Public speaking and presenting skills are an Achilles heel for most local students who are more used to an education system which still emphasises rote learning and memorisation.
In Britain, there is more focus on the ability of students to express themselves, and most schools, particularly those classified as independent, offer speech and drama classes to help students gain confidence and speak with clarity and good diction. Now, London’s New Era Academy of Drama (NEA), which has been operating since 1941, has recently launched programmes in Hong Kong.
“If a child is anxious or afraid of speaking in front of a class, then speech and drama lessons will help them break this cycle of fear, because speech is self-expression and at the centre of drama is communication,” says Darren Nesbitt, the academy’s executive director and a renowned actor who has been involved in more than 40 films.
Nesbitt points out that people tend to underestimate the importance of speech, drama and language for students. He hopes the academy can help young people acquire these skills and benefit accordingly. “Communication and being able to speak well is so important in life – and speech and drama lessons enhance these skills,” he says, “I am proud of our syllabus because it not only encourages personal confidence, self-belief and self-assurance, but also extends knowledge of novels, poetry and plays.”
The academy offers examinations in subjects which range from acting, solo verse speaking and spoken English to public speaking, devised drama and even musical theatre. All the examinations are accredited by Britain’s Ofqual (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation).
According to Nesbitt, a highlight of the NEA examination syllabus is “interview technique”.
“Life is a series of interviews, and it is important to teach children at a young age how to present themselves,” he says. “Auditions and interviews are part of life, so our job is to help students feel confident and be prepared for interviews at school and at work.”
Nesbitt believes the academy can inspire students in numerous ways besides giving them academic knowledge and presentation skills. “Our examiners do not only judge the performance of students. The ethos has always been that students should enjoy the exams and look forward to further enhancing their skills.”
Teachers can log on to the academy’s computer system to get their students’ exam results. Report forms, certificates and medals are sent within one week of receiving results.
“We don’t hand out distinction easily like handing out chocolate biscuits,” Nesbitt says. “Students work really hard for it. We want to make children strive for achievements and realise there is no easy way to success. Also, parents need to bear in mind that ‘instant’ success may not be as good as they think because it may not last.”
The academy’s first batch of Hong Kong students was enrolled in September and experienced examiners will come from Britain to assess them in various subjects in May next year.
For students considering further education in Britain, attaining a certain level in NEA examinations brings the bonus of receiving University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) points, comparable to those for GCE AS and A-level qualifications, which count towards entry into certain British universities.
Our personal representative there is Robyn Lo B.Arch (Hons) PCertLAM.
For information please contact Robyn Lo (Sole representative)
Phone Hong Kong 8202 2186