Why are Hong Kong’s philanthropists so blinkered?

The Hong Kong skyline is testament to the generosity of the city’s philanthropists, but why are their enormous donations focused on so few causes when a changing world has created many that are more pressing, asks Stuart Heaver.

 

No sooner had Mark Zuckerberg announced he would be giving away 99 per cent of his equity in Facebook, to “advance human potential”, than a barrage of criticism began, many people dismissing his gesture as “ego-nomics” or “philanthro-me”.

In Hong Kong, though, where philanthropy has long been a major part of the social fabric and is responsible for some of the city’s most famous buildings and institutions, it’s harder to locate any fierce critics of super-rich donors. Despite generous tax breaks for charitable donations and weak regulation, few Hongkongers find it offensive when the gilded elite choose to indulge their ego with a university building on which their name is writ large. Even on the rare occasions when objections are raised – as in 2005, when the University of Hong Kong planned to rename its Faculty of Medicine after tycoon Li Ka-shing, who had pledged HK$1 billion – the final decision tends to favour the philanthropist.

Likewise, few Hongkongers seem to raise an eyebrow when super-wealthy individuals fund a prestigious art gallery while less fortunate people sleep in cardboard boxes, old folks scavenge for rubbish to make ends meet and families fret about the quality of the air their children breathe.

It’s a cruel paradox that while the gap between rich and poor widens and our environment deteriorates, Hong Kong remains one of the most charitable places on Earth. That’s why some in local NGOs and charitable foundations are calling for a new type of giving, called “catalytic philanthropy”, that jump-starts change in social and environmental issues close to home.

 

ACCORDING TO THE RECENTLY published 2015 Coutts Million Dollar Donors Report, philanthropy is expanding fast both in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Hong Kong saw 128 donations worth US$1 million or more in 2014, the total value of which was US$2.67 billion. This figure is greater than the combined total for Britain, Russia and Singapore. And given the mismatch in the size of the respective economies, it also compares very favourably to the mainland total of US$3.61 billion.

Lisa Genasci

According to the report, in recent years, the philanthropic sector in Hong Kong has grown dramatically. The number of registered tax-exempt charitable organisations jumped from 3,435 in 2000/01 to 7,592 in 2012/13, a rise of more than 120 per cent. On December 31 last year, the Inland Revenue Department published the updated list of charitable institutions and trusts of a public character, which are exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance. The list now runs to 714 pages and features more than 10,000 organisations.

Despite the impressive growth in giving, not a single million-dollar donation was made to an environmental cause in 2014. Globally, just 1.2 per cent of funds covered by the Coutts report went to projects related to the environment, which seems curious given the high media profile issues such as air pollution, water contamination, habitat destruction and climate chaos receive locally and internationally.

“I just don’t think people think about environmental issues as potential philanthropy,” says Lisa Genasci, of ADM Capital Foundation, which was established in 2006 by the partners of an investment firm who wanted to put something back into the region. The foundation is atypical as far as Hong Kong philanthropy is concerned in that it offers strategic funding and support to environmental conservation as well as children’s charities. While it does enjoy the support of a few local charitable foundations, Genasci admits it’s difficult to stimulate interest in environmental projects.

“I don’t do a lot of fundraising any more – it’s such a hard sell,” she says.

So where does all the money go?

 

To give an indication, in 2014, the five so-called mega-grants made in Hong Kong were given as follows: Joseph Tsai, the co-founder of Alibaba Group, donated US$1.18 billion to set up a private philanthropic trust; US$350 million was gifted by Ronnie Chan Chi-chung’s Morningside Foundation to Harvard’s School of Public Health, in the United States; the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust gave US$167 million to Chinese University, to establish a teaching hospital on its Sha Tin campus; the Galaxy Entertainment Group set up a corporate foundation with a pledge of US$167 million for the people of Macau; and Ronald Chao Kee-young, vice-chairman of family-owned Novel Enterprises, donated US$150 million to establish the Bai Xian Education Foundation, which aims to nurture future Asian leaders through scholarship programmes at top universities in the region.

