Dr Chi-wai Chan

Interview with Dr Chi-wai Chan

Dr Chi-wai Chan, Assistant Professor in the School of Education and Languages, is one of the successful applicants in the 2014 Faculty Development Scheme (FDS). His research project — ‘A study on strategic leadership in Hong Kong kindergartens’ — is timely, given the background of government intervention in this area, which has increased the demand for accountability and better quality in local pre-school education.

Dr Chan’s substantial experience in a variety of roles in education has prepared him well for the FDS project. He was the principal of a secondary school for 14 years, before joining the Chinese University of Hong Kong and, later, the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK). His FDS project was developed largely from his work in the OUHK where he became familiar with the general situation and latest developments in early childhood education in Hong Kong.

His proposal addressed an understudied area of local kindergarten education. Unlike basic education (i.e. primary and secondary schools) which is mainly financed by the government, kindergartens in Hong Kong are operated in a private market. He has discovered a niche, as local studies on school leadership have focused mainly on publicly-funded basic education, with little attention being paid to privately-run kindergartens.

Dr Chan commented that, in writing proposals, one needs to ensure their feasibility and long-term impact — projects must be able to be completed satisfactorily by the investigators and have a potential long-term effect on the local context and the field of study concerned, as well as having implications for practice. In addressing the needs of early childhood education in Hong Kong, he intends to develop a scale for evaluating kindergarten leaders’ strategic leadership to help them manage their schools, thereby highlighting the significance and impact of his project.

Given his various duties in teaching, research and administration, Dr Chan emphasized the importance of time management and self-discipline. He mentioned that he uses his ‘free time’ — for example, when walking in the street or waiting for a bus — to think about his research. On one occasion, he was concentrating so hard on his research project that he failed to notice a friend standing in front of him at a bus stop!

For Dr Chan, engaging in research is a process of self-actualization. His enthusiasm for research led him to give up his position as a school principal and become an academic. In his view, the key to success in research is concentration and an interest in the process.



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