From the Principal
Last weekend I had the privilege of travelling to La Salle College Hong Kong with three of our Year 9 students and Year 9 Coordinator, Mr Chris Martin. This is a pilot scheme we have established with Br Steve Hogan, Principal of La Salle Hong Kong, whereby some of our strongest academic students have the opportunity to participate in an exchange and be immersed in the culture and environment of Hong Kong.
The purpose of the exchange has its roots in sections of our Strategic Plan, whereby we are constantly striving to expand our students’ understanding of the world around them, be more active and informed citizens and improve their academic performances.
One such goal is to grow and develop our links with the wider Lasallian world, including international connections to build on the existing social justice initiatives forged through our immersion experiences and contributions to Lasallian communities in India, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Balgo Hills, among others. Another ambition is to empower students to become active, independent and motivated participants in the learning process by encouraging responsibility and awareness of the educational environment. Our three students will learn a great deal through living for eleven days with their Chinese hosts and studying for seven school days in the highly academic environs of La Salle College.
Qualifying for access to the pilot exchange via written application, academic record and interview Joshua Paul, Liam Bonato and Ben Brownhill were very excited and I think a little nervous as we departed on Friday. I left the trip on Monday afternoon to be back at school by Tuesday but I was thrilled with the level of exposure the boys had already had to what is a very different lifestyle compared to theirs here in Melbourne. There is a deep appreciation among the boys of the exacting routine of their Chinese counterparts and an enormous amount of learning already from mixing in this environment which values so highly a commitment to one’s study and the intrinsic motivation to do the best you can in all endeavours. The hours their hosts devote to study and personal excellence – plus swimming, student club and leadership meetings etc. – has been an eye-opener in itself!
Being guests of a local Chinese family and experiencing the high-rise apartment living so common in Kowloon, eating local food for breakfast in the school canteen, travelling to and from school by local bus, finding their way in classes of 36 students and generally fitting in with the ebb and flow of a foreign school has been a tremendous learning experience.
Josh, Liam and Ben have really embraced the experience and are very open to just how much there is to learn from this opportunity. Their hosts and the College Exchange Coordinator have been very generous in showing the boys the major sites of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island on the weekend, helping them navigate public transport and crowded streets and educating them around local histories, customs and traditions. The focus on Science and Maths has already proven beneficial and given our young men a few ideas in approaching their studies in these areas.
Of equal importance has been the understanding that they are part of an international network of Lasallians. The familiar images and symbols and the traditional prayers and reference to core Lasallian principles at Monday morning’s assembly provided a sense of understanding, identity and belonging in a new and strange environment. When they were introduced to the school on stage at the assembly there was tremendous interest from the Hong Kong students. Around the school the boys have been a source of great intrigue (the only Western students among 1,500) but also welcomed and made to feel at home as fellow Lasallians, albeit from a very different world a long way away. You can read more about the trip so far from Liam’s perspective here.
It was gratifying to see first-hand the devotion and dedication of Brother Steve Hogan, the Principal, and his small band of Brothers, one of whom was at an Indian De La Salle school when our Coolies visited a few years ago. To witness their determination to carry on the mission, to fulfil their ministry and to ensure the Lasallian principles are front and centre when perhaps only 30% of enrolments are from a Catholic background was a humbling experience and a valuable lesson to take into my own daily work. Brother Steve and his staff were so kind, so generous with time and spirit, superb hosts in their Brothers’ House and we are very keen to continue the relationship.
This exchange is planned to lay the groundwork and open the door for a wider program next year where perhaps 10 -12 Year 9 students may travel to Hong Kong. If our students can learn from their strong academic focus and develop as worldly young men by immersion in the Chinese culture via the homestay experience and studying at La Salle it will be well worth the effort.
Mr Peter Houlihan