PGDE at HKU: My Experience

Is it worth it after 1 year in?

Photo by Jessica Ruscello on Unsplash

Why Choose HKU?

After being in Hong Kong for almost 10 years, you understand how far reputation can get you. Hong Kong University is at the top of the list and ranked pretty well globally. (7th for Education) I figured if I was going to do my PGDE somewhere (My PGDE is in Early Childhood Education), it might as well be at the best place in Hong Kong! Also, I plan on staying in Hong Kong long term. This is important to consider before you jump into a course like this one. If you are planning to go to other countries, you might want to consider a PGCE. For me, I don’t worry about this too much because more often than not, you can do a top-up course if needed to make your PGDE more relevant outside of Hong Kong. Doing this course also allows me register as a teacher with the EDB (the Hong Kong Education Bureau). This is essential if I am to push my career further.

How Much Did it Cost?

I am doing this course part-time but the fees for both part-time and full-time are the same. (only difference is the number of instalments) As I am a Hong Kong resident, I paid local prices. A lot of people are put off by the prices if they aren’t residents which is understandable. (completely understandable! it goes up by a cool 100k+) The year listed here has the deposit at double the amount I paid. (I only paid a 10k deposit.) Essentially, you are looking at 4 instalments of HK$ 10,525 plus one off caution money fee. If you’re looking for a way to save for a course like this, check out my previous article here.

What Did You Learn?

The first year was split into 5 topics. Experiential Learning, Teaching Practicum, Educational Inquiry, Major Methods and Collaborative Lesson Inquiry. You can learn more about each here. I will say that most of the course is quite theoretical but towards the back end of the year, we did have people coming from other countries to give talks. We had a nice one from a Japanese teacher telling us how they approach Early Childhood Education in Japan and it blew all of us away. It was so fun! We also had some fun drama lessons, too!

The Grind

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

When you haven’t got assignments

When you haven’t got big assignments, doing this course in the context of your daily life looks something like this. For my case, I returned to HKU 2 days a week. Wednesdays and Thursdays. Wednesdays were for Educational Inquiry and Thursdays was for Major Methods and the occasional Collaborative Lesson Inquiry lesson. Classes were 2 hours long so I would usually eat before my class. I am luckier than most because a lot of principals don’t let you leave early. I left an hour earlier so I could travel from Prince Edward to HKU and eat when I’m there. I’d normally arrive at HKU at 5 p.m. so this gave me an hour before my class started. Classes were from 6–8 p.m. for both days so including travelling back home, I would normally end up home about 9 p.m. Essentially, you are looking at doing a 12 hour day 2 days out of your week. On Wednesdays, you would be given Moodle (the universities forum/online blackboard program) tasks to do that you technically had to submit before next Wednesday’s class. I am a good student so I did them all (okay, most of them) on time. Some students didn’t. I later heard from a lecturer that you don’t have to do them all but there is a minimum amount that you have to do. If only I’d have known earlier.

Photo by Bradley Ziffer on Unsplash

When you do have assignments

I’ll start with this. When you do have assignments, you will quickly learn how good or bad your time management is. For example, towards the end of the course, I had 3 assignments due within the space of a week. One was a 3000-word essay, the other a 1400-word essay and the last one was a 1200-word essay. All of these were given at different times throughout the course but hand in dates converged around a similar time. (as a side note, most assignments were submitted both digitally (through Turn-it-in) and as hard copies) Around this time, the stress you will feel will be hard to cope with. Especially, if you are preparing for graduations or shows for the end of the year as well as studying.

The Good and The Bad

The good

  • Networking! This is such a great element of doing a course like this because you get to interact with a bunch of people that are in the same or similar situation to you. It also opens many more opportunities when looking for employment. You get to learn the market value of teachers across a wide range of positions.
  • I enjoyed learning the theories of education in an Early Childhood setting. Now when I talk to parents, I can feel confident in what I talk about. Educational Inquiry gave me a better look into Hong Kong from a social perspective whilst Major Methods gave me more practical teaching strategies to try out in my classroom.
  • The lecturers and staff are very willing to listen to feedback to improve the course for current and future students. I am the student representative and have sat in meetings with the Dean and other key staff members. All very nice!

The bad

  • As a full-time teacher, returning to study part-time is brutal. This is the part they don’t tell you about in the prospectus. You finish a full day of work then you have to go back to class and study. Students from different universities always say “this one is the hardest” or “we have more of this and that” but let me put it simply for you…You are going to have a hard time on all of them. It’s only a matter of degrees. Prepare yourself accordingly folks!
  • Experiential Learning was too much for me as a part-time student and it’s hard to see the value of it. I am doing mine purely because it’s part of the course and not something I actually enjoy doing. Experiential Learning in the context of this course means organising your own experience (or choosing a University partner) which you have direct input in, plan and carry out. An example for this would be teaching experimental lessons like mindfulness to adults or joining an organisation and reading to underprivileged kids. I went with a university organised project but it was still a lot of work linking up with my chosen organisation and solidify a project for approval. Most adults joining this course have probably had their fair share of “Experiential Learning” already.

Ultimately, Is it Worth it?

After doing this course for a year, I can say “Yes”. If you’re serious about teaching and are looking to stay in Hong Kong more than a few years, I think it’s a good choice. Obviously, if you aren’t a Hong Kong resident then you are going to be paying more for it. If you aren’t planning on staying in Hong Kong then it might be a bit of a waste. Having said that, if you know where you are going, check if you can translate your PGDE into something local (based on your chosen country) or perhaps top it up.

UPDATE: I recently added a guide to surviving a part-time PGDE. Check it out.

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