Character Building in Hong Kong – Field Study
Newsletter 1

(1 April 2020)
The research is funded by Wofoo Foundation Limited, Hong Kong.
This newsletter serves to give readers an update of the progress and latest findings of the research.

前言 Foreword

Dr. Joseph Lee, GBS, OStJ, JP
President, Wofoo Social Enterprises
Chairman, Wofoo Foundation

李宗德博士, GBS, OStJ, 太平紳士

“Harmony brings a family prosperity, Cohesion makes a nation wealthy” is the motto that lies at the heart of Wofoo Social Enterprises. As a saying of the ancient Chinese philosopher Guan Zhong goes, “One understands honor and dishonor when food and clothing are ample”, we, being a socially responsible organisation, hope to contribute in the building of a steady, prosperous, harmonious and inclusive society which is favourable to the diverse development of our next generation. It is always important to strengthen one’s foundation and to achieve this, we need to start with education. Character building, in particular, is a key element in this process. That is why all developed countries share the same thinking and have listed the nurture of good citizens with character and moral virtues as one of the goals in their education policies. It would be our honour if our humble efforts can help in summarizing some successful experience and practical solutions for the local education sector in nurturing the next generation to become a caring, tolerant, mutually respectful and responsible citizen. This report will share the findings from the field research conducted by our “Character Building” research team at 19 local secondary and primary schools earlier. We hope that our little initiative will encourage collective discussion as well as the exchange of ideas and wisdom. Let us work together towards the shared goal of building a cohesive and prosperous society.

Mr. Alan Chow
Principal Investigator, Character Building Research


見證著香港社會抗爭運動的變化,年青人由之前的「和理非」方式示威,演變成後來的「勇武」抗爭,參加者更有年輕化的趨勢,部分鬥爭更轉移到學校戰場,情況令人憂慮!在動盪的社會氣氛下進行正規學校教育是有難度的。因為許多學者(例如Asmal, 2001; De Klerk & Rens, 2003; Smith & Montgomery, 1997)相信,預早在學生成長時期,多播放正向教育的種子,或進行有計劃的品德教育去塑造學生品格,會有助國家或地方政府管治。例如英國因連串恐襲、汽車炸彈等事件後,重伸學校必須重視品格教育;美國在多次校園暴力及槍擊事件後,也把品格教育放在教育改革的重要議題上。北愛、南非在21世紀初,亦因社會動盪和校園欺凌事件,大力推動價值及品德教育(De Klerk & Rens, 2003)。
其實,香港早於2002 年的《基礎教育課程指引》,已提出香港需要培養學生建立積極的人生態度和正面的價值觀,也具體指出學校教育應培育五項價值觀,包括:「國民身份認同」、「責任感」、「尊重他人」、「堅毅」和「承擔精神」[1]。所以在學校推行品格教育並不是新增的事物,只是從社會運動的衝擊看香港學生在品格成長的成效方面,似乎做得不足夠。
[1] 見香港課程發展議會,《基礎教育課程指引》。2002,頁 2-3。
The Role of Character Education During Social Unrest

We witness the shift of social movement in Hong Kong from “peaceful, rational and non-violent” to the more recent “violent” protests. It is worrying to see that protesters are getting younger and schools become part of the battlefield. It poses great challenges to formal schooling at a time of social unrest. Many scholars (such as Asmal, 2001; De Klerk & Rens, 2003; Smith & Montgomery, 1997) believe that the earlier the planting of the seeds of Positive Education or carrying out planned Character Education during the early development of students will help the ruling of national or local government. We see examples around the world. The UK placed high emphasis on Character Education after series of terrorist attacks and car bomb attacks were reported. The US listed Character Education as an important subject for discussion on the nation’s education reform agenda after incidents of mass shootings in schools. Northern Ireland and South Africa also strived to foster Values and Character Education at the beginning of the 21st Century due to social unrest and incidents of bullying on campus (De Klerk & Rens, 2003).   
In fact, the Basic Education Curriculum Guide released in Hong Kong back in 2002 has already outlined the importance of building positive attitudes and values among local students, and has specifically listed out the nurturing of five priority values through schooling, namely “National Identity”, “Responsibility”, “Respect for Others”, “Perseverance” and “Commitment”. Therefore, the promoting of Character Education in schools is nothing new. Yet, the impact arising from the recent social movement has suggested that the outcomes of Character Building among local students may be far from being satisfactory.
How can we turn our school campus into a place with respect, inclusiveness and appreciation for students to learn happily? And for this campus to be a sustainable, harmonious, caring and mutually supportive one? I think the practice of Character Building in schools can be considered as a starting point. By providing students with ample room and flexibility, establishing their values from cognition to perception step by step, and transforming theory into action with the practice of the right behaviour, we can help them in their process of setting their own personal aspiration and building a wonderful life that can benefit others as well as themselves.
Dr. Joseph Lee, founder of Wofoo Foundation, lives up to the motto of “Harmony brings a family prosperity, Cohesion makes a nation wealthy” and has always been caring about the healthy wellbeing of the youth. He put his belief into action by establishing the foundation to run school, aiming to nurture future leaders with good characters and virtues who can contribute back to the society and foster a better Hong Kong. In order to understand better how frontline schools can promote Character Education successfully and to sort out the effective ways in achieving this, a Wofoo “Character Building” research team was set up to conduct field study research at various local secondary and primary schools in March 2019. The following newsletters serve the purpose of periodic updates and sharing of our research findings and experience with fellow education practitioners. 

