(Translated from the Chinese Ezine Issue No. 109)
A grand ceremony for the graduation and prize giving for the 16th batch of Than Hsiang Kindergarten pre-schoolers as well as for the 2nd batch of Sungai Ara Branch was held on Saturday, 10 November 2007 at the Multi-purpose Hall of Than Hsiang Temple. The ceremony was well attended by parents and was undeniably a joyful occasion for all present.
The National Anthem and Jewels of The Buddha were sung at 2.00 pm followed by Venerable Wei Wu's speech. According to Venerable Wei Wu, Than Hsiang Kindergarten started in 1991 with 4 classes of 90 children. “This year a total of 145 children will be going to primary schools next year” informed Venerable Wei Wu.
“With the convictions of ‘creating an environment for the young to learn as well as the strong and healthy to serve', Than Hsiang Temple is incessantly embarking on the journey to sow the Bodhi seed in the local community through various activities such as providing a holistic, inspiring and motivational pre-school education. The Sungai Ara Branch was set up in 2006 followed by the Sungai Petani Branch at the beginning of 2007. The Bukit Mertajam Branch and Simpang Empat Branch will begin in January 2008 as well as a branch in Kuala Lumpur .
By adopting and implementing the progressive western approach together with our good traditional values in this crucial stage of childhood development, Than Hsiang Kindergarten's curriculum not only emphasizes on academic excellence but also imparting moral and ethical values into their daily life. Our enthusiastic teachers are constantly exploring new educational approaches and absorbing new information in order to design the best methodology for educating the children.”
Venerable Wei Wu emphasized the importance of collaboration from the children's parents. Hence, Than Hsiang Kindergarten organises parenting courses for the parents. Through such courses, parents would be able to work more effectively with the teachers in educating their children. Children actually spend more time at home, so parents play a very important role in the children's education; more important than even the teachers.
In his speech, Venerable Wei Wu also urged the public to support the site relocation of Phor Tay High School. The cost of such relocation is estimated to be around RM300 million. About half of the building fund had been raised, with a shortfall of over RM100 million awaiting the public to pool their financial resources together for the fund. By relocating to a new site at Sungai Dua, the only school with Buddhist education, Phor Tay High School can be sustained and expanded in Penang. This would enable good moral values to perpetuate, thus benefiting the Chinese-educated students, particularly those in south-west Penang Island .
A large number of potentials have developed from Than Hsiang Kindergarten within sixteen years. Venerable Wei Wu hoped that these graduates would return after their higher education to serve the community so as to aptly justify Than Hsiang's Convictions of:
“For the young to learn,
the strong and healthy to serve,
the aged and sick to be cared for,
and the departed to find spiritual destination”.
The Branch Supervisor of Sungai Ara Branch, Sis. Fu Yek Min informed that of the total 145 children passing out from Than Hsiang Kindergarten this year, 21 were from the 2nd batch of children from the Sungai Ara Branch. She said that providing a compressive, holistic and inspiring education is the main objective of Than Hsiang Kindergarten. Children not only excel in academic but also in uplifting their moral values by being nurtured on the “Ten Good Deeds” and “Heart Sutra” of Buddhism so as to learn respect for their parents, elders and teachers.
Besides providing well equipped facilities, Than Hsiang Kindergarten follows closely the guidelines of preschool educational curriculum given by the Ministry of Education. The Kindergarten also provides active learning such as singing, collaborative recreations and handicrafts. Annual Kindergarten Camp is designed to allow the opportunity for developing gratitude towards others as well as moulding their independent capability to its fullest potential. Activities such as outings, birthday party, Wesak Celebration, Mooncake Festival, Graduation Ceremony, Parents' Day and various academic contests also provide the unique opportunity for well-balanced individual development.
Than Hsiang Kindergarten teachers are exposed to various educational courses. Recently, a Language Methodology Workshop was conducted in a joint effort with the United Chinese Teachers Association (Jiao Zhong). The main aim was to enhance the teachers' Chinese linguistic usage and upgrading their educational approaches. Teachers are encouraged to participate in various hands-on-activities organized by other bodies, such as dancing and interactive team work.
The collaboration of both teachers and parents is much needed in this early stage of childhood development so as to provide a healthy and well-balanced education for the children. Parents' Day and parenting talks are carried out to strengthen the relationship between parents and children. All these activities can not be done smoothly and successfully without the help of volunteers such as the ‘Ai Xin Ma Ma'.
The speech giving was followed by the prize giving ceremony, student representative's speech and certificate presentation. After the graduation ceremony, a gala afternoon kicked off with the performances of students from both kindergartens. Sixteen rich and colorful dances showing varied cultures captivated and enthralled the audience. At 4.25 pm , the celebration ended with the lighting of the LED candles led by the Sangha members of Than Hsiang Temple amidst the darkness of the graduation hall.