Generation 40s – 四十世代

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After the Vegas massacre and European terror attacks, is it safe for Hong Kong children to study abroad?

CommentInsight & Opinion
Mike Rowse says parents must strike a balance when deciding where children should study. Anxiety over American gun violence or terrorism in London can’t be the only factor

The recent tragic events in Las Vegas and spate of terrorist attacks in Europe will have all parents whose children study overseas pondering whether they made the right decision.

After all, Hong Kong has many fine schools and universities. Since we live in, by any measure, one of the world’s safest cities, why send our precious children thousands of miles away, where they might be in danger and we will see them less often? The counter arguments are familiar to all families on this path: some courses are not available here or are better taught elsewhere; living in another country is an enriching experience for most young people on top of any academic benefit; being apart from relatives and friends helps teach self-reliance and is an important step in the maturing process. Where the correct balance lies depends on individual circumstances.

My two teenage children were both leaning toward subjects not covered well or at all by Hong Kong’s tertiary institutions and, after research, felt the best options were in North America, with the UK as a possible fallback. Hence, our family has spent the last three summer holidays scouting suitable colleges for them. One visit to California actually included a side trip to Las Vegas, about a four-hour journey from Los Angeles by car. Press reports of the carnage there have also included some other alarming statistics. The Financial Times, for example, quoted Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit organisation, as saying there had been 274 mass shootings (in which at least four people were killed or injured) so far in 2017.

After weighing the alternatives, my daughter chose the University of California Los Angeles and started there last month. London would have been cheaper but she is studying film making and the proximity to Hollywood was too much of a draw. Would she have chosen differently if the Las Vegas mass shooting had come earlier? Highly unlikely, nor would I have sought to persuade her. Would London – scene of several terrorist incidents in recent years – be any safer?

An officer stands guard at a police cordon near a house in Newport, South Wales, on September 20, during investigations into the September 15 terror attack on a London underground tube train carriage. Photo: AFPImportant decisions in life should be taken on the overall balance of arguments. Provided we are not reckless in the thinking process and don’t ignore some highly relevant and probable adverse conditions, we have to accept that there is a degree of risk in all options. A slightly higher risk of being the victim of a gun crime in the US, or a terrorist attack in the UK, should not be the determining factors.

Similar mental juggling is needed when considering other life choices, such as involvement in sports. When my two (now adult) sons were growing up, both played rugby and football, as did most of their mates. Parents were relatively relaxed at that time about what were perceived as very remote prospects of serious injury. We now know much more about the dangers of incurring injuries in contact sports. Recent studies of the brains of deceased NFL players found evidence of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy in 99 per cent of cases.

When my daughter decided to play rugby, naturally the question arose as to whether to steer her toward a more gentle activity. Clearly there are dangers, as parents are reminded every time a child comes home bruised and limping. On the other hand, rugby is a very healthy form of exercise, and promotes camaraderie and team spirit. Moreover, coaches these days are much more alert to safety issues.

This combination of photos provided by Boston University shows sections from a normal brain, top, and from the brain of former University of Texas football player Greg Ploetz, bottom, with stage IV chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Photo: APThis once again comes down to balancing the factors and, without being reckless, reaching a reasoned decision. There are also family politics to account for. Parents of very young children are entitled to be fairly autocratic in making important decisions on behalf of their offspring. But, as children move into their teens and grow more mature, decisions become much more of a joint enterprise. Parents slip into the role of advisers, ensuring that all relevant issues have been considered. After that, they basically have to respect their children’s choices.

I won’t pretend this is a painless process. At moments of severe strain on the nerves, I find the occasional silent prayer, perhaps accompanied by a stiff drink, can provide some solace.

Mike Rowse is the CEO of Treloar Enterprises.


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Cardiff Sixth Form College有「全英最有腦學校」之稱,其學術成績之優異可想而知。這間英國排名第一的A Level學校,校園任何風吹草動自然都會受到矚目,早在幾個月前,有關Cardiff Sixth Form College的各種謠言猜測已經甚囂塵上,預示有大件事即將發生,未幾馬上傳來大地震:學校創辦人Yasmin Sarwar離開自己一手一腳建立並創出驕人成績的學校。


Yasmin Sarwar與Cardiff Sixth Form College「分手」的消息,成為近日英國教育界最沸騰的話題。兩者各奔向怎樣的前程,亦是全國目光所向。據悉Yasmin Sarwar已投身Oxford International College,將會舉辦嶄新的世界課程,推動新的教育理念。

