Political actors and school change in New York City and Hong Kong: One hundred years and nothing changed

Kenneth Scott VOLK

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The Gary Plan of “work-study-play” was the brainchild of William Wirt (1874-1938) and praised for its progressive features by educators such as John Dewey (1859-1952). Introduced in 1907 to the schools of Gary, Indiana USA by Superintendent of Schools Wirt, the plan reorganized the school day and included curriculum features that fostered hands-on activities relating to occupations and daily life. It was also an articulated structure and program, offered from primary through secondary grades. The increased notoriety of the plan’s social and financial benefits led the new mayor of New York City to invite Wirt as a consultant to transform their overstretched schools. What followed were several acrimonious years of position papers, posturing and propaganda by many political actors regarding school change. Nearly 100 years later, Hong Kong is also going through major changes in schools. Policy initiatives orchestrated by the new government have influenced the medium of instruction used in schools and classified subjects under Key Learning Areas for all students to study. Recently, the government has proposed to reduce secondary school years from a 3+4 system to one that is 3+3, as well as a new compulsory upper secondary subject called Liberal Studies. Similar to New York City, Hong Kong has its own political actors. Lessons can be learned from New York City’s initiative regarding the potential for successful school change in Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2005



Volk, K. S. (2005, May). Political actors and school change in New York City and Hong Kong: One hundred years and nothing changed. Paper presented at Redesigning Pedagogy International Conference: Research, Policy, Practice, Singapore.


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