Asmal, K. (2001). Pride vs. arrogance: The new patriotism. Saamtrek: Values, education and democracy in the 21st Century. Conference Report. National Conference. Kirstenbosch, 22-24 February 2001.

De Klerk, J & Rens, J. 2003. The role of values in school discipline. Koers, 68(4):353-371.

Smith, A. & Montgomery, A. (1997). Values in education in Northern Ireland. Belfast :Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.

Curriculum Development Council (2002). Basic Education Curriculum Guide. Hong Kong: Printing Department.

研究團隊 The Research Team




葉建義、陳冠文、Rose Pennington (澳洲天主教大學楊教授博士生)



Principal Investigator:
Alan Ping Yan Chow

Kenneth Tsan Ming Chan,
Shun Wing Ng,
Steve Chung Kee Wong,
Peter Siu Hung Tang,
Ka On Man

Research Project Manager:
Peter Siu Hung Tang

Research Associate:
Kenneth Kin Yee Yip,  
Simon Koon Man Chan,
Rose Pennington (Prof Yeung's PhD candidate at Australian Catholic University)

Honorary Research Consultant:
Alexander Seeshing Yeung

Edwin King Por Wong

Research Advisor:
Magdalena Mo Ching Mok,
Kwok Tung Tsui

背景 Background


Hong Kong primary and secondary schools, with the legacy of traditional Chinese education, are promoting character education in various forms (with labels such as moral education, values education, civic education, etc.). To understand how the schools build students’ character and what elements they focus on, and whether there are some cases of success from which we can learn to improve implementation, there is a need to conduct evidence-based research. We hope to find the best ways to build students’ character and develop a model for optimal effects.

研究目的 Purpose of Field Work


Wofoo Foundation Limited sees the importance of promoting the character of young people, and the pivotal role of schools in bringing significant effects on building their desirable characters. Through a rigorous field study, the Foundation hopes to bring a better understanding of how schools build their students’ character, what strategies have been found to be effective, and what approaches were not effective and why so we can learn from experiences of failure. We hope that from an evidence-based collection of success stories, we can develop a character building conceptual model, which will form a blueprint that guides good practice. The model will hopefully provide a framework that all schools can adapt for character building (CB) in their specific settings for sustained success.

研究問題 Research Questions (RQs)


The research aims to answer 4 RQs.
RQ1.  What are the essential elements of CB?
RQ2.  What are the best ways to facilitate CB?
RQ3.  What may be the barriers to CB?
RQ4.  Why do CB programmes work or don't work?

研究方法 Methods

  1. 學校文件(三年發展計劃、周年發展計劃、周年報告、與品格塑造相關的文件、課程框架、及其他相關文件);
  2. 觀察(與品格塑造相關的課堂、學校集會、課外活動、小息、午膳、上下課情況等);
  3. 訪問會談(受訪者包括校長、家長小組3至5人;教師小組3至5人;學生小組兩組,每組3至5人,小學三年級及六年級學生;中學中二及中四學生)。

19 schools from Hong Kong island, Kowloon, the New Territories, Outlying islands (11 primary and 8 secondary; 19 in total).

Material and procedure.  
The qualitative component included:
  1. document studies (3-year School Development Plan, Annual School Development Plans, School Annual Reports, character-building-related documents, curriculum frameworks, and other related documents),
  2. Observations (CB-related lessons, assemblies, extra-curricular activities, recess, lunch, transition between lessons, etc.)
  3. Interviews – School Principals (individual interview), parents (in groups of 3-5), teachers (in groups of 3-5). students (in groups of 3-5, from Primary 3 and 6, Secondary 1 and 3).
The quantitative component was a survey study with Primary 4 and 6 and Secondary 2 and 4 students from the schools participating also in the qualitative component.

研究發現 Key Findings at this stage





RQ1.  Essential elements of CB.

From the 19 schools, the data show that every school has a very long list of desired student characters, but from the data, most schools did not give a very clear definition of CB. Almost all schools did not differentiate between desired “characters” from the potential “benefits” of building such characters. There were many elements that schools wished to accomplish, and numerous variables involved in the process, which resulted in CB effects on each element being minimal.

This finding is not surprising. It in fact echoes the current character education literature worldwide. Researchers and educators have highlighted that CB is hard to define. They have proposed over 200 characters to develop, but in schools that mostly operate with an extremely tight curriculum, when there is a lack of focus, inadequate support, and unsystematic evaluation mechanisms, the effects of CB are understandably limited.

Our finding showing the messiness of CB research and practice calls for attention and further research to tidy it up by creating a model for effective CB processes. It is through a clear process that identifies our focus that CB will bring targeted benefits to individuals and society.
The research team will keep updating the reader with new information as we progress.
So watch out for the next issue soon.
Copyright © 2020 Wofoo Social Enterprises. All rights reserved.

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Wofoo Values Education Newsletter · 16/F, No. 574-576, Nathan Road, Kowloon · Hong Kong · Hong Kong

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp