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A World Without Comfort Zone
24 January 2017
Arnold Chan (BBA 2010) is a winner in life in the eyes of many: 10A’s in HKCEE, a job at an international finance corporation, a Harvard MBA, he has achieved it all. However, this young elite refuses to conform to mainstream values and does the unexpected. He gave up his corporate job to devote himself to education and set up Teach4HK. The non-profit organisation recruits university graduates to teach at schools in low-income communities and serve on the frontline. It is Arnold’s hope that he can change the world through education one step at a time. His dedication earned him the Hong Kong Youth Service Award 2016 late last year. His experience perfectly demonstrates that the meaning of life is defined by the choices you make.
Arnold (2nd from left) is passionate about promoting education equality. The Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups recognised his effort by presenting him the Hong Kong Youth Service Award 2016
The 28-year-old with a boyish look often counts his blessings. Arnold feels fortunate that the educational system allowed him to identify and take advantage of his gifted academic strength, which enabled him to get 10A’s in HKCEE and enter CUHK Business School through early admission.
He recollects choosing the Global Business Studies program for two reasons. One was its unique joint program design by three universities. It offered students the chance of a lifetime to study six months each in Hong Kong, the U.S. and Denmark where they could learn in an academic setting and understand different cultures. Another feature that drew him in was the humanitarian atmosphere of CUHK. “Business students often have their eyes on the global economy only and overlook other social issues. A comprehensive university could widen my worldview.”
The decision turned out well for him. Arnold did not only make friends with students from other majors through the CUHK English debate team. The training that emphasised mutual feedback opened up his way of thinking. He also boosted his presentation skills and became a good team player through frequently participating in business case competitions on behalf of CUHK.
Arnold (2nd from right) joined Goldman Sachs after graduation. He is having a good time with colleagues at a company networking event
After graduation, Arnold was recruited by leading finance company Goldman Sachs and embarked on a three-year journey that accelerated his personal growth. He was a financial analyst responsible for identifying corporate investors in need of asset management at that time. Most of his clients were insurance companies and retirement funds in Hong Kong and Taiwan. “My company was willing to give young new graduates a chance to shine. I was able to have solo meetings with clients after only six months. I had to do a lot of preparations in the progress, which helped me become more mature rapidly.”
Whilst Arnold enjoyed the challenging learning environment of the investment bank and liked meeting and communicating with clients, his interest for financial products was lukewarm. After three years in the company, he decided to enrol in the Harvard University MBA program and contemplate the next step of his life.
Arnold (left, far back) and his team as they plan for Teach4HK
Arnold admits that growing up he has been conforming to mainstream norms and values and did not have much of his own voice. He came to the crossroads one year into his Harvard MBA: Should he continue to live up to societal expectations or should he take a step back and listen to his heart?
The dilemma triggered a passion he has had since a young age. When he was a junior secondary school student, he participated in the Children Council where he studied the issue of child poverty and visited cubicle apartments in Hong Kong. He was haunted by the memories of impoverished children deprived of basic necessities, not even owning a desk.
Meanwhile, Teach4America also made an impression on Arnold. The American NGO enlists university graduates to teach in underprivileged schools in remote areas across the U.S. This program aims to combat education inequality caused by the widening wealth gap. In the summer before he began his study at Harvard, he had volunteered at Teach4China and visited project teachers who taught in remote communities in the mountains. He was deeply inspired by their vision and commitment.
In the end, he made a life-changing decision — he took a one-year break to start a similar program in Hong Kong with friends who shared his passion, which then became Teach4HK.
Arnold expresses his gratitude to supporters of Teach4HK in the second inauguration ceremony of the fellowship program
Arnold thinks that Teach4HK does not only offer underprivileged children a chance to receive equal education, it also fosters future leaders who truly understand teaching on the frontline. They can continue to improve the educational system after they complete the one-year program regardless of the field they pursue.
He points out that although Hong Kong has no shortage of teachers, there is room for improvement when it comes to education equality. The rate of university acceptance for underprivileged students is five times lower than students from better-off families. Therefore, Teach4HK specifically targets the needs of underprivileged students by offering tutorials, support for extra-curricular activities, and career and life planning. “Our project teachers have fewer classes to teach. They can spend more time on counselling students. We also recruit university graduates from different academic disciplines in hopes to bring more diversity to extra-curricular activities. For example, teachers who are journalism graduates can organise junior reporter programs. In addition, we also match schools with corporate resources through our corporate partners, such as field trips to biotech companies, to help students understand their career options and open their eyes.”
The debut session of Teach4HK fellowship began in the 2015-2016 academic year with three schools and six teachers participating, benefiting more than 2,000 underprivileged students. Additionally, Teach4HK has received tremendous support from partners and advisers. Other than receiving HK$1 million grant from the Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development Fund, it has also formed a core partnership with the D. H. Chen Foundation. In the second year of the program, the number of participating schools has doubled to six and the number of participating teachers has jumped to 11.
Arnold (left) attends a forum on education policy organised by the SCMP and shares the stage with veteran educators
Since completing his Harvard MBA studies last year, Arnold has devoted himself to Teach4HK full time. He hopes to expand the organisation using his business knowledge. He advises young people to take advantage of their strengths to make a life for themselves. He believes that life is a series of multiple-choice questions, and the decision-making is always in your hands.
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