Why pop star Agnes Chan as Hong Kong’s education secretary would be a stroke of genius
Philip Yeung says the Unicef ambassador with degrees in child psychology and education is tailor-made to take charge of Hong Kong’s calcified public education system and free its schools of bureaucratic tunnel vision
I fail to understand this misplaced faith in over-testing. Haven’t 1,300 years of imperial examinations in China taught us anything about the evils of rote learning ? Those notorious exams sucked the brightest Chinese brains into the sterile study of literary classics. If we are serious about technological innovation, then unshackle students from exam-driven learning. What our system needs is a major overhaul, such as ending the hated Territory-wide System Assessment.
Common sense dictates that if a school excels, it deserves greater autonomy. But why must it charge fees? Tell me this is not impoverishing public education – creating two separate streams, one for those who can afford quality, and another for those who can’t. The direct subsidy scheme is an abomination, a naked social injustice that would not be tolerated in an open society. Hong Kong stands alone in its notoriety.
While Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor faces an uphill fight amid pressing social issues, from a universal pension to housing, she will enjoy all-party support in education reform. When a root-and-branch change sweeps our school system, she will detoxify the social atmosphere.
Now is the time for professional educators to take charge. Chan studied social child psychology at the University of Toronto and then earned a PhD in education from Stanford, to which she famously sent her three sons. Our calcified system doesn’t need a hard-nosed bureaucrat with tunnel vision. We need someone with a velvet touch and an iron will who can think laterally about education. Chan is such a person: as a charismatic singer, she knows how to connect with people. As a Unicef ambassador and fundraiser for the Soong Ching-ling children’s fund, she is no ivory tower educationalist, but a pragmatist with a big heart to do big things for children.
The ministerial accountability system is designed for people just like Chan. Bold-thinking, streetwise and deeply caring, she seems tailor-made for this role. She would be an inspired choice.
Philip Yeung is a former speechwriter to the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and an academic consultant. [email protected]