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Kelly writes on why people in HK protest over bad TV

Kelly writes on why people in HK protest over bad TV

Published in The Atlantic, Nov 2013:

By Kelly Yang

HONG KONG—Last week, 100,000 Hong Kongers, as they have on many occasions in the past, took to the streets to defend their rights. But this time was different. For one, the protest featured housewives marching beside movie stars, including Andy Lau, something of a Hong Kong version of Brad Pitt. The message of the protest—“Give me back my dream!” might have seemed to have a political tinge, but the item which the protesters wanted back was far more quotidian: television.

Currently, there are only two free local television channels in Hong Kong. There are also two additional pay-per-view channels, giving Hong Kong natives a grand total of four to choose from. For a city of 7 million, one that prides itself on both its free market and vibrant film industry (Hong Kong ranks first in Asia in per capita production in film entertainment) this figure is almost absurdly low. And, correspondingly, the paucity of channels has had a detrimental effect on the quality of shows. Hongkongers often complain that the plot on most television dramas on air is predictable—to an eight year old.

Read full version in The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/china/archive/2013/11/why-people-in-hong-kong-protest-over-bad-television/281210/

Hong Kongers’ indomitable work ethic

Hong Kongers’ indomitable work ethic

Kelly writes on Hong Kong’s indomitable work ethic for CNN. Published by CNN in  Jan 2011:

Although Hong Kong is such a wealthy city, the thing that has always struck me is the fact that everyone — no matter who they are, how rich or how poor — works hard.

Unlike many other cosmopolitan cities like New York or London, Hong Kong does not have many beggars. If you want to find beggars in Central, you have to make a huge effort to find them — all three of them.

Instead, what you have is a city in which it is ingrained into the culture that everyone should have something to do.

Together, these busy, productive people make up our city. They also make up the faces of inspiring underdogs in Hong Kong.

A typical case would be the elderly men and women who sell used items on the side of the streets in SoHo.

Some of them are almost 90 years old. Every day, they wake up at the crack of dawn to “go to work.”

Some of them have stalls, others simply spread a sheet on the sidewalk and set up shop.

The “poh poh” (old women) and “baak baak” (old men) sell anything from used trousers to DVDs to light bulbs.

Almost all have been doing this for years.

They are there on cold days. They are there on typhoon days.

Read the full version on CNN’s website: http://travel.cnn.com/hong-kong/life/citypulse/sohos-street-stallers-313056/

KYP helps ESF student launch environmental project

KYP helps ESF student launch environmental project

ARTICLE FROM SCMP Oct 2014–A group of secondary pupils has convinced 16 principals from the English Schools Foundation to switch to recycled printing paper, despite the fact that the move will cost the schools an additional HK$200,000 a year in total.

The student-led campaign was spearheaded by Ike Park, a Year 12 pupil at Renaissance College, who made the plea to the primary and secondary school heads at a meeting of ESF’s committee of principals.

There are many reasons local schools have been slow to adopt recycled paper, Park said.

“Hongkongers seem to just love to have their paper purely white, and recycled paper, unfortunately, is a little yellow compared with virgin paper,” he said.

“Some also have doubts about the quality of recycled paper and, since it costs more anyway, schools just did not have a real impetus.”

Each tonne of recycled paper saves about 24 trees, 54 million British thermal units of heat energy and 3.3 cubic metres of landfill space, but low local demand for the material meant prices were higher here, Park said.

Switching to recycled copy paper was in the interests of schools as it gave them an opportunity to lead by example when teaching sustainable consumerism, the pupil said.

Kelly Yang, who helped in the student campaign, said: “If you do the math, it doesn’t work out as that much more.”

The managing editor of education organisation The Kelly Yang Project and columnist at the South China Morning Post added: “I think it’s about HK$1,000 or HK$2,000 extra per month per school.”

For Park, the 16 ESF schools are just the beginning.

“We plan on convincing other schools to join,” he said. “Large-scale environmental action is much more influential. Imagine how many trees we can save if this movement spreads across all Hong Kong schools.”

This article was published in the South China Morning Post on Oct 2014: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1617109/pupils-convince-esf-schools-go-green

Kelly Yang on CCTV talking about innovation in business

Kelly Yang on CCTV talking about innovation in business

TRANSCRIPT FROM CCTV April 2014 — Kelly Yang is an educator who runs a school teaching kids critical reasoning, creative writing and public speaking. The Harvard Law School graduate says many Hong Kong businesses lack innovation because they simply cannot afford to take risks, and a big part of that stumbling block develops right at home.