Of course, mega-donations do not tell the entire story, but experts think this breakdown is pretty typical because the numbers show most Hong Kong philanthropists aim their generosity at higher education. This might explain why most buildings at local universities and hospitals are named after Hong Kong’s great and good. Of the 128 individual donations detailed in the Coutts report, 48 were made to centres of higher learning.

 

One expert who helped compile the data thinks cultural factors provide clues as to what money goes where. Professor Roger King is the founding director of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s Tanoto Centre for Asian Family Business and Entrepreneurship Studies and he firmly refutes the stereotype of the brash tycoon splashing cash to boost an already inflated ego.

“Sure, part of this is about a social legacy – not for personal ego, though, but for subsequent generations of the family to benefit from,” he explains.

King is part of the philanthropic family of late shipping magnate Tung Chao-yung – having married one of the patriarch’s daughters, Alice – and so is well placed to comment on business dynasty foundations such as the Tung Foundation, the Li Ka Shing Foundation, Morningside, the Shaw Foundation and the Tin Ka Ping Foundation.

According to King, the original wealth creator sets the agenda, and the motivations driving the philanthropy of his or her family are: to preserve their wealth for future generations; to preserve a legacy for the benefit of the family; and to preserve harmony in the clan and avoid conflict after the death of the family head.

 

King explains that Chinese business dynasties traditionally seek social capital that can be leveraged by future generations in a way that is not as common in the West, and that typically they will favour good causes in their communities – in Hong Kong and on the mainland – where the benefits will be observed and appreciated. This would explain why so many charitable foundations and trusts – as well as the buildings they finance – retain the family name and why tangible university and hospital wings remain so popular. It also suggests why environmental causes lose out; as one foundation executive jokes privately, “You can’t paint your family name on a panda.”

Even those charitable foundations and trusts that are progressive, and advised by the new growth industry of consultants and experts, remain influenced by their founder, who themselves are or were swayed by their own upbringing and life experiences.

Ronna Chao Wei-ting, chief executive of the Bai Xian Asia Institute – which, according to its website, “believes that education is the most critical tool in building a world of greater understanding, trust, and stability” – told the Coutts report that, “The philosophy goes back to the positive personal experiences of my father, [Hong Kong businessman] Ronald Chao, when he was a student at the University of Tokyo, in the late 1950s.”

David FongDavid Fong Man-hung, of the Fong Shu Fook Tong Foundation, told the compilers of the report, “My father had a special concern for those without parents.”

Well-endowed foundations aimed at causes dictated by the original wealth creator are not restricted to the Chinese business community. The Croucher Foundation was established after the death of businessman and keen sailor Noel Croucher, in 1980. Croucher was a self-made man from humble origins in England who started working life as a hotel bell boy in Macau and died a multimillionaire, living on The Peak.

“He was motivated by his own lack of education, so he wanted to ensure that young people in Hong Kong without the right family connections could still afford an excellent education,” explains foundation director David Foster. The Croucher Foundation has helped more than 1,000 scientists with Hong Kong connections undertake research or further their education. “He particularly did not want his name on the side of a building,” says Foster. “He was a very astute man and wanted to invest in people.”

There are variations on the theme but, in many cases, the driving force or general direction of altruism for these foundations was defined many decades ago, when the social and environmental landscape was very different.

Debra TanDebra Tan, director of China Water Risk, which is supported by the ADM Capital Foundation, says this approach is leaving some dangerous blind spots in charitable giving. Tan’s organisation is concerned about threats to China’s water supply and what she calls “the double whammy” of rapid glacial ice melt and sea-level rises that will affect 15 major Asian cities. Governments either have too much on their policy plates or simply don’t have the resources to examine the problem.

“This is where ‘catalytic philanthropy’ can fill a gap,” she says, meaning donations that will allow experts to start looking at a critical environmental issue that is being neglected, and seek solutions.

