Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Improving literacy - Helen Tse's generosity and commitment to our young people.

l-r: His Excellency the Governor; Mr Stuart Jack and Mrs Jack, Chief Education Officer; Mrs Shirley Wahler, Chief Officer in the Ministry of Education; Mrs Angela Martins, Helen Tse and yours truely.
Promoting literacy amongst our students is a real priority, as it is in many countries. We have been really fortunate that, amongst our residents is attorney and best selling author Helen Tse. Helen is a friend of mine who has made an incredible personal investment to our young people.
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Her book "Sweet Mandarin", although recently published is already in over thirty countries with a major launch in the States later this year. It is also already an exam set book on some courses.
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Helen, in conjuction with law firm Walkers, her employers, launched a literacy prize for all our secondary students. She gave up many hours and ran many workshops in schools about how she came to write her book, based on three generations of women in her family. She also really encouraged students to write their own story as a competition entry. The prize; apart from her book etc, was a workshop with Helen and support for them in trying to write their own story with the hope that it will also be published. I was fortunate enough to represent the Ministry at the award ceremony on Saturday, along with His Excellency the Governor and Chief Officer of the Ministry.
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This competition really captured the imagination of our young people, including many boys, attracting a staggering entry of over 1,200 stories - a massive response! This also proved how inspiring and effective Helen's presentations were and how motivated students were. The entries reflected the relevance that students felt in the task and the great interest in their personal writing, all on the same subject of 'their family'. No one expected this scale of response - a huge hit which has produced some outstanding and inspiring writing!
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I hope we learn from this and continue to inspire and celebrate creative writing for all ages - it is not the secondary taboo that some think. Several students have noted that they thought that this was one of their best pieces of work they have ever done! We need to yet again learn from this as we continue to move our teaching and learning skills forward - thanks Helen - just amazing!

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