify the learning opportunities. It is intended that students of different abilities, especially those who will benefit from a strong practical orientation in their learning should gain from APL to enrich their learning experiences. The core courses will be offered in six areas of studies, it includes applied science, business management and law, creative studies, engineering and production, media and communication and services. All these courses are closely related to the future development of Hong Kong economy. APL is the policy set by the Hong Kong government to offer alternative educational opportunity for students to further their study. As suggested by Khoo and Oakes (2003), misbehaving students who see little prospect of enhancing their own low academic status because of their ability, would perceive that a hypothetical student would show relative preference for coping with negative social comparison by using the group strategy of outgroup-derogation to the individual strategy competition. The APL do provide a context for students to’re-develop’ their sense of control and sense of self-efficacy. With this entry point, teachers can facilitate the development of competencies of students through the policy and academic training. It also provides chance for students to develop their career identity.HurdlesAlthough guidance is regarded as an essential part of a teacher’s role, many teachers do not appear to have had any training in guidance during their teacher-education programs. In 2002, only about 58% of the guidance team leaders and 20% of the guidance team members have been trained at certificate level (Yuen, 2002). Since the launch of SSSs is to response to the needs of disadvantaged students, the needs of the students are much complicated. Without adequate training, how to figure out the competencies of students may pose a serious challenge to teachers. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) also found a majority of schools (59 percent of their research sample) have only two members (out of an average of 6-11 members’ guidance team) who have received guidance and counseling training.Apart from pre-service training, Hui (1998) found that in 27 out of his research schools, only 7 schools organized staff development programs by the guidance teams, it means the in-services and pre-services training are inadequate. Luk Fong and Lung (2003) found relatively few schools have provided school-based training for the whole staff (only 30 percent of the sample) or have provided supervision for guidance and counseling team members (41 percent of the sample). Since the SSSs is under the Government Direct Subsidize Scheme, one of the advantages is its flexibility in employing teaching staffs, but on the other hand, some of the teachers are recruited base on the subject knowledge, some of them do not have the teacher-training qualification. Lack of supervision and training may pose serious challenge for teachers to increase their sensitivity in designing and implementing whole school guidance activities. Yuen (2002) suggests more guidance and counseling training opportunities should be provided to teachers, guidance personnel and administrators. On the policy level, the government and the school administrators can make specific policies that balance academic, personal and social development in the educational goals.Another factor concerning the resources is that teachers in SSS are facing continuing disciplinary problems of students. Leung and Lee (2005) suggests school disciplinary problems in Hong Kong were mainly less serious offences such as habitual lateness and failure to do homework, while rebellious behavior such as fighting, vandalism and taking soft drugs comprised only a very low percentage. Most teachers were confronted with ‘trivial but regular incidents of misbehavior’; it creates tension when teachers in SSS are facing many of these misbehaviors. When implementing a larger scale of program and implement some class-based guidance programs, the tension accumulated may hamper the effectiveness of programs. This difficulties were mentioned in Hue (2007)’s article, he stated that teachers experienced difficulties in playing both their caring and disciplinary roles when facilitating students’ learning in the classroom, this may be the reason why some of the classroom-based guidance programs are not well-received and supported by teachers..Since all SSSs are providing education from Form four to Form seven, some of the programs provided by other organizations may not be applicable, such as the PATHS program, the target of the PATH, AHP and UAP program is for Form one to Form three students, schools personnel in SSSs may need to coordinate or initiate programs themselves rather than inviting outside organizations and professionals to provide services, but with little assessment tools, the task for programs design may prove to be daunting and overwhelming.Brief Section SummaryHiring professionally trained staffs for designing and initializing programs are good initiative. In reality, lack of in and pre-service training and outside supporting resources/networks may not do well for the implementation of comprehensive guidance programs.Suggestions for SSSs’ Adaptation of Comprehensive Guidance ProgramsLehr and Sumarah (2002) summarized researches on comprehensive guidance programs and the result shown that comprehensive guidance programs has generally yielded positive outcome results, including enhanced student learning, students were more likely to earn higher grades, better prepared for their future, had more career and college information available to them, and schools had a more positive climate.Due to some of the western idea may not be totally transferable and applicable to the SSSs’ setting. Some of the focus may need to be directed into the reactive resources due to the students’ characteristic and needs and schools’ nature. With enhanced knowledge and understanding, comprehensive guidance programs could be developed in different stages.
Comprehensive school guidance services can be incorporated into school setting through different level, stages and spectrum. It is not an all or nothing question. Generally speaking, teachers in SSS schools do think guidance and counseling are necessary service and services provided are conducive to students’ psychological development. Students in Hong Kong also agree guidance programs offered by their teachers are useful in nature.Out of school elementsThe comprehensive guidance programs in Hong Kong are still in its infancy. In order to facilitate the implementation of comprehensive school guidance in SSSs, the possible adaptation depends on government investment and the government should devote more resources for supporting programs which are targeting the senior forms students. Pre-training teacher training should put more focuses on developmental and comprehensive counseling so as to prepare teachers who are capable for designing and implementing the programs.Additional resources could be mobilized to better support the SSSs in developing its own comprehensive guidance programs, some resources could be allocated for hiring additional School Social Workers or guidance personnel, developing guidance programs for SSSs students. More researches could be conducted to evaluate the programs’ effectiveness and to assess the students’ needs.Schools’ elementsGysbers (2003) suggests the percentage for guidance curriculum programs for high school students should be 15-25 percent, individual planning as 25-35 percent, responsive services 25-35 and system support are 15-10 percent. In views of different constraints, SSSs can develop its own comprehensive guidance programs in different stages and with different resources and time allocation.At stage one, schools can develop the staffs’ resources so as to response effectively and efficiently to students’ needs. Different resources should be identified for ‘thickening’ the resources required for the implementation of comprehensive guidance programs. Teachers should be provided more chances for enhancing their capabilities and knowledge in students’ needs, supervision training should be provided for mid-level school personnel. Greater sensitivity should be placed during the group design, some programs should cater different genders’ needs, and some should put different class characteristics into consideration. At this stage, articulate and conceptualize of students’ needs and characteristics should be given higher priority.At stage two, with enhanced knowledge and experienced leaders, different school personnel can try to participate and implement the comprehensive guidance programs. Parents and students can also take part in the programs.In the final stage, the matured personnel and policies could spare more time and resources for a much comprehensive and proactive kind of guidance implementation. School based or localized programs are encouraged in this stage

Wong Chin PangBSW (Hons), MSSc, EdD (Candidate)

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