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In 2007 the PHPS principal, two teachers and twelve children boarded a plane and flew to Hong Kong. It was the first of many such trips in what has become a very successful partnership with our Hong Kong sister school, Po Leung Kuk Luk Hing Too Primary School.

The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians set the goals for Australian education to develop young Australians into “… active and informed citizens, who are able to relate to and communicate across cultures, especially the cultures and countries of Asia, and are responsible global and local citizens.”

With these goals for our children in mind, our Hong Kong exchange program built on those early intercultural experiences involving homestays, school participation and excursions to develop a program which broadens cultural perspectives across the whole school community.

All exchange visits have a professional learning focus for teaching staff informed by the school’s strategic plan. From 2012 – 2015 the exchange changed to a three-party arrangement. Melbourne and Hong Kong students and teachers spent time in mainland China, with reciprocal visits to Melbourne for staff and students from both Hong Kong and Foshan. This expansion of the program provoked the opportunity to embed inquiry into the exchange experience.

Students are mentored to develop a research question, collect and analyse documentary evidence, and collate their findings. Research questions have included:

  • What does it mean to be a child growing up in China?
  • We asked our buddies: What are your aspirations for the future? Who decided what you are going to be? [Julia]
  • They put them under a bit more pressure because of homework, getting a job and going to university. [Lily]
  • What do ancestral shrines and monuments in China tell us about cultural values?
  • Their community means so much to them and they have built these monuments to honour and worship past generations. I felt as though a warm fire had been lit in my heart. [Bassi]
  • I saw how much respect and gratefulness the families had for their ancestors. It made me think of my family… because I have a different way of valuing my ancestors. [Ciara]
  • How are stories of Chinese culture represented in Chinese art and artefacts?
  • Each building or temple was built to express harmony and peace. That’s why I felt very touched by these buildings. [Franka]
  • The moon dictates when the Mid-Autumn Festival takes place. The moon cake is a symbol of the moon. [Greta]
  • It taught me about the importance of nature and the spiritual significance of it. [Bianca]
  • Chinese calligraphy is a very old type of writing and art form that easily shows a story within, and can impact on the state of the person because it is relaxing but hard to do. [Ben]

The exchange program has seen a sharing of resources and expertise. Our school and the Hong Kong school have engaged in reciprocal teaching via video conference with teachers from Luk Hing Too Primary School running a sequence of Mandarin lessons for Princes Hill students, and PHPS teachers providing reading lessons for HK students. Teachers participating in the exchange, from both PHPS and Luk Hing Too PS, conduct lessons to demonstrate a variety of pedagogical practices.

The exchange program currently operates biannually, with a Hong Kong focus. This has enabled us to negotiate providing PHPS children with the opportunity to engage with PLK Luk Hing Too’s associated secondary school, aligning with our Year 6-7 transition program.

In 2014 PHPS obtained a Sister School Grant for $5,000 from the Department of Education. The award recognised that our school had demonstrated expertise in the establishment and maintenance of a sister school partnership. The purpose of the grant was to enable us to produce a digital case study, designed to show other schools the key elements of our success to support them to develop their own sister school partnerships.

Lu Hong Shen | Senior Project Officer | International Relations | International Education Division commented:

I really like the clip submitted by Princes Hill PS. It is a very interesting case study on many levels and reflects well on the school’s deep learning culture. The clip is very tight, with a variety of voices, covering the key areas of student learning and teacher development. I particularly like the research focus for both students and teachers, which is a big take away from this story for me. The leadership role is obvious throughout the clip, which is very important and useful. The ending is quite powerful too, bringing out the message about what a sustained and effective sister school partnership is. It is a real example of internationalizing education and international collaboration.