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【The Standard:Study in the UK】The hard and soft option

Boarding 101


WORDS OF encouragement and a healthy realization of soft skills in the modern world can help our children get the best from life.


Hong Kong parents’ growing awareness that their children require not only solid academic qualifications but also a balanced mix of soft and hard skills so they can fit in at their future places of work is an area which I am now passionate about – driving it home during seminars and consultation sessions.


Back in my day, parents barely dared to look beyond academic success as being the most desirable outcome of an independent school education.


The overwhelming feeling was that students had to secure top grades to get into a top university, which would in turn enable them to secure a prestigious job as a professional.


I cannot say that my boarding school education did not help to cement key hard skills such as proficiency in English, certificates from reputable universities, familiarity with computer systems and an admirable typing speed, not to mention vast subject-specific knowledge.


I remember a great line from one article I read, and it’s well worth cherishing: “While hard skills may get your foot in the door, soft skills will keep you there.”


The world of business is evolving at breakneck speed. Related to this, Hong Kong parents should recognize that they do have an indirect role in their children’s futures.


A* grades are not to be frowned upon, but there needs to be much deeper encouragement which crosses into the realms of promoting soft skills, independent decision-making and risk- taking.


It is all very well having 10 A* grades, but what about being patient, flexible and having the ability to speak confidently and honestly with others?


Of course, parents are not solely responsible for shaping the mind-set of their child and I have met more than a few head teachers and tutors who go out of their way to preach that there is no shame in being wrong or second best. It does not matter if one’s first voluntary talk in front of the whole class leads to a small panic attack. We all have to start somewhere, and soft skills can only be honed through a willingness to try.


I will never forget one cold day in the town of Holt, Norfolk, and my last year at boarding school. My father visited me and uttered the following the words, roughly: “We want you to get the best grades possible, but more than that we want you to be a confident human being with something special to give back to Hong Kong.”


I think he helped to map out my own future.


Samuel Chan is the managing director of Britannia StudyLink.

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