It's not about who's first

Compiled by Mabel Sieh

Mabel Sieh talks to two principals whose students have been shortlisted in this year's Student of the Year competition. While both hope their students are selected, they also want all students to look beyond the competition

Compiled by Mabel Sieh |

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Dr Lau Siu-ling

PLK Choi Kai Yau School

Why do I want to encourage my students to take part in the competition?

I think this is a very meaningful competition because it recognises different kinds of talents among students, not just one. And it coincides with my own belief in education: everyone is good at something. 

Hong Kong is full of competition, and many students seem to be studying for exam results, rather than for the love of learning. But too much competition goes against my motto to "Be happy in learning". 

To study well, you need to love what you learn and enjoy it. Educators have a responsibility to make the environment enjoyable and conducive to learning for everyone. That's why in our school we have mixed-ability classes, not streaming. And we don't announce students' positions after exams at the end of the year. 

This year, students will have a chance to inspire one another to learn. I'm always happiest when I see my students study together and collaborate in lessons, rather than just competing with one another every day. 

What do I wish for my students?

Of course I want you to win the competition. But what I want more is for you to gain the best experience and enjoy the process. In life, there will be lots and lots of competition, and it will never seem to end. So, don't compete for first place; compete for excellence and to improve yourself. Learn how to relax and be happy no matter what, for that is the key to effective, lifelong learning. 

I also encourage you to learn to take the responsibility to take care of yourself. You live a comfortable life, protected by many people who love you and help to serve your everyday needs. But you can still learn to do things for yourself. It will help you build up your confidence and courage to face difficulties in the future. Also, don't rush though life. Take your time to chat with friends, take time to reflect, and make time for yourself. 

Lee Chi-sam


NTHYK Yuen Long District Secondary School

Why do I want to encourage my students to take part in the competition?

Yuen Long is a remote area in Hong Kong and is considered a "rural village". The students here don't necessarily get a chance to go out to the city. Their lives are here. Just imagine how much it would cost for a whole family from here to travel to Tsim Sha Tsui or Central to see the fireworks or a parade at Lunar New Year. They just can't afford it. 

So, this competition is an opportunity for them to be exposed to and communicate with the outside world. As a principal, I'm thankful that such an opportunity provided to us by South China Morning Post.

Although my students have already won many awards within the school district, this competition will take them to the next level and stretch their potential even further. They will get to know other students outside their home area, which will help to open up their minds to accept more challenges in life. 

What do I wish for my students?

I want you to develop your talents with a goal of serving Hong Kong. As I always say to you, grow up to be leaders. Don't allow yourselves to be limited by where you live or your family backgrounds. 

I want each of you to start building your character while you are young and in school. Academic results are important in Hong Kong, but your character is also very important; it defines who you are. 

As our teachers share with you in morning assemblies, we encourage you to learn to respect your parents, teachers and - in the future - your supervisor and boss. Respect and submission are good traditional values in Chinese culture, and we need to cherish them. 

 To the students who have been shortlisted, I congratulate you on your success thus far. I'm very proud of your achievements. And I want you to know the celebration of you has already begun - even before the final results are announced. So, be happy for yourselves and celebrate now!