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  The Hidden Curriculum at Wah Yan College Kowloon
By Percival Ho

(This is the simplified version of a research paper.)

Do you know what curriculum is? Subjects? No. Curriculum is more than subjects. You learn beyond them. Curriculum should focus on the formation of a person from the learning process and experience. At WYK, and more broadly in Jesuit education, the curriculum stresses the formation of a person - in terms of values and attitudes - through the learning process and experience. These values and attitudes are more important than your mastering practical skills and getting good results that you can read on your report cards. In fact, Fr. Harold Naylor, one of our beloved reverends, once distinguished between Jesuit education and the others: while many other forms of education focus on mastering of skills, Jesuit education is primarily value-oriented. Do you find textbooks that teach you any of the values Jesuit education fosters? Hardly. You learn them beyond books and subjects; Wah Yan stands out from the other schools because of its hidden curriculum from its value-oriented education.

What are the particular values in the hidden curriculum? Everyone of you may have different sets of values, and let us get opinions from some past students.


Many past students considered self-learning the most important value they have formed from Jesuit education. Dr. Cho Wang Wai (曹 宏 威) of 1957 pointed out that students should learn actively, continuously, and humbly beyond school. To him, WYK never gives students much homework or crams students with information for passing examinations; students are encouraged to find information by themselves to complement learning in the lesson. Learning never ends after lessons. Mr. Yam Chin Yeung of 1998 shared similar opinion: students are, out of personal desire, to motivate themselves to excel, rather than being coerced into working hard to excel in examinations so that the school gains acclaim from society1. Mr. Chau Pak Li of 1980 distinguished WYK from others in the following comments2:

We were expected to work hard, to do well academically and we were given advice on how to do it, but we were not directed on how to achieve it. The teachers were better at motivating us to learn ourselves than in teaching us didactically.

You can see that learning extends beyond lessons: you learn by yourself. Self-learning calls for our ability to learn without the presence of teachers - who are, however, always ready for consultation.


You reflect on something when you form a thought, feeling, or opinion about it. Jesuit education creates optimal conditions for reflection by giving students time and space to grow. With such time and space, students learn to reflect on information critically and logically to form values and attitudes towards life.

Mr. So Kwok Wing (蘇 國 榮) of 1959 has high opinions about the relatively free learning environment and the light workload at WYK, even though parents persistently complain about little homework3. Students could learn to think critically without being forced to do so or under pressure and time constraints. Another past student, Mr. Keung Yiu Ming of 1975, pointed out that the training of critical and logical thinking grants students genuine freedom and helps them to lay solid foundations for non-stop life process. He added that many past students succeed in the working world not because they have professional skills, but because they are able to live full life with a set of timeless values formed through reflection4. Reflection is crucial for personal growth - personal transformation of students through formation of values. These values outweigh marks and grades on report cards.

A Joint Stream of Arts and Science

Unlike many secondary schools, WYK offers a curriculum as a combination of arts and science in senior forms. In fact, while all subjects in the junior forms (Forms 1, 2, and 3) are compulsory, those in senior forms (Forms 4 to 7) are less than purely elective; in particular, many 'Art' subjects are open to Science students.

Many past students commended WYK for its policy of course selections in senior forms. Dr. Ng Ho Keung of 1977 pointed out that WYK stresses well-rounded education since 'science' students must take humanities such as history, Chinese history, geography. As a 'science' student, he found that humanities significantly help us to communicate with people5. Another past 'science' student, Dr. Tse Tak Fu of 1961, agreed. He studied Chinese history, history, and English literature at WYK. Both agreed that humanities train logical and critical thinking through reflection on human nature and social issues6.

WYK never trains students to excel in one and only one particular discipline such as sports, music, or computers; rather, it strives on training students to gain learning experience in as many disciplines as possible. Such a broad scope of education makes students well-rounded since it develops their subjective and objective thinking. On the one hand, humanities encourage reflection, which leans towards subjectivity. On the other hand, the scientific knowledge in pure and natural sciences (e.g. Physics, Chemistry, Biology) leans towards objectivity: information is verifiable, observable. Scientific knowledge is independent of people's feeling or opinion. In general, education should train us to think critically - subjectively as well as objectively.

To Serve and Lead

Jesuit education aims at the fullest possible development, throughout life, of every dimension of the person. Such education, more than the marks and grades on report cards as well as the mastery of professional skills, encourages students to think carefully how they can use their developed gifts in many extra-curricular activities - work for others. Students are expected to become leaders in service rather than the socio-economic elite, even if they are prominent in society for their professions. Students under Jesuit education learn to relate their knowledge and values, through reflection, to their contribution to society.

Many past students take pride in their active participation in voluntary and extra-curricular activities, even though they did poorly in school! Mr. Lai Wing Leung of 1975 found serving others the most life-enriching experience in his school>7. Mr. So Kwok Wing of 1959 said that serving others is a student's primary responsibilities8. These past students strongly believed that working for others makes them successful people.

Participation in extra-curricular activities, especially in the form of voluntary involvement in many social services, enrichs students' life. The school never demands that each student join at least one kind of service. Students themselves organize, co-ordinate, encourage, and recruit others to be on some service teams in response to social - school and beyond - needs with little supervision of teacher-advisors.

Respect for Chinese Traditions

Although under the management of the Society of Jesus, WYK runs on Chinese traditions9. The Jesuits respect Chinese culture. They neither consider Chinese culture inferior nor teach and preach with a sense of superiority for their Western heritage. Jesuit fathers learn Chinese before starting to teach WYK to get a better understanding of the Chinese and its culture. Mr. Leung Po Shum, a past student, stated that WYK is the best western missionary school in Hong Kong since it shows unmatched respect for Chinese culture10. Studying at WYK, students never find themselves inferior to Westerners and Western culture.


The five values (self-learning, reflection, a joint stream of Arts and Science, to serve and lead, and respect for Chinese traditions) are some fine examples of Jesuit education. Jesuit's value-oriented education is both necessary and sufficient for personal growth. Such personal growth is crucial for the betterment of life of others in society through reflection: formation of values determines how people act with information.

1 Volume 47 of The Shield (pp. 90-92)
2 Volume 48 of The Shield (pp. 226-229)
3 Volume 42 of The Shield (pp. 70-71)
4 Volume 43 of The Shield (pp. 104-105)
5 Volume 45 of The Shield (pp. 42-43)
6 Volume 45 of The Shield (pp. 46-47)
7 Volume 42 of The Shield (pp. 66-67)
8 Volume 42 of The Shield (pp. 70-71)
9 Fr. Naylor pointed out in an interview that Wah Yan College Kowloon was founded in 1924 by Mr. Tsui Yan Sau, 8 years before it was taken over by the Society of Jesus, so WYK was not founded by western missionaries, unlike many other missionaries schools.
10 Volume 45 of The Shield (pp. 205-206).

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