至於Cardiff Sixth Form College,校長一職由Gareth Collier出任,學校並且將由Duke’s Education所收購。有問Duke’s Education何方神聖也?這個教育機構成立於1999年,本身有涉足出版界,不少人曾聞Duke’s Education之名,都是多得他們出版過的一本著名攻考牛津劍橋的攻略書籍So you want to go Oxbridge? Tell me about a banana…。事實上對於事業路迷惘的學生來說,Duke’s Education的存在有如黑暗中的明燈,在協助學生升學及就業發展上,有着出色的表現及豐富的經驗。近年來為各大小學校舉辦過升學及職業訓練講座、工作坊無數,也把好些學校外判出去的職業發展部門辦得有聲有色。集團近年銳意辦學,Cardiff Sixth Form College之前,被收歸旗下的學校已有3間,分別是位於倫敦北部的Fine Arts College;位於倫敦西部,專攻醫療科學科目的Acorn College;以及在Kent的Rochester Independent College。可以想像,能夠接手這間位於威爾斯首都的英國頂級名校,這企業集團當然也絕非泛泛之輩。

Cardiff Sixth Form College現有如此具規模及經驗的集團作後盾,加上企業化管理、新的資金和更充裕資源的情況下,會有一番什麼景象,大家都急不及待想知道。許多家長學生尤其關注的是,當學校走出Yasmin Sarwar所創造的神話,走向集團企業化,其學術上的佳績是否能夠保持?為了釐清各方疑惑,新校長Gareth Collier真的不遺餘力,更會親臨香港,講解學校變天後的最新情況,解答家長和學生的問題。

然而,大地震才剛震完,許多都仍是未知之數。想真正了解Cardiff Sixth Form College的何去何從,大家還是得耐心拭目以待它今後的表現。

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Asian Americans’ complaint against ‘unfair’ Harvard admissions underlines need for meritocracy

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Amy Wu

Amy Wu says a lawsuit against Harvard for alleged discrimination against Asian Americans reflects widespread unease with a practice that will erode society’s competitiveness

Last month, a coalition of Asian American groups filed a lawsuit against Harvard University for discrimination in its admissions practices. It was about time.

The lawsuit argues that Harvard is unfairly rejecting high-scoring Asian American candidates on racial grounds. According to third-party research, Ivy League institutions such as Harvard discriminate against such candidates, not least by setting them a higher bar for standardised test scores.

The lawsuit has its supporters, but there’s also been a firestorm of backlash against Asians. And while the lawsuit is based on race, the more critical argument that is too often sidelined concerns merit.

Merit needs to be fostered. Whether it’s university admissions, employment or a sports team recruitment, available positions should go to the most qualified candidates. This is for the good of both the organisation and the individual. Companies should hire candidates that best meet the needs of the job.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against diversity. Ideally, people of various backgrounds and cultures contribute to the richness of a society. Racial and ethnic diversity can potentially and ideally add desired resources to underserved communities.

A case in point is the US medical world, where three out of four physicians are white/non-Hispanic, 17.2 per cent are Asian or other races, and just 5.3 per cent are Hispanic and 3.8 per cent black. Understandably, some predominantly black communities may feel more comfortable going to health care providers who share a similar skin colour. However, more often, I hear people say they choose their doctors based on skills.

A good friend at a medical school pointed out that some Hispanic and black applicants will be accepted to the college on a lower admissions test score than applicants of other races. But, very often, those students need remedial classes to bring them up to the level of their fellow students. The institution needs to bring in additional resources to try to get them up to speed.

The students themselves know they are “special”; they would not qualify for admission based purely on academic and school activity records.

Altering and lowering the bar to admit students who simply aren’t qualified is doing them a disservice. These students risk being overwhelmed and their chances of dropping out, losing confidence and becoming disillusioned are heightened.

Again, the argument extends beyond race. Last year, more than 8,000 Chinese students were expelled from US universities because they performed poorly or cheated, according to WholeRen Education, a US consultancy that caters to Chinese students. And rightfully so, because they didn’t qualify.

On the flip side, why should those who are qualified – in this case, high-scoring Asian American students – need to sacrifice a piece of the pie for another racial/ethnic group who are poorer performers? Maybe universities need to find a way to increase the size of the pie?

In the US, there are a myriad of programmes, such as the government-funded Head Start programme, that attempt to equalise the playing field for children from various socioeconomic backgrounds.

Why not, then, focus on expanding such programmes from nursery school to primary and secondary schools as a potential remedy? At some point, we must put aside the race debate and focus on merit for the good of the whole, to keep society competitive.

After all, wasn’t it the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping who argued that, “It doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black, as long as it catches mice”?

