A history of National Education in Hong Kong

I’ve been rather reluctant to comment on the National Education furor in Hong Kong that anyone with even half and eye on the news will have noticed. (It has been well noted that even foreign and international news organizations have covered this issue.) This is because (1) as a general rule, I prefer not to make hasty comments in the heat of any particular issue and (2) because I frankly have not had the time nor interest to truly inform myself of this issue to the level that I feel is required for any comment to be made.

An aspect of this is the need for context which is so often easily lost in the heat of the moment. So before we all blow our heads off on this issue, let’s consider the events that have led up to this point, a neat little summary from the SCMP.

ESF pupils come up with the Baccalaureate goods

From the SCMP Jul 10, 2012

Of the few pupils who achieved perfect scores for the International Baccalaureate (IB) exams this year, one in 10 came from Hong Kong. Of the 109 students who achieved full scores of 45 marks on the global IB exams – considered one of the toughest pre-college exams in the world – at least 12 of the top achievers were from Hong Kong.

English Schools Foundation (ESF) students continued to achieve strong results this year, with the number of students achieving full marks increasing to nine from four last year. Local direct-subsidy schools the Diocesan Boys’ School and Creative Secondary School, each had one student get the full score in their first year administering the exams. Victoria Shanghai Academy also had one pupil with the top score.

“We are proud of the hard work we’ve put in,” said Deep Vaze, the only student from the ESF Island School to earn a perfect score. Vaze credited his score to the competitive and supportive atmosphere created by his teachers and classmates. He will be studying at Harvard University in September.

The other top scorers from ESF schools were Cindy Ling, Hedy Man Pui-ying, Rupert Phillips and Edward Tam Yuk-wang from King George V School; Calvin Po, Anahita Sharma and Ronald Yip from South Island School; and Sarah Chan from Sha Tin College.

Top Posts of the Year 2011

2011 is coming to a close, and has grown another year older, 27 months and counting. There have been over 88,700 views since this blog began in October 2009, and over 550 posts (recall just 12 months ago, that number stood at a little over 180) which means that the “Posting at least once every week in 2011” commitment became more of a ‘Posting once a day’. It’s been an amazing year in terms of the blog, nearly 66,000 views just this year. So here’s a look back at the top posts of 2011.

1. WSDC 2011 – Team Lists [1st all time]
Part of the WSDC 2011 series, the posts resided in sidebar of for over 8 months in the run-up to WSDC 2011 in Dundee, listing the team members attending WSDC 2011, at least those I could find.

2. Fire at UWC Atlantic College [2nd all time]
Other than debating, this was undoubtedly the second biggest story of the blog this year. I started this post 2 hours after the incident itself and continued updating it as a running summary of the situation.

3. TOK Essay – May 2012 [3rd all time]
Let’s just say this has not been the highlight of my Christmas holiday.

4. Fire at UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 1 [4th all time]
The first images of the aftermath of the fire. Incidentally, April 14th was the busiest day on the blog with just under 1,300 views in just 24 hours.

5. [RESULTS] LSE Open 2011 [Tab]
A tournament I attended with David as my debating partner, joined by other Team Wales member Cat and Sarah. An amazing experience and my first peek into university level debating. You can read about what happened in my de-facto diary entry 1, 2 and see how Team Wales fared.

6. WSDC 2011 – Official World Rankings
Also part of the WSDC 2011 series, the official world rankings followed my earlier, and rather more controversial, post with my own calculations (which were quite accurate, even if I say so myself)

7. AC IB Results 2011
A good year for AC and some good results all together for my dear second years. Sadly, that puts the bar quite high for the UWC AC class of 2012.

8. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round-up
The ultimate summary of my final high-school tournament – WSDC 2011 – before I left the high-school debating scene. An amazing tournament and some unforgettable memories. Thank you to everyone.

9. Fire @UWC Atlantic College – Photo Set 2
The second set of photos regarding the Sunley fire, this time with my own photos.

10. SCMP – Profile: Chris Lee (IS) IGCSE Top of the World
A not so original post, but an article that did catch my eye, and clearly attracted quite a bit of attention too.

Honorary Mentions

I think it is worth noting at this point that although only 3 WSDC 2011 related posts were found in the top 10, and only 4 debating related posts, the next 10 posts are exclusively debating related, 8 of which are WSDC 2011 related as well. August 2011 was also the most popular month for with nearly 14,000 views. A final thought: isn’t it interesting that Team Singapore, Team Canada and Team England come in as top posts on their own?

11. WSDC 2011 – Team Singapore
12. WSDC 2011 – Media Guide [UPDATED]
13. WSDC 2012 – Prepared Motions [UPDATED]
14. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 1 & 2
15. WSDC 2011 – Team Canada
16. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Break, Round 7 & 8
17. WSDC 2011 – Team England
18. [RESULTS] WSDC 2011 – Round 5 & 6
19. ASDC 2011 – Participating Institutions
20. WIDPSC 2011 – Grand Final [RESULTS] + Analysis

Controversy @ CIS and HKIS

I had read this by-and-by in the news over a month ago. But this SCMP feature really summarizes it well and outlines quite nicely what has been happening.