“The combined Hong Kong, China and Singaporean philanthropists’ efforts amounted to a shameful US$3 million,” she says, quoting a previous Coutts report. This apparent reluctance to fund important work in the environmental sector may also be related to the type of donor.

“Hong Kong is basically nouveau riche and, being an immigrant city, most people made their money in the 1960s, 70s and 80s,” Ronnie Chan told the South China Morning Post in 2013. “The nouveau riche show empathy because they remember what life was like before they succeeded.” It could be that this empathy favours social rather than environmental causes and, as Chan also indicates, the situation is much worse on the mainland, where any philanthropic gesture is complicated and giving to environmental causes is almost impossible because of political sensitivities.

 

“If you donate to the mainland, it’s not as simple as giving money. You need a lot of psychological resilience,” he told the BBC in 2014. “In mainland China, there are so many headaches.”

Even big hitter Jack Ma Yun, of Alibaba, who has set up his own, US$2.37 billion philanthropic trust, has been quoted as saying that, in the mainland, it is much easier for him to earn money than it is to give it away. Last year, he told the SCMP that, because many local charities lacked the infrastructure, legal systems and human resources to do a good job, it was difficult to pick a worthy target for one’s largesse.

Things appear to be changing in Hong Kong and the mainland, though.

“The younger generation are often better educated and Western-influenced,” says King. “Impact investing is more important for them. They want to kick something off and then get an NGO to take it on at a later stage and progress it. They like to stay with and manage a project, not just sign a big cheque and have their photo taken.”

One of the new breed is Annie Chen Ang-yee, of RS Group, a family investment house and one of the donors supporting ADM Capital Foundation’s environmental projects.

“I think the whole concept of philanthropy is now outdated,” says Chen, whose sophisticated investment strategy seeks a conventional level of financial return on her investments but prefers ethical com-panies and funds with an appreciation of their environmental foot-print. The return is used to finance the overheads and a generous grant-giving strategy.

“We are creating consequences, not just financial consequences,” she says. Even Chen admits, though, that “we don’t give that much to environmental causes – it looks very technical and it’s difficult to know where to start. That’s why we work with ADM.”

University of Hong Kong medical alumni stage a sit-in protest against the proposed renaming of the HKU’s Faculty of Medicine to the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, in Pok Fu Lam, in June 2005.

If King is correct and the traditional motivator for local philanthropy is to preserve wealth, create social capital for future generations and secure the involvement of younger family members, environmental projects look like a perfect fit.

“If you want a real family legacy, what better way than investing in your children’s and grandchildren’s environment and the air they will breathe, the water they will drink and the food they will eat,” asks Genasci, who concedes that some of her projects, such as those concerned with water supply, marine pollution, sustainable fashion and air quality, do not tick all the boxes for many donors.

“In environmental projects there is less focus on credit,” says Genasci, a deterrent for more traditional foundations. So for now, university buildings, research grants, schools, art galleries and hospitals are likely to remain the chief beneficiaries.

Cynics might regard it as egomania but there is a genuine culture and proud history of giving in Hong Kong. Their causes may be worthy and the wealthy have the right to donate their hard-earned cash where they please but, when their benevolence overlooks acute social and environmental problems, the rationale can appear opaque and self-indulgent to those excluded from the world of the gilded elite.

According to the Law Reform Commission, there is no comprehensive legal framework for regulating charities in Hong Kong. An entity recognised by the Inland Revenue Department as a charitable institution is entitled to tax exemption, but there is a limited statutory definition of what a charity must be and the department is not responsible for registering such organisations or for monitoring their conduct. The Law Reform Commission has been working on recommendations for change since 2011 but, apart from the occasional high-profile photo call and the names on buildings, not a great deal is publicly known about Hong Kong philanthropy.

No one is voicing major fears about corruption but Forbes reports that in Australia, after a national charity regulator that few thought was necessary was set up, in December 2012, more than 1,300 complaints were made against Australian charities within the first two years of operation.

