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Summer Peer-to-Peer English Tutoring Program 2005

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Peer tutors find that help cuts both ways

PERRY YU

An English tutoring programme held over the summer showed how much teenagers can learn from and help each other.

Twelve student tutors from international schools in Hong Kong and British secondary schools participated in the Chinglin Tutoring Programme. They helped 25 students from Hon Wah Middle School, a Chinese-medium secondary school in Kennedy Town, to brush up their English and prepare for their HKCEE English exams. The volunteer student tutors came from the German Swiss International School, West Island School, and Diocesan Girls' School, as well as from Cheltenham Ladies' College and Queenswood School in Britain. Three times a week, student tutors led three hours of conversational English and reading/writing workshops.

In a peer tutoring programme, an organised learning process is designed to allow a student volunteer, with minimal training and with a teacher or an adult's guidance, to serve as the tutor and help students at the same grade level. The goal is primarily academic. In Chinglin, student volunteers are encouraged to do more - recruit fellow tutors from their schools, plan and organise the teaching and learning activities, and solve problems by themselves.

Not surprisingly, with no guidance other than a stack of HKCEE English syllabus textbooks, student tutors found the design of the coursework difficult. They also faced the problems of absenteeism, inattention in class, and their own scheduling conflicts. They learned how difficult it is to teach and motivate, and hence how to be better students by paying more respect to their own teachers.

Such challenges forced the tutors to be innovative. Over the weeks, tutors and students played word games, staged dramas and watched episodes of Friends, besides going through grammar and sentence structure drills.

Some Hon Wah students cited improvement in their pronunciation or vocabulary but more cited an increase in their confidence to speak and ask questions and in their interest to use English more.

Peer tutoring could bring about a sea change in students' learning attitudes - the close, friendly interaction among peers helped to impart to the students a willingness to try new things and to gain new learning experiences that a conventional instructor-student mode in the classroom may not be able to instil.

Perry Yu is education consultant and director of Maplewood Education Services, Hong Kong, a college counselling provider that organised the Chinglin Peer Tutoring Programme. He plans to expand it to cover more schools next summer. Visit www.maplewood-edu.com.

Source: Insight & Opinion, Education Post, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, September 24, 2005, p.E4. (education.scmp.com version - requires registration at scmp.com.)


Program chronicle

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Hon Wah Middle School on Ching Lin Terrace, Hong Kong. The summer tutoring program is named Chinglin Tutoring Program after the terrace. Chinglin C means the Green Lotus, and sounds the same as Youth C~ in Cantonese.


Peer Support - SCMP Young Post cover story August 29, 2005


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