Science students at Melbourne High School in the early 1960s were a lucky group indeed. They were taught by Mr Lee Dow—a young teacher whose talent and passion for education saw him rise to the position of Vice Chancellor of the University of Melbourne, and the rank of Emeritus Professor.
As Kwong scaled the heights of academic achievement, he also contributed to the wider community, through the modernisation of school curricula, examination systems and teacher education.
The son of a school teacher, Kwong knew from a very young age that he wanted to teach. Soon after beginning his career, he was invited to work at the University of Melbourne, where he went on to serve as Dean of Education for 20 years.
Along the way, Kwong became a highly respected leader, committed to improving access to education and educational quality. With an outstanding reputation, governments in Australia and abroad sought his expertise.
The national Review of Teaching and Teacher Education, which Kwong conducted in 2003, produced strategies for improving the teaching of science, maths and technology. Some of those strategies were adopted by governments, including the proposal to reduce HECS fees for university science and maths students.
Kwong says that Australia’s egalitarianism and inclusiveness distinguish our educational system from many others around the world.
‘Australian schools and Australian teachers can hold their heads up pretty high,’ he says.
‘We’ve got a lot of good schools and good teachers and components of real quality in many of our schools, and I think that is perhaps under-recognised these days.’
Now retired from the universities of Melbourne and Ballarat, Kwong continues to serve the tertiary education sector and provide advice to governments. Inspired by the example of his mother—who recently turned 103—he hopes to contribute for a long time yet.
Kwong was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1984 for services to education. In 2012, he was made an Officer of the Order for distinguished service to education in Australia as an administrator, scholar and contributor to major curriculum reforms, through executive roles with education advisory bodies, and to the community.