Honorary University Fellow (2021)
“There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in,” wrote the British author Graham Greene. Professor Bridie Raban, a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, has dedicated her life to ensuring that when that door opens, children have a better chance of being put on the path to a rewarding future.
The journey that led to Professor Raban becoming a world-respected authority on early childhood education and care and literacy development began back in the United Kingdom. Her own childhood had a big influence on how her future would be shaped and what she would later achieve.
Like many young British children at that time, Professor Raban was packed away to boarding school when she was just six years old. She was devastated by the experience and recalled crying most of the time. By the age of 15, she had dropped out of school, but that summer she read her first book from cover to cover – The Loom of Youth by Alec Raban Waugh. The book, which tells the story of his own parents sending him away to school and how that made him feel, had lifted her spirits and motivated her to move forward.
And so began a long and illustrious journey. Professor Raban returned to school and went on to study at the University of Hull in England, becoming a teacher upon graduation in 1965 and supporting children who had difficulties with their reading. Her experience reading that book had changed the direction of her life – and now she wanted the whole world to be able to read!
After teaching for 12 years, Professor Raban began to ask why so many children experienced difficulties on starting school. This led to further research and the beginning of her academic life, first at the University of Bristol and then at the University of Reading, where she gained a PhD in 1985. She later became Professor of Primary Education (Early Years) at the University of Warwick before a pivotal move to Australia, becoming Inaugural Professor of Early Childhood Studies as well as Associate Dean (Research) at the University of Melbourne.
Currently Honorary Professor at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Professor Raban has reached the stage of life where she would be justified in sitting back and reflecting on what she has achieved, including the publication of some 65 authoritative books over a span of 45 years. But the passion to educate and inform still burns deep and she continues to write and run workshops through the Association of Graduates in Early Childhood Studies in the state of Victoria.
Having achieved so much in her own academic career, Professor Raban advises young people to read widely in their chosen field, conduct research under the supervision of leading researchers, publish extensively, and sharpen their focus so they become the expert in their chosen area. They should make sure they know everything there is to know about very little – that, after all, is the nature of expertise.
Professor Raban’s association with Hong Kong Baptist University began in the mid-1990s when she was invited to chair the accreditation committee for a new degree prorgramme for the training of early childhood teachers, under the Early Childhood and Elementary Education Division of the School of Continuing Education. She was appointed Visiting Professor of Education in the Division from 2012 to 2014, which gave her a deeper understanding of the role of early childhood professionals in supporting Hong Kong families. During her time with the University, she shared her insights and experience in open seminars for students, field practitioners and parents. She also led a team of academics and teaching staff in a research project titled “How observation leads to teaching”, which changed the focus from assessment of learning to assessment for learning.
Hong Kong still has a special place in Professor Raban’s heart and her attachment to HKBU runs deep, having provided wise counsel to the University for the past 25 years. Devoted to her profession, she works to the best of her ability as she believes the outcome of her research and teaching will impact the profession, ensuring better outcomes for young children – and they are the world’s future. This is the passion that motivates her moving forward.