Hong Kong should align academic pursuits with creativity

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 September, 2015, 5:31pm

Hong Kong is a small place. Everyone seems to know everyone else, especially in business or government. But the name of Yeung Kin-man is not so well known, yet earlier this month he donated HK$200 million to City University of Hong Kong.

This is among the largest private donations made by an individual to a Hong Kong institution to support higher education and research. He has attached no conditions to his generous gift.

Born and bred in Hong Kong, he is an outstanding yet low-key entrepreneur who breaks with commonly held perceptions of successful elites and billionaires. His down-to-earth attitude distinguishes him as a rare model in a society that places a high premium on fame and external attributes.

Mr Yeung is a top specialist in high-tech optical technology. He set up his business, Biel Crystal, on the mainland, in Shenzhen and Huizhou. He has used his exceptional foresight and innovation to great effect. Biel Crystal is now worth HK$110 billion.

He is living proof that you don't always need a degree to aim high in life.

Hong Kong places a huge amount of pressure on young people to enter university. The assumption is that getting the degree is what counts, rather than the usefulness of the content of the curriculum. This is the wrong way of looking at tertiary education. A degree serves primarily as proof of a certain level of qualification, and gets you a job interview. But it cannot guarantee a satisfactory job or fruitful life.

Achievement stems from determination, passion and perseverance. These qualities are embedded in the DNA of people like Mr Yeung and other successful leaders in society who don't have a coveted college degree to fall back on.

At a time when the government is highlighting the need for innovation, Yeung Kin-man's story showcases how we should be re-examining our tertiary education curricula. We should align academic pursuits with cutting-edge thinking and creativity to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems.

As we usher in the new academic year, I call on Hong Kong society to re-invigorate the pragmatic and diligent spirit traditionally found among Hong Kong people. As Mr Yeung has demonstrated, this spirit lives on in our city.

We should do our best to create an environment that truly supports innovation and creativity, to prevent more home-grown talent flowing out of Hong Kong.

Way Kuo, president, City University of Hong Kong