“One of them is changing the Hong Kong mentality of always trying to find the safe job, safe prestigious thing to do, and that’s never going to be taking a risk.” Kelly Yang said.

A lot of Hong Kong families will say don’t think about starting your own business. That’s silly. Why would you want to do that? Why not take that investment banking job instead?

Our market right now is heavily dependent on tourism, on banking, on property. I’d like us to step away from that and just be innovative. And if we have more people like that coming to Hong Kong, the better that it will be for everyone.

The Hong Kong government has nearly doubled the number of startups that it helped assist in the past four years. InvestHK in 20-10 assisted 31 startups in Hong Kong. That number has grown to 55 last year.

As for Rise Impact, taking their applications to the next level is the next step. How these foreign startups influence Hong Kong locals to break from the norm and strike it out on their own may very well define – in time – the city’s potential as a regional hub for innovation.

INTERVIEW AIRED GLOBALLY ON CCTV: http://english.cntv.cn/2014/04/10/VIDE1397061365218747.shtml

Kelly in NYT, Washington Post on new SAT

Kelly in NYT, Washington Post on new SAT


In Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper, SAT coach Kelly Yang wrote that the new test will instill American values into “impressionable young Chinese minds.”

“In some ways. the U.S. College Board has created a test as un-Chinese as they come,” wrote Yang, a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard Law School, adding that “hundreds of thousands of students all over China will be poring over the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights with the same zeal and tenacity they once reserved for quadratic equations.”

She wrote, “If the new SAT succeeds, it will be the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students every year, not through a popular television show or a politician’s speaking tour, but through what the Chinese care about most — exams.”



An English-language newspaper in Hong Kong, The South China Morning Post, published a column last month by Kelly Yang, a local SAT tutor, who asserted that the SAT redesign scheduled for 2016 would be “the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students.”

The Beijing Youth Daily reported recently that some Chinese were worried that the minds of the country’s young would be “forcibly infiltrated with American values.” The report, which was distributed by Xinhua, was paired with a cartoon of Uncle Sam holding a hamburger and a movie reel on one side while, with another hand, thrusting forward a piece of paper that says, “SAT ideology and politics.”


How the new SAT test will instil US values into impressionable young Chinese minds

How the new SAT test will instil US values into impressionable young Chinese minds

In August 2014, Kelly broke the story in the South China Morning Post on how the new SAT may influence Chinese youth and increase US soft power. Her story went viral, with The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Xinhua, etc all reporting Kelly’s findings.

By Kelly Yang, Published in the South China Morning Post, August 2014

By now, most people know that the SAT, the test for US university admissions, is changing. There will be a longer essay and a new scoring system. What they don’t know is that the new test, with its heavy emphasis on knowledge of the country’s founding documents and civil liberties, has the potential to change the mindset and world view of an entire generation of Chinese youth.

Until now, American culture has been largely exported through Hollywood. And until now, the SAT has largely been a predictable and monotonous examination full of tricky words like “legerdemain” and “ignominious”. Its “crammability” led to its popularity in this part of the world. Every year, tens of thousands of mainland students flock to Hong Kong to sit the SAT. Last year, China sent about a quarter of a million students to study in the US.

I’ve been teaching the SAT exam for nearly 10 years. Those of us in the Asian SAT test prep industry understand that perfect scores are no indicator of future academic or workplace success. They’re an indicator of a willingness to memorise.

All that’s about to change.

From 2016, every SAT will include passages from the founding documents, including the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Further reading will come from the texts inspired by these documents, such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, works by Henry David Thoreau, and essays by Elizabeth Cady Stanton on women’s suffrage.

Ask your typical Chinese kid today about voting rights and they’ll draw a blank. To do well on the new SAT, Chinese students will need to cover the breadth of these foreign issues and philosophies, from American political parties and individual civil liberties to protecting the individual against potential abuses of power by the state. How, exactly, does the average Chinese student cram for that?

In some ways, the US College Board has created a test as un-Chinese as they come.

Not surprisingly, the new test has people in Asia worried. Within the industry, test preparation giants are scrambling to put together material based on the sample questions released. Critics say that the new focus on US founding documents unfairly puts international students at a disadvantage. The fact is, Chinese students may want to go to America, but most have no clue what America’s about.

But this, to me, is the beauty of the new SAT. I believe it will trigger a new type of test prep, one that can change the world. In a couple of years, hundreds of thousands of students all over China will be poring over the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights with the same zeal and tenacity they once reserved for quadratic equations. I hope they’ll come away with more than just high test scores.