Amy Wu is an American-born Chinese writer and commentator

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Cracking down on SAT exam prep industry could help Beijing stem student ‘brain drain’

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion

Kelly Yang

Kelly Yang says concern over a student brain drain could lead Beijing to target SAT exam prep centres, with far-reaching consequences

Imagine having to recite the United States’ pledge of allegiance before buying a handbag. That’s how Beijing views the heavy emphasis on US founding documents in the new SAT – the standardised exam for US university admissions. The coveted handbag here is an American education.

In August, I wrote about the new SAT’s focus on US founding documents and how it will affect China. Xinhua called the new SAT a new form of “ideology intrusion” and “imperialism”.

As China tries to limit what it sees as the “inappropriate Western influence” of students in the Hong Kong protests, Beijing will find the threat of more ideological intrusion worrying. Beijing, Fudan and Sun Yat-sen universities all vowed recently to have stricter ideological control over students.

Yet exams are trickier to control than weibo posts. Chinese students, on average, study 10 times harder for the SAT than US students – an estimated 150-200 hours compared with 20-30 hours. From 2016, when the SAT changes, they will spend those hours poring over the US Bill of Rights and American civil liberties, including the right to democracy.

The question is not whether Beijing will crack down on the new SAT – it will: but how? The exam is not administered on the mainland, but over the border in Hong Kong, so Beijing can’t “ban” it. Far more effective would be to ban test preparation. For this, China already has full jurisdiction.

Like Hong Kong, all mainland after-school tutoring and test prep centres are regulated by the Ministry of Education, which issues licences before they can operate. But the rules for registration are vague and complicated and many operate illegally. Beijing can easily step up the regulations; if it wanted to, it could crush the new SAT in a second.

Even without the new threat of ideological intrusion, exams such as the SAT and TOEFL are in a precarious situation, because of China’s huge brain drain. Today there are 235,000 mainland students at US universities. Once they go abroad, they tend to stay abroad. In 2013, 8.5 million Chinese were living abroad, while only 848,000 had moved to China, says a report by the Centre for China & Globalisation. The People’s Daily calls it “the world’s worst brain drain”.

China has tried to solve the problem by attracting more foreign students. Recently, Beijing University set up its Yenching Academy, an all-expenses-paid, one-year graduate programme aimed at foreigners.

However, such programmes do not solve the core problem – the annual student vanishing act. Cracking down on the SAT test prep industry might.

If China does shrink its brain drain, the ramifications will be huge. It’s to America’s advantage that the Chinese have an insatiable appetite for US education, and that US universities don’t just serve Americans, but the world.

Ultimately, Beijing may complain that the new SAT is unfair because it is like making its people recite the pledge of allegiance before buying a handbag. But the truth is, Beijing doesn’t want its people buying that handbag any more – pledge or no pledge.

Kelly Yang teaches SAT at The Kelly Yang Project, an after-school centre for writing and debate in Hong Kong. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School.

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設貸款方案 助年輕人留學

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C04 | 優質教育 | 教育講論 | By 何偉倫 |




現時本港確實有為數不少的獎學金頒發給香港學生出外留學:比方說新加坡政府自1970 年起,開始頒發安排給香港學生的獎學金便最為全面,由小學每年2,000元坡幣的獎學金,到中學及大學先修班每年的類近津貼另附加膳宿開支、機票及學費,以至研究生課程都有相關資助。






政府在早前發表了人口政策諮詢文件,就如何提升本地人力資源等議題展開公眾諮詢。我們是否可以考慮設立一個「常態性留學貸款方案」,讓年輕人在二十出頭便可出外留學,為未來的人生路向探索一番。鄰近香港的台北市在早年推出「青年留學免息貸款」,申請對象為二十歲至四十歲的年輕人,貸款者可享首十年免利息優惠出國修讀研究課程。免息貸款方案提供每年八百個研究生課程及兩百個專科技術證照名額 (所謂專技證照則以修讀航空飛行及餐飲酒店管理為多)。以去年為例,六成申請人前赴美國攻讀研究學位,前赴英國修讀研究學位者也佔了兩成。

近年本地的航空運輸業發展迅速,餐飲及酒店管理的人才亦出現短缺,設立類似台北市的留學貸款方案讓年輕人一步一步邁向心儀專業之餘,也可以令香港在人力資源的軟實力得以提升。再者本地研究院的學額中,國援(內地生)及外援(外地生)的比重正不斷膨脹,研究院的學額在過去十年增加了84%,但本地研究生的份額反而由59% 被攤薄至25%,留學貸款方案將有助化解本地生希望透過進修尋找專業出路,但又「缺水」的困局。