HK Magazine Archive

Leading Ladies: Shirley Man, Summerbridge Hong Kong

Summerbridge Hong Kong is a non-profit that organizes summer English programs for underprivileged local secondary school students.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 March, 2016, 4:06pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:59pm

The Executive Director of Summerbridge Hong Kong talks about how she got involved in social work and gives her take on education in Hong Kong.

“I think Hong Kong people should really step back and think about what education means and what kind of childhood you want to provide.”

I was born and raised in Hong Kong.

My grandparents are from a small village in the New Territories. We spent summers there—it was very different from city life. My grandparents were farmers, so we got to see the other side of Hong Kong.

I went to local girls’ primary and secondary schools. Ever since secondary school I knew I wanted to be a social worker. I went to Baptist University and majored in social work.

My first job was with a private local school: students from that school had pretty rough family backgrounds. Some of the boys lived in children’s homes.

I started doing workshops for Summerbridge, talking about youth issues with the teachers during orientation.

I got to know the directors there. At the time they were looking for [another] director, so it was perfect: I loved it.

I feel very lucky because not everyone can tell people they love their job.

Every morning when I wake up, I feel excited to come to Summerbridge.

Because of the [education] system, students in Hong Kong work very hard. They really do care about their education from a very early age.

At the same time, I don’t agree with the [Hong Kong] approach.

The Hong Kong system never really promotes creativity or critical thinking.  

My niece was being taught about how to answer questions and say certain things—to me, that’s not really the way you should educate your kid, because at the end of the day, they don’t know who they are.

I think parents forget what education is really about. Hong Kong people should step back and think about what education means, what children really need, and what kind of childhood you want to provide.

It’s sad to see it getting out of hand but it’s the pressure: Everyone feels it’s the only way to get your students on the so-called path to success.

I think young people’s voices are not being heard. We talk to them, and it’s amazing what kinds of ideas they have.

I saw a video about a boy who got into the top three secondary schools: they interviewed the mother and she was very excited, but the boy just looked miserable.

Although it sounds really naïve, I think students sometimes forget to have fun. Life is more than just going to school. We need to provide a healthy childhood: let them play!

We always tell our students that learning can be fun. We want them to own their education.

Learn more about Summerbridge Hong Kong at