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Waving Farewell to the Principal
Jul 2013 - 4C Timothy Tung Tin Pui and 4J Ronald Chiu Ho Cheung

Having joined the College in March 2009, Principal Dr. Tan Kang John is going to leave his post at the end of the 2012-13 academic year – the headship of WYK will be transferred after he has completed his service in WYK for 54 months. He shared his pathway as the core of the school authority and his earnest advice for Wahyanites.

 

 

The reasons behind

Dr. Tan began the interview with explanation for his decision to leavethe College. “It was not an easy decision – problems regarding thewell-being of my family began to appear in the middle of the lastschool year.” He had a hard time to choose between his family andWYK. “Roles in the workplace are always replaceable while those inthe family are not.”

In the process of determining whether he should let go of the helm,Dr. Tan adapted the “end of life” perspective from the Ignatian viewpoint – he questioned himself of how he would feel about the present when he reaches the end of his life. “It is a decision that I will not regret because I have examined these feelings and the pros and cons in the future as well but not only those at the present.”

Dr. Tan recounted his further actions taken. “Having experienced the consideration of the pluses and minuses, I informed the School Supervisor in the middle of the previous academic year about the need to look for a successor; I hoped there would be sufficient time for the Society of Jesus, the school’s sponsoring body, to do so.

“One thing that made me at peace when making this decision is: I believe we have capable potential school leaders coming up from the school community, who are able to carry on the role of school leadership in the future.” Dr. Tan had no qualms about his resolution.

In response to a question on whether heavy occupational stress was one of the factors that led to the verdict to resign, Dr. Tan denied the existence of the relation. “Pressure is something very subjective – I always have the feeling that pressure cannot be exerted upon oneself by external factors and other people. Pressure is more about how one feels.”

The Principal has an approach that pressure is a perception instead of a feeling triggered by the actual amount of workload. “Everyone in the society has deadlines to meet and tasks to complete: I believe the kind of practical pressure exists in all of us in both the society and the school.”

“Adopting the definition of pressure in Physics, the key is how one can spread out that force over a large surface area to reduce it to a lower figure.” Dr. Tan could not trace any memory of experiencing huge adverse effects that resulted from stress in the past 4 1/2 years. “The psychological pressure that goes further to make one lose sleep and trouble one’s heart has not existed in me for a long time.”

The beginning

Dr. Tan recalled his first day at work, 2nd March, 2008. “It was not an ordinary day: all teaching staff members gathered to identify the urgent needs of Wahyanites. I believed it would be more effective to shape our students through putting emphasis on certain areas.”

Changes in behavior of students

“My patrol around classrooms on a routine basis has inspired me to take the initiative to make progress in the self-discipline of students. In the first few years I started my job as the Principal, it was noticeable that some students often deliberately made unnecessary noises in class – they were not learning.” Dr. Tan expressed his desire in encouraging students to become self-disciplined individuals. “I have once observed common irregularities among students like sitting on the staircase during lesson hours while playing games and drinking soft drinks.” There was room for improvement in the manners of students as Dr. Tan first took the initiative to curb these maladies in the College.

“The students are much better behaved than they were when I first arrived – more show respect by not addressing their teachers with nicknames.” The Principal deemed that the Homework Guidance Class is a helpful measure in arousing the sense of responsibility amongst students. “Different students have different traits – the school authority has stated the expectations on our students to motivate them to learn well.”

Dr. Tan has witnessed the change in the culture of profanity between teenagers in Hong Kong. “Most of the generation Z regards the use of foul language as no big deal – the situation is not only deteriorating in WYK, but in the entire local society.”

Passing On

“I really experience gratitude and joy in working with teachers who put heart in students’ interest– the team always puts the needs of students on the top priority.” Dr. Tan thought he should not have taken this students’-interests-first attitude for granted.

The Principal is most grateful for the increase in the number of Vice-Principals from one to three in this academic year which has eased his workload.

Dr. Tan has established a new functional committee of the College. “The School Executive Committee (SEC), which consists of the Vice-Principals and frontline teachers, holds weekly meetings.” The Principal is affirmative about the collective wisdom from a variety of staff members with different roles which is beneficial for the forthcoming development of the College – consultations prior to the implementation of new practices have a positive effect on the administrative operation of the school.

Words for Wahyanites

“I am looking forward to the day when Wahyanites [in WYK] become greater responsible users of freedom.” Dr. Tan is currently preparing for his new post as the Principal of Pun U Association Wah Yan Primary School, the feeder primary school of Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, starting from the 2013–14 academic year.

 

Dr Tan talks about the Direct Subsidy Scheme

 

The Jesuit Identity and the DSS
The first major push for a DSS transition was back in 2002. Even after 11 years. I don’t see a link between remaining non-DSS and losing a Jesuit character. It was not my decision to make, but that made 10 years ago by the sponsoring body, the Jesuits.

I am grateful that the Jesuits made that decision at that time. I think that it was the correct decision. Because the present mode of subsidised schooling really allows us to remain open to students from all socioeconomic classes without the charging of school fees. Because of that decision, we could maintain that openness in the past ten years. Keeping our admission system open to all social classes is important because it is laid down in the Jesuit educational documents. Secondly it also allows students to interact with others of different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Is being non-DSS or not related to our Jesuit character?
I’m very consoled that among the six Jesuit schools in China, including 2 in Macau and 2 in Taiwan, WYK has the highest awareness of Jesuit educational values among our staff because of successful spiritual and professional development of our teachers that was launched by my predecessors Fr Deignan and Mr Norman So. If we continue our non-DSS policies, we are continuing this strategy of passing on our Jesuit values to our non-Jesuit staff. Having fewer Jesuit staff than 20 or 30 years ago is not as damaging as the situation where we don’t carry out any spiritual or professional development, but still, the DSS is something the school authority should pay serious attention to, and so is its relation with the formation of Jesuit values.

Should the non-DSS system remain forever?
I don’t know. Whether our non-DSS system is to be changed or not is for the Society of Jesus, not the principal, to decide. The DSS could be changed by the government in the future. Perhaps the students from the grass roots will be more encouraged to apply or would get school fee exemptions from DSS schools. At the moment, though, I cannot foresee such a change but I cannot rule out such a possibility. There’s one observation that I can see now: the flexibility enjoyed by DSS schools is getting less. In the past, DSS schools have total autonomy over the medium of teaching. But we’re already EMI in the first place. Moreover, the offering of international curricula in DSS schools is now being restricted.