Finland moving to Topic based learning

Finland has been the envy of much of the modern world in the field of education/schools and has proven that it can produce top results with only minimal testing (one standardized test when they are 16) and almost no homework, emphasizing play and creativity. A still radical concept for many countries (including Hong Kong!). Not content on its already impressive and by some measure revolutionary progress Finland is pressing on with even more fundamental reform changing the core of its system away from Subjects to emphasizing Topics with even more emphasis on play!

This is exciting on many levels; imagine a classroom setting where instead of being taught Maths it will be about “Middle Eastern relations” which might cover history, economics, maths and geography or “Animal Conservation in Africa” which would cover the same elements but also include the Sciences. Schools do this today in the form of special projects but it is not at the core of the program and rarely comprehensive focusing still in a very subject-specific manner even though real life today does not function that way (unless you are an academic!). This concept of “joyful learning” is something we could really do a lot better at in Hong Kong!

Full article available here:

How parents can help Hong Kong create the next Google

Hong Kong’s telecommunications, transport and talent are among the very best in the world. Low taxes, efficiency and world-class infrastructure make the territory highly attractive to business start-ups. In a  Forbes article this year, Hong Kong was named first in “The World’s Top 4 Tech Capitals To Watch (After Silicon Valley and New York)”. With a  cosmopolitan population and a growing base of angel investors, our city has the potential to develop into a major regional start-up centre.

I have worked in Hong Kong’s technology sector for two decades, and it seems to me there is some room for improvement.

Despite the positive atmosphere and increased activity among the start-up community in recent times,   tech entrepreneurs are much more abundant in other Asian countries than in Hong Kong. So what can we do to encourage a more vibrant start-up culture?

When I started Outblaze more than 15 years ago, the local technology scene was dire. I was  often obliged to educate business acquaintances – including potential partners – by outlining the true potential of the internet. At the time, it was incredibly difficult to explain why our new business was a worthwhile venture. Prospective employees were sceptical of working for a cash-strapped start-up.

Thankfully, today those attitudes have changed radically: technology has become pervasive in everyday life and new tech opportunities are much more readily grasped by the business community. We all use Google, Wikipedia and Facebook on our digital devices, yet we tend to forget that the oldest of t

hese brands – Google – is   just a teenager. The success of young technology entrepreneurs is celebrated everywhere. Technology start-up fever is sweeping the world.

These are undoubtedly positive developments, but the global surge of technology entrepreneurship means that Hong Kong is merely moving in lockstep  with other markets; we are not producing any more start-ups than our neighbours and, in fact, the overall number employed in the local technology scene remains relatively low. Hong Kong needs to supercharge the entrepreneurship trend.

I believe parents hold the key to strengthening our start-up ecosystem. More specifically, the parents of “millennials” – children


born in the 1980s and 1990s,  who are going to be our entrepreneurs of tomorrow.  A similar point was passionately debated at a panel I led at the recent StartmeupHK Venture Forum.

Hong Kong puts great emphasis on traditional Chinese values such as “face” and “respect for family”. The Chinese virtue of filial piety is   deeply ingrained in Hong Kong society, extolled in literature and culture. Because it is common for young  adults here to live with their parents well into their 30s, local parents often remain closely involved in their children’s lives.

In Hong Kong, parents have great influence over the adult decision-making  of their offspring. I remember vividly how some of our earliest university graduate recruits had to ask 8parental permission to join Outblaze when we were a start-up in the 1990s.

Today’s parents are beginning to accept that a job at a company  such as Google might just be superior to one at Citicorp or Morgan Stanley, but that’s still not enough. We need those same parents to encourage their children to work for a start-up or even convince them to set up a company of their own.

Society encourages us to revere successful people and to strive to match their achievements. As a result we often concentrate on a positive outcome instead of the effort required to achieve any outcome at all, be it success or failure. Our intense focus on attaining a desirable end point is a form of myopia, because we routinely neglect to appreciate the sweat, toil and occasional failures required to achieve success.

From our earliest school years, standardised education teaches us to avoid failure at all cost. This is a short-sighted miscalculation because success without failure is merely a lucky coincidence: it is by failing that we learn how to succeed.

Fear of failure and the need to save face are so deeply ingrained in the Hong Kong community that it has become difficult to accept any significant level of risk-taking. This attitude is often passed on to our children, for whom we want good, safe jobs.

We are doing our children a disservice. Parents of the millennial generation ought to consider the following:

Only five companies have exceeded US$500 billion in market capitalisation and  three of them are tech companies – Apple, Microsoft and Cisco. The five largest US companies by market cap at this time include no fewer than three tech companies – Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Many of the biggest companies by market capitalisation today,  such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, are still quite young and most did not even exist when we were children. There is a decent chance that your son or daughter will be a pioneer in the kind of company that does not yet exist today.

The richest phase of learning often begins after the completion of formal education, when one enters the workforce full time. Working for a cash-strapped, lean, management-by-crisis company (like a start-up) teaches efficiency, independence, a strong tactical approach and makes you more grateful for opportunities and resilient in character. This kind of experience is much more valuable than an MBA. Parents wield incredible influence over their children, even if they may not always appreciate this. Encourage your children to join a start-up or to set up their own company, and lend your love and emotional support to their cause.

This article first appeared on the South China Morning Post on 22nd December, 2013

If Schools don’t tailor for you, tailor it for yourself

13 year old Logan Laplante tells us how he “hackschooled” his way into a tailor made education program that suited him best and the results, so far, seem obvious. Ultimately his message is that it’s about personal health and happiness (something all Parents generally wish for their Kids) and that doing something that inspires you personally will deliver better results with emphasis on physical and mental fitness, not just academic results. While this isn’t news to many of us we somehow don’t seem to practice this enough, especially with our children as they sit in the classroom going through a standardized curriculum 8 hours a day (not to mention ECA). Listen to his inspiring speech to learn more.

While there is naturally a lot of praise for this eloquent and smart young teenager, I think not enough credit has been given to his presumably very proud and happy parents. Afterall, it was their decision to change the program and go against the mainstream of “drone” education and it takes a lot of courage to do this especially because it is taking a relatively big chance on your Kids. Bravo to the Laporte’s (as a family).

Scratch, a great way to teach your Kids how to code

I’ve always been a big supporter of teaching children how to code at a very early age. My Son started coding when he was 7-8 years old and I already think that’s too late. The software I used for that is called Scratch and it’s a great free tool to teach kids the fundamentals of coding. In a world that is largely run by Software which is effectively code, not knowing how to program is a little bit like being able to read but not to write.

Mitch Resnick led the group that developed Scratch over at MIT and listen to what inspired him and why he thinks your children need to learn how to code too!