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Thursday 03-Nov-2016
【SCMP Education Post:親子關係】 Extraordinary CEO, extraordinary mum

This is the last column in a mini-series of write-ups focusing on the role of parents in their children’s education and life outside of school. This time, I refer to an intriguing interview with Managing Director of Million Group Holdings Limited, Anthea Lo, whose parenting philosophy certainly errs on the side of liberal whereby grades are not the be all and all ...


Anthea Lo is flying high. Having graduated with a master’s degree from The University of New South Wales back in the ‘90s, her career has gone from strength to strength. She is the Managing Director of Million Group Holdings and the proud owner of a popular hotel in the upmarket Hong Kong district of Mong Kok.

Yet, Anthea is not just an extraordinary CEO. She is also an extraordinary mother of two sons who mean the world to her. Extraordinary in the sense that her two sons are perhaps not your typical technology wizards as they are just as content to satisfy themselves with the wonders of nature, reading, museums and music.


Throughout this interview, Anthea’s sense of rationality, particularly in relation to balancing her children’s interests and time, touched me. Her elder son, Hamish, was not pushed into receiving extensive tutoring early on in his childhood and he was encouraged to reveal his own interests. Hamish loved piano and drawing, thus Anthea and her husband, a Rugby School alumni, took him to classes.


I think the point here is to let children become more autonomous in their decision-making. Once again, Hamish was the one to decide when to give up playing piano as he became eager to learn nunchucks. With skiing and diving two of Hamish’s other great passions, Anthea and I concurred that taking exams for extra-curricular activities to enhance a child’s portfolio should not be forced upon children. Children should be given room to breathe and enjoy what they want to - even if nunchucks may not impress a school’s admissions team as much as more traditional pursuits.


Anthea has enough on her plate with managing a group of people at work. Thus, the idea of being a “helicopter parent” as well would be exhausting. In Anthea’s words: “Many of my friends are overly anxious about their children’s academic results, they even set targets for their children to achieve as they progress with their study path.” For Anthea, though, raising children to have varied interests and enjoy them should be more of a priority. Hamish achieved 11 A*s at GCSE. He did not cram all hours of the day for these results so it begs the question - does less parental pressure from an early age reap long-term benefits for children?


A further discussion point was the cultivation of reading habits and the learning of Chinese from a young age. Anthea never forced her children to read English books, opting rather to place trust in her two sons’ schools to develop their interest in reading. Hamish and Hayman, Anthea’s younger son, both came to love reading, picking up books as they pleased. There were no strict patterns determined by their parents. Simply, Hamish loved reading Chinese books, especially Jin Yong novels, while Hayman currently likes reading English books.  

The fact that Hamish was reading Jin Yong novels in P4 is extraordinary but it also had knock-on effects in terms of influencing his parents’ decision to send him to the UK. Essentially, Anthea and her husband cleverly realised that they could sit back and relax when they sent Hamish abroad because they knew that that he had a strong command of Chinese already under his belt. As Anthea said: “my son’s Chinese language capability allowed us to let him study in the UK, without worrying that his mother language would be degraded.” Food for thought, clearly.

One final topic I would like to mention is school selection. For Anthea, it is all about matching a child’s characteristics with the school’s ethos. Realising that Hamish may not fit in well at the likes of Eton or Harrow, Anthea and her husband thought that he would “get along with students much better at Rugby”. Indeed, Rugby can offer a well-rounded education with perhaps less emphasis on academics.


Anthea had Hamish’s best interests at heart but there was never any pressure for him to go to the UK. Yet, she knew that exposure to a new culture and the broadening of his horizons would help him later in life. After a few years in the UK, Anthea talks eagerly about how much Hamish came out of his shell. From being “quite a quiet” boy, he blossomed into a talkative, happy teenager and certainly one of life’s go-getters.


Anthea’s parenting philosophy in a nutshell - consistency, encouragement, allowing room for development, freedom of choice and the idea that ‘it all comes naturally”. Words of wisdom from a very wise lady.


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With an entrepreneurial spirit spreading across online, print and broadcast media, Samuel is an award-winning educational consultant and celebrated columnist.

As a leader in the field of education, he was honoured with the British Council’s Study UK Alumni Award and his most prestigious achievement to date includes the founding of Hong Kong’s premier educational brands - Britannia StudyLink, Anglo Belgravia and Ascent Prep.

In addition to streamlining the UK independent school application process for Hong Kong families and spearheading the first official UKiset-accredited educational centre in Hong Kong, Samuel has led his company, Britannia, to becoming one of Asia’s leading brands with diverse clients and distinguished institutions ranging from Radley College to HSBC Bank and Hong Kong Telecom.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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