Besides educating students and initiating influential research projects, the University of Macau is also dedicated to serving the local community. Leong Ieng Tak and Wang Yafan, assistant professors from the Faculty of Science and Technology and Faculty of Health Sciences, respectively, have turned their passion for serving the community into a sense of responsibility to nurture young scientists in local secondary schools.
Persistent Not Only Because of Passion
Prof Leong has been training local students for Macao Mathematics Olympiad for 23 years. After joining UM in 1994, he became the person in charge of local matters related to the International Mathematics Olympiad (IMO). At first, there were not enough students to participate in the IMO, so Prof Leong trained students by himself. Later, as more and more students started enrolling in the competition, Leong began to conduct regular training sessions in collaboration with local secondary schools. Over the years, he has nurtured many award-winning students. Recently, a student he coached won a gold medal in the IMO, which is Macao’s first gold medal at this competition since 1990. ‘I was born and raised in Macao, so I want to do something to enhance the quality of education in Macao,’ says Prof Leong. ‘The university provides a platform for young people to develop their talent. I feel very happy to have produced talented students.
Prof Wang Yafan last year participated in a science popularisation seminar co-organsied by UM and Pui Ching Middle School. That was the first time she lectured to secondary school students. Now she goes to Pui Ching every Saturday to give life sciences lessons to form-1 students. Asked why she is willing to give lessons to secondary school students during her free time when she already has a busy work schedule at UM, she says, ‘I myself am a graduate of Pui Ching Middle School, so I feel very happy to be able to give back to my alma mater. I enjoy the company of energetic and curious students. It actually helps me de-stress.’
Cultivating Students’ Interest in Science
When talking about the prospect of nurturing students, most people would think of boring test questions and incomprehensible theories. ‘The form-1 students I teach are usually between 12 and 13 years old, so I cannot teach them very dicult knowledge in life sciences,’ says Prof Wang. ‘Instead, I use simple and fun activities to stimulate their curiosity about science and prompt them to raise their own questions. It is very important to develop a strong interest before starting a career in the field.’ She adds that it is her passion for science that has kept her going when faced with difficulties.
What about the students that receive training for the IMO? Surely they participate in the competition to win, right? ‘Winning is not our first priority, although this could be the goal for many people,’ says Prof Leong. ‘I hope to teach the students to think scientifically and to increase their interest in mathematics. During the training, I expose them to various kinds of test questions and encourage them to apply for the competition, because I feel the experience itself can help broaden their horizons, but I do not force them to do practice questions over and over again.’ Both Leong and Wang agree that education does not always produce immediate results, but it will certainly have a positive influence on the students in the long run. Sometimes it may take years for the effect to manifest itself. Sometimes, the effect may even spill over into other areas of the students’ life.
Release on 2017-07-24 15:26