If the new SAT succeeds, it will be the first time America is able to systematically shape the views, beliefs and ideologies of hundreds of thousands of Chinese students every year, not through a popular television show or a politician’s speaking tour, but through what the Chinese care about most – exams.


China’s Academic Obsession with Testing

China’s Academic Obsession with Testing

By Kelly Yang, Published in the Washington Post, Dec 2013:

This month, for the third time in a row, the Asians kicked American butt — academically, that is. On reading, science and math, students in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore earned the top scores on the international PISA test. U.S. students scored below or near the worldwide average, prompting suggestions that American education as a whole is failing. As a Hong Kong educator, I’m confident that the last thing the United States needs to copy is Chinese education.

Here in this city of 2 million parents , there are 2 million school principals, all ordering after-school academic courses like appetizers in a restaurant. Parents are the headmasters because our schools no longer control the education process. A 2011 survey estimated that 72 percent of Hong Kong high school students receive tutoring outside of school, often until late in the evening. So when our schools get out, the school day is just beginning for most kids.

Long before the term “tiger mom” was coined, Chinese parents had a history of obsessing over academics. The other day, I overheard two parents talking about their sons. One mom turned to the other and shrieked, “I found him in his room, just sitting there. Not doing anything!” The other gasped and shook her head in disbelief.

Read full version here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/chinas-academic-obsession-with-testing/2013/12/19/cd05b032-6744-11e3-8b5b-a77187b716a3_story.html

On the Importance of Learning to Lose

On the Importance of Learning to Lose

By Kelly Yang, Published in the South China Morning Post in Nov 2015.

Recently, I got a phone call from my son’s soccer coach. My son’s team didn’t win the tournament but the coach called to ask whether I’d like to order a trophy for my son anyway.

I didn’t know what to say. Sure, I’d heard of participation prizes, but I was expecting little pencils and erasers, not full-blown trophies that looked exactly like the ones the real winners got.

These days, even the term “winner” could land you in hot water in some circles. Today, it’s all about every child at his or her own pace and how we’re all “winners”. It’s little wonder that coaches now hand out awards like sweets, and trophies and awards are an estimated US$3-billion-a-year industry in North America alone. And while I understand that, in things like art perhaps there’s no clear winner, we’re talking about sports here; clearly not every child is a winner in every sport.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t very good at sports. In fact, I don’t remember winning a single game in any sport. That’s because I have the hand-to-eye coordination of a chicken.

I’m the type of person who manages to fall over even when I’m just walking on a perfectly flat surface. And, while growing up it was painful to always be the last person to be picked for the team, I did learn something really valuable , too – how to lose.

Learning how to lose, I think, is one the most important lessons for a child, perhaps even more so than how to win. It teaches resilience, perseverance and patience. From losing constantly in sports, I learned that things don’t always go my way. And that’s OK. And to pick myself back up.

Read the full version here: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1880102/sporting-nature-kids-hong-kong-and-elsewhere-need-learn-how

Technology’s Detrimental Influence on Society

Technology’s Detrimental Influence on Society

By Bo Wen Zhu, HKIS, 13 years old

In the past few decades, technological growth has been astronomical. The 21st century has brought a host of new gadgets onto the playing table, all fought over by different companies for profit. Seemingly every month, an innovative product is developed with limitless potential, each more powerful than the previous one. Computers hundreds of thousands of times more powerful than those that piloted the Apollo spaceships are ubiquitous in offices and schools. Even more shocking is the fact that we possess calculators whose computing power is thousands of times higher than the ones that took up entire rooms just 3 decades ago. Though the benefits of the rapidly developing technology might seem greatly beneficial to society, ubiquitous and powerful technology is greatly detrimental to society’s growth, happiness, and security. For one, the more powerful a piece of technology is, the more damage will occur if used inappropriately. Secondly, with all of our private information stored in the form of binary in huge databases around the globe, it gives hackers an advantage: the more locations and forms our private information is stored in, the more ways there are to breach their security systems and obtain them. Finally, the development of powerful technology and making it ubiquitous will also inevitably lead to their usage in warfare.


First of all, individuals with negative intentions have always found ways to utilize any type of technology to use against a society’s members. A prominent example is the usage of fax machines in the 1970s to send ink-consuming spam. A sender looped a piece of black construction paper in a fax machine, sending endless copies to an unfortunate victim’s machine. It will consume all of the victim’s ink in a matter of minutes, causing a lot of inconvenience. Another more commonplace example that everyone with an email account has experienced will be spam messages clogging up inboxes. Potentially, these messages contain viruses and malware that will increase inconvenience to society. Therefore, if we have a plethora of gadgets, then we will have a plethora of inconveniences to deal with.