Given the huge amounts of money involved, the massive surge in the numbers of charitable bodies and the tax exemptions offered to some of the city’s richest individuals, maybe more scrutiny should be given to who is spending what and why? If not, questions might one day be asked as to why another ostentatious seat of learning is being erected for an already well-endowed institute while the ordinary citizens of Hong Kong are denied affordable housing, clean air and decent career prospects.

New figures show one in five children starting school don’t have the skills to learn properly


Olive Laverton, 4, Grace Callinan, 9, Ariana Miller, 3, and William Greenland, 3, love reading Dr Seuss. Picture: Jamie Hanson


LITERACY levels of Australian children are worsening in a “slow motion disaster”, with new analysis revealing one in five children who started school this year already don’t have the skills to learn properly.

The shock finding is contained in yet-to-be-released work by the Centre for Independent Studies that cements the fact a young child’s vocabulary is one of the most powerful predictors of later school success.

But 20 per cent of students, and 30 per cent from disadvantaged areas, don’t understand enough words when they enter school to be able to learn how to read or follow other subjects properly.Education Minister Simon Birmingham has seized on the new findings to call on parents to make reading a priority, saying they have to be part of the solution to Australia’s lagging literacy levels that have fallen behind other countries since 2000.

“We’re absolutely at a critical point where we do need to ensure that Australian parents recognise that they all have responsibilities that sit alongside what happens in an early learning context and in a school environment,” Senator Birmingham said.

“There is no one, single silver bullet that can manage to turn around some of our challenges in literacy outcomes.

“We can’t expect teachers to do it all.”

Centre for Independent Studies research fellow Dr Jennifer Buckingham dubbed the slide in literacy as a “slow motion disaster rolling on” and is working on new analysis for a “Five from Five” launch in March of reading resources for parents, schools and governments.

She said children being read to learnt vocabulary; concepts like “under” and “over”; word sounds and exposed them to new words and meanings that spoken language didn’t.

“They have built up this store of knowledge so that then when they learn to read … it really is just unlocking the codes to words they already know,” she said.
Professor Frank Oberklaid, from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute says reading is as vital as vaccination.

Murdoch Children’s Research Institute researcher Frank Oberklaid said reading was as vital as vaccination.

“In the same way you immunise your child against infectious disease, the best way to immunise your child against future reading failure is to read to them every day from a very young age,” Professor Oberklaid said.

Professor Oberklaid said it was not about “hot housing” or creating “baby Einsteins”, but feeding the developing brain.

TODAY, The Sunday Mail launches a unique campaign to champion the importance of reading to build a smarter Australia.Raise a Reader is an initiative of News Corp Australia, publisher of The Sunday Mail, and online learning provider Literacy­Planet to inspire families to act on Australia’s falling literacy standards. Campaign ambassador Jackie French, the incumbent Australian Children’s Laureate and author of more than 170 books, said high standards of literacy were crucial.

“Reading is the gateway for the future of our children and the planet,” said Ms French, the 2015 Senior Australian of the Year.

As part of the campaign, News Corp Australia will donate 10,000 books to the Smith Family to distribute to children in their reading support programs.

News Corp Australia managing director for metro and regional publishing Damian Eales said with more than 3.5 million students returning to school, February was a critical month on the national literacy calendar.

“It is also the perfect time for parents and caregivers to start forming new habits about reading and writing in the home,” he said.

jessica.marszalek@news.com.au
Reading to children three to five days a week has the same effect on reading skills at age 4 and 5 as being six months older.

* * * * * * * *

THE FACTS

* 20 per cent of Australian students are deficient in vocabulary on entering school, rising to 30 per cent for those in disadvantaged areas.

* Parents in professional employment speak 2000 words an hour to their toddlers, compared to 600 words an hour for those in welfare-dependent homes.

* Children in advantaged households have heard 30 million more words than their peers by age 4 and developed a spoken vocabulary twice as big.

* Reading to children three to five days a week has the same effect on reading skills at age 4 and 5 as being six months older.

* Reading to children six or seven days a week has the same effect as being 12 months older.

Source: Research correlated by the Centre for Independent Studies

Five