Se­cur­ing a bet­ter to­mor­row for Hong Kong

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF HKSAR -

As we cel­e­brate the 20th an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­uni­fi­ca­tion with the moth­er­land, it might be in­ter­est­ing to ex­plore some con­crete ways for build­ing a bet­ter to­mor­row for this great city. When it comes to a brighter fu­ture for Hong Kong, ed­u­ca­tion must rank as a top pri­or­ity. In this re­gard our new Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has al­ready made a good start, ini­tially through ad­di­tional gov­ern­ment fund­ing. How­ever, like most im­por­tant projects, money alone is not enough — it must be com­bined with great lead­er­ship, cor­rect strat­egy and con­sis­tent im­ple­men­ta­tion. Ac­ci­den­tally, I ac­quired some ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion poli­cies when I was ap­pointed by for­mer United States pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush to be a mem­ber of the Pres­i­dent’s Com­mit­tee on the Arts and Hu­man­i­ties (PCAH) in 1988. One of the com­mit­tee’s top pri­or­i­ties was to ex­am­ine the sta­tus of US ed­u­ca­tion be­cause of sev­eral con­cerns. Firstly US stu­dents were do­ing poorly in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions such as math, sci­ence, lan­guages and so forth. Se­condly the US econ­omy was quite weak in the 1980s and im­por­tant in­dus­tries such as au­to­mo­biles — which had been dom­i­nated by US mak­ers such as Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors — and elec­tronic prod­ucts such as tele­vi­sion sets — for­merly dom­i­nated by such firms as RCA and Zenith — were taken over by Ja­panese brands. Even the White House was us­ing Ja­panese TV and other de­vices. This brought up the ques­tion of whether US ed­u­ca­tion was in­fe­rior and neg­a­tively im­pacted the econ­omy and in­dus­tries.

An Ed­u­ca­tion Sub­com­mit­tee of PCAH was there­fore es­tab­lished to ex­am­ine and as­sess the ef­fec­tive­ness of the sys­tem and to pro­duce an Ed­u­ca­tion 2000 re­port. After two years of in-depth analy­ses, our con­clu­sion was that the US ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem was do­ing just fine. The The au­thor is the found­ing chair­man of World Eye Or­ga­ni­za­tion and World Cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion, as well as a for­mer mem­ber of the US Pres­i­dent’s Com­mit­tee for the Arts and Hu­man­i­ties.

poor exam re­sults were due to the fact that US stu­dents were en­cour­aged to spend more time think­ing, ask­ing ques­tions and play­ing, and less time mem­o­riz­ing. The dom­i­na­tion by Japan in the man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tors was prob­a­bly not the re­sult of poor US ed­u­ca­tion, but rather be­cause the world’s economies were rapidly switch­ing from tra­di­tional in­dus­trial bases to in­tel­lec­tual and high-profit high-tech bases such as in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and biotech­nol­ogy. But within a few years of our re­port, the world took no­tice of such com­pa­nies as Ap­ple, Mi­crosoft, Ge­netic, Am­gen and sub­se­quently Ya­hoo, Google and Ama­zon which have changed our lives for­ever in many ways.

Fur­ther­more, to date, the world’s two most eco­nom­i­cally strong and in­tel­lec­tu­ally pow­er­ful na­tions — US and Ger­many — both uti­lize an ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that en­cour­ages, in con­scious and sub­con­scious ways, creativ­ity and in­no­va­tion.

Creativ­ity is a term many peo­ple use but few de­fine. To me, it can be sum­ma­rized by 3Cs:

Cu­rios­ity — that is, en­cour­age chil­dren to be in­volved or play with what they are in­ter­ested in and ask lots of ques­tions. In fact, the im­por­tance of ask­ing ques­tions has been known for thou­sands of years in China. We all know that knowl­edge is of para­mount im­por­tance in life, that’s why in China knowl­edge is called “learn to ask”. Thus, know­ing the an­swer may not be knowl­edge, but know­ing to ask the right ques­tion cer­tainly is!

Courage — that is, when one finds a pro­ject worth­while do­ing, have the courage to pur­sue it even in the face of ridicule. The more in­no­va­tive you are, the more peo­ple will think that it is im­pos­si­ble. A good ex­am­ple is Al­bert Ein­stein’s rel­a­tiv­ity the­ory.

Con­ti­nu­ity — that is, be per­sis­tent even in the face of fail­ure and keep at it, be­cause very few im­por­tant projects are suc­cess­ful or ap­pre­ci­ated at first go. My good friend ac­tor Dustin Hoff­man once gave me this great ad­vice, which I fol­low re­li­giously: “In the words of Sa­muel Beck­ett: Fail, fail again — and then fail bet­ter”.

Taken to­gether, Hong Kong’s ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem will be much more ef­fec­tive and re­ward­ing, and the city’s mis­sion to build a suc­cess­ful in­no­va­tion in­dus­try more likely if the above lessons are learned. In this re­gard, the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and Shen­zhen’s com­mit­ment to high-tech is clearly demon­strated by the re­cent ap­point­ment of Wang Weizhong, for­mer vice-min­is­ter of sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, as its Party sec­re­tary.

Of course, there are many other sig­nif­i­cant mat­ters to make for Hong Kong be­com­ing a more com­pas­sion­ate, pros­per­ous and happy city, such as bet­ter and wiser health­care and wel­fare for Hong Kong cit­i­zens, es­pe­cially the rapidly in­creas­ing pop­u­la­tion of el­derly peo­ple. A more de­ter­mined ef­fort to help young peo­ple strengthen their faith in the fu­ture in Hong Kong by pro­vid­ing bet­ter hous­ing and other liv­ing con­di­tions is also vi­tal. In the end, a strong and able gov­ern­ment lead­er­ship is ob­vi­ously of ut­most im­por­tance to build­ing a bet­ter to­mor­row for Hong Kong.

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