Moreover, it is important to note that although the inconveniences caused by spam is a problem worth targeting, a greater, darker problem emerges from it. As technology use increases, we are storing more and more of our private information on them, and in the “information cloud”. Take, for example, our very own HKID. The small chip inside them provides a link into one of Hong Kong’s many databases, containing our address, phone number, email address, and basically every bit of information that we will feel uncomfortable giving out. These databases are equipped with high-security features to prevent hacking, but hackers are always trying to be one step ahead. The security features of a U.S database failed a matter of days ago, leaking the private information of 18 million Americans into the hacker’s hands. If technology usage increases, so will the storage of information on them, and the more vulnerable that information will be. Think about it this way: If your houses’ door has a lock, a fingerprint scanner, and a key car reader, each able to open the door on its own, doesn’t a thief have more methods of opening the door? If your same door only had a fingerprint scanner, then the thief will have only one method of gaining access to your house. The same can be said about data security: the multiple sources represent the multiple methods of gaining access to the information. We are unconsciously helping hackers by increasing our usage of technology. If hackers do succeed, isn’t both society’s privacy and security under jeopardy?


Finally, it is important to note that a surfeit of new and powerful technology will inevitably lead to their modification for usage in warfare. We humans, with all our fancy gadgets, think we are superior to all the other animals and different from them. However, we too are a work of nature, and as a result conflict is woven deep into our natural instinct. We will inevitably approach a piece of powerful technology, such as computers, and try to link it with methods to produce great weaponry. In this case, the powerful computers’ components evolved into drones, guiding appendages for surface-to-air missiles, GPS trackers for intercontinental ballistic missiles, self-guiding depth charges, and an overwhelming amount of weaponry capable of being compared to the U.S arsenal. This dark point is outlined perfectly in a famous quote: “You can’t say that society does not progress, for in every war they kill you in a new way.” Does this sound good to society as a whole? Absolutely not.


Proponents of the opposite side of the argument has pointed out that the advance in technology has led to a great increase in society’s happiness due to increased convenience. Although this argument seems solid and valid, it is a common misconception that the proponents have failed to notice is just an illusion. Michael Sandel’s award-winning book “Justice” provided an intensive study and insightful analysis of this exact claim. By gathering data, it has been revealed that the reason why the technology seems to have greatly increased happiness is because of everybody’s utilitarian attitude when it comes to assessing a society’s many aspects. In simpler words, a utilitarian seeks to find the overall amount of happiness and satisfaction within a community, glossing over the individual aspects.


Putting this into an example might aid comprehension of this complicated claim. After the invention of the television, economical benefits skyrocketed and families rejoiced at a new method of entertainment, satisfying even the most critical utilitarian analyst. How, you might ask? Well, a utilitarian looks at a society with this common question: How well can this society be utilized to work? In other words, is the current situation of the society enabling it to provide benefits to make further improvements. However, to carry out the changes, the society’s overall satisfaction and happiness of its workers are needed, which ensure an appropriate working attitude.


However, the problem is that everyone is looking at a society through utilitarian lenses when assessing the impact of technology on it. After all, doesn’t everyone want to improve the society they themselves live in? Due to this, individual happiness and satisfaction is overlooked. Did utilitarians consider the many obese individuals who gained ten too many pounds being a couch potato? No. Did utilitarian consider the academic time wasted by a child because his favorite show was in a rerun? No. Did the utilitarian consider what all this will lead to? No! In fact, this will lead to their worst nightmare: a decrease in society’s usefulness. Why then, did they fail to notice such a glaring problem? That is because of, alas, their habit of analyzing communities as a whole and disregarding individual circumstances. However, those circumstances still have weight, and will add up eventually. Thus, although the technology seems to have incurred a great sense of convenience and happiness in a society, the individual cases of inconveniences will balance out, if not overcome, the conveniences that lead to a world utilitarians dream about.


In conclusion, a flourishing society need not a plethora of high-tech computers, sophisticated communication systems, and highly intricate machinery. If any of them fall into control of the wrong hands, then they will cause as much, if not more, inconvenience as they provide convenience. Furthermore, it is important to consider data security as an important aspect, as hackers will have multiple sources to target because of an increased usage in data-storing technology. Finally, the most detrimental to society both individually and as a whole, is the evolution of technology onto the battlefield. Society can benefit greatly from an amazing piece of technology, but at what expense? What if the very technology the smartphones we use today will be used to take the lives of unfortunate individuals on a battlefield in the form of tracer bullets? Technology is required for progression of society, but at what cost? What if the evolution of technology will make them so powerful that someday it will take over your job?