Feb 25, 2016–Kelly Yang is on the cover of Smart Parents magazine. In the cover spread, Kelly talks about education, how to motivate kids, and her new video series for kids. Check it out here! Also, check out the video here:
By Kelly Yang, Published in the South China Morning Post in Dec 2015.
For the past 10 weeks or so, I’ve been eating a bowl of noodles every Saturday lunch at a cheap noodle place near my office. Every time I go, I see a little girl behind the counter washing glasses and making drinks. She’s about 10. It’s hard work – the place is packed. Yet, every time I see her, she is bouncing around the kitchen with a smile on her face. She seems proud of the work she’s doing.
Recently, I worked up the courage to talk to her. I said “hello” and we started chatting in Putonghua. She told me she was the daughter of one of the waitresses. I asked her if working in a restaurant all day was hard. She said it was; Saturdays are busy, and sometimes it’s a lot of work, but she doesn’t mind.
She asked me why I always ate my noodles so quickly. That’s when I gave her my business card. I told her my office was close by, that we’re a leading learning centre in Hong Kong. “I know you have a job and everything,” I said, “But if you ever want to take a break from your job and pop over to take a Chinese class or something on a Saturday, come on over.”
“You wouldn’t have to pay,” I added. “It would be on the house.”
Her eyes widened as she took my card and my words registered and she dashed off to tell her mum. Walking out of the restaurant, I was never more grateful or happy. You see, it wasn’t totally random that I went up to the little girl; she reminds me of myself. When I was a little girl, about seven or eight, I, too, worked in a restaurant with my mum.
We had just got to the US and life was very hard. One day, my mum got a job as a waitress at a restaurant. But there was just one problem: there was nobody to look after me. As a last resort, my mum asked the restaurant boss whether she could take me with her. He said the idea of having a seven-year-old in the kitchen was preposterous. But my mum pleaded with him and he reluctantly agreed, on one condition: I make myself useful. That’s how I got my first job, working as a tiny waitress.
So much has changed since then. I was blessed to have good teachers even in terribly underfunded American public schools. No matter how bad the school, though, I always managed to find one good teacher. And, sometimes, that’s all you need to change your life – one good teacher. Which is why I jumped at the chance to teach the little girl in the restaurant. To be able to come full circle, from a little girl working in a restaurant, wondering if she will ever get a better life, to being able to give another little girl working in a restaurant a chance to realise her dreams, that’s a beautiful thing.
In December 2015, KYP teachers Rachael and Kelly led a group of KYP female students to debate against 99 other women from all around the world in the BBC 100 Women Global Debate. Read Kelly’s account of the experience:
Earlier this week, I led a group of spirited female students to debate against women from all around the world in the BBC 100 Women global debate. I watched as these girls ripped through questions like “Does a woman need to act like a man in order to lead?” They said things like, “You don’t have to wear pants in order to be a leader. All you need is your strength of will and, when it comes to that, women can easily match up to men.”
Hearing these young girls speak their minds with gusto and passion, I was never more optimistic about the future of women. At the same time, I couldn’t help but wonder: if this is the way girls start off – full of energy and the determination to go out and conquer the world – then why don’t more of them do just that? What happens along the way that stops them in their tracks?
Homework duty, that’s what. It’s the automatic expectation that women would and should take on the bulk of the child rearing, no matter how many hours they are working. Whether it’s making the cupcakes for the class birthday party or checking over spelling on a rainy Sunday afternoon, people still think of these activities as mum activities. Well, they’re not. They’re everyone activities.
By Kelly Yang, Published in the South China Morning Post, December 2014:
His hands glide across the pearly keys. His hair moves to the sound, like a tree swaying in the wind. His face is a highway of emotions – sorrow dancing with euphoria, pain melting into passion. Watching him is as moving as hearing him.
As I watched the piano superstar Lang Lang work his magic at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre last week, I thought of the long journey it took him to get to this stage. The six hours of daily practice starting at age three, the long separation from his mother in the middle of his childhood, his first teacher in Beijing who didn’t believe in him and told him to quit, the fight with his father afterwards which almost drove him to suicide … How was he able to succeed, despite these heartbreaking challenges?
After the concert, I sat down backstage with Lang Lang and his mother Zhou Xiulan to find out. His mother was a glowing picture of maternal pride. Watching her tell the story of their success, as she calls it, I got the sense that Lang Lang’s triumph was inevitable. He simply had to succeed. His parents pinned all their own dreams and hopes, crushed by the Cultural Revolution, onto their little boy.
Hearing her recall the hard times – Lang Lang practising for hours without air conditioning in the summer, in just his underwear, and in the winter without any heat – I couldn’t help but wonder, what about the kids today who don’t grow up like that? What about the kids who come from privilege and have a wealth of other options – do they have a chance to become the next Lang Lang?
Read the full version here: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1668165/lang-lang-talent-met-hard-work
By KYP Student Serena Chen, published in China Daily, May 2014:
This year, I finished the 10th grade in five months without stepping foot into a classroom. I wasn’t alone. In 2012, there were over 6.7 million students taking at least one online course. Here in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has recently become the first Hong Kong school to offer students the opportunity to earn credits through a massive open online course called MOOC. Already, the course has had 100,000 enrollments.
It’s easy to see why alternative education may be attractive here. Currently, in our local education system, there is too much emphasis on exams, not enough emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills, and not enough time for emotional development. When I was in school, I sometimes had teachers who would only start teaching right before the test, giving us all the answers we would need but not educating us. We were taught solely how to do the test, so this way, when the Day of Judgment came, we would all get good scores. It certainly smacks of cram school, and was equally limited in its long-term educational value. So it’s not surprising that currently there are 5,732 Hong Kong students attending United Kingdom boarding schools and in 2012, there were 11,335 Hong Kong students attending UK universities. People are looking abroad for better ways of learning, and I thought online schooling is worth exploring.
I was captivated by some obvious advantages online schooling offers. With an online school, my living room was my classroom. Some days when I wasn’t feeling well, I got up later and did less work. Other days I hit the ground running, finishing a week’s workload in a few hours. Gone were the days where I would struggle to keep up with an instructor going too fast, or fall asleep in class because I understood the lesson half an hour ago. If I didn’t do well the first time, I could always redo a lesson without worrying about holding others back.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”