I don’t know nearly enough about the situation to say much. All I can say is that I believe that board-room drama should never, never affect the standard and quality of education that the students receive.

From the South China Morning Post, 26 October 2011

Who’s pulling the strings?
Internal power struggles at two of Hong Kong’s most elite international schools – HKIS and CIS – raise questions about their governance and accountability
By Chris Ip, Oct 26, 2011

At Hong Kong International School, with the most expensive tuition in the city, the head of school serves only at the approval of a church council more than 12,000 kilometres away in the American Midwest.

At the Chinese International School, the board of governors sacked more than half the members of the school’s foundation and may face possible legal action over the action.

They are two of the city’s top international schools – the elite of the elite schools and also the most expensive. Unlike the English Schools Foundation, most top international schools are private, non-profit and receive no government subsidy. This means they enjoy virtual independence from public oversight. More than a decade of reforms for local and ESF schools have meant nothing for these institutions.

Government approved ‘Independent’ candidates

Much is made about China’s communist system. One of the biggest assumptions is that people have no or little political rights. On the contrary, China’s constitution includes many political rights, including the right to stand in elections. The government even publishes an Human Rights report on China, although the focus of the content is questionnable. The thing many people don’t realize is that the problem isn’t that rights aren’t enshrined in legal documents, it’s just that they don’t get implemented in reality. Independent candidates are permitted, it’s just that an independent candidates that needs government backing isn’t much of an independent candidate. SCMP’s ‘Pearl Briefing’ by Fiona Tam explains:

Zhang Shangwu and other Chinese Athletes

In the wake of China’s success at the FINA Championships in Shanghai, a number of new stories have come out regarding the Chinese Sport System and the long term care (or lack of it) for retired or not-so-successful athletes. Here are two stories from the SCMP and China Daily that are good updates on what I wrote about the Chinese Sport Schools System.

China’s Political Future

China’s political future is never filled with certainty. It rejects what it labels as ‘Western Democracy’, opposes multi-party rule and yet frets about the instabilities of a one-party rule. South China Morning Post’s Deputy Editor and China specialist Wang Xiangwei had an interesting perspective about the political future of China in the SCMP 4/7/2011. A good read for those who wonder what system China could or might adopt. I still think China ought to move towards a multi-party system, but perhaps this is a good first step.

Road map for the party’s future lies within its ranks

Now is the time for the leadership to renew the push for intra-party democracy and ensure its survival

As the Communist Party held grand parties nationwide last week to celebrate its 90th anniversary, at first glance the contrast in coverage between the mainland and the overseas media could not have been any sharper.

The mainland media launched unprecedented propaganda to eulogise the achievements and benefits the party has brought to China’s people, while the overseas media focused on its enormous challenges, wondering about its future, particularly the lack of a clear strategy for its long-term survival.

Taking a closer look, however, it is not difficult to infer that both the party leadership and the overseas media share at least one fundamental observation: the party cannot stick to its present course and that reform is imperative.

Legco By-elections – A comprehensive rebuttal

A well written article in the SCMP from 7 June 2011 that effectively destroys the government’s logic for changing the legco by-election rules.

Baffled by an empty seat

The government’s proposals for new ways of conducting by-elections are ill-considered and may well lead to more confusion, say analysts

The government’s controversial proposal to fill midterm vacancies in the Legislative Council by installing the next-best-placed candidate would serve the intended purpose: preventing lawmakers from claiming a by-election to be a referendum.

But it may lead to some unintended consequences, and even tricky scenarios that officials may not have thought through.

The proposal arose because, in January last year, five Civic Party and League of Social Democrats lawmakers resigned, triggering a by-election they hoped would be a de facto referendum on political reform. But the other main political parties did not put up candidates, and all five were voted back into office last May. Turnout was just 17.1 per cent and the government said the by-election, which cost HK$126 million, had been unnecessary.

Nevertheless, the government’s proposed solution is causing even some allied lawmakers to baulk.

Sued by my own parents

Taking care of parents has long been a ‘moral’ responsibility above anything else. It’s not something that one usually attributes a legal commitment towards. However, in the land of the dragon, it may soon be the case that your elderly parent has the legal right to sue you for not visiting them often enough.

According to an SCMP article, a draft amendment of the 1996 ‘Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly’ is reported to include such a provision. It should be noted that this provision is not yet in effect nor indeed guaranteed to become law at any point in the future. SCMP goes on to say

The revision would for the first time provide a legal framework for the elderly to sue their children for failing to visit them, Wu Ming , deputy department head in the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said yesterday.

The Legal Evening News quoted Wu as saying the amendment would contain a new provision on spiritual support for the elderly in which “family members should not ignore and isolate the elderly, and they should come often to visit the elderly if they do not live under the same roof”.

While I understand the concept behind such a law, I fail to see how it will have any practical benefit. Indeed, if a child fails to visit their parents regularly, suing them is unlikely to make them any more willing. Quite the contrary, it would appear that someone being sued would bear resentment towards their parents. Even if they are forced to cover their parents cost of living, they are unlikely to have a sudden change of heart and visit their parents regularly out of love. If anything, it becomes just another mundane legal duty rather than a moral one.

The law might have good intentions, but it isn’t likely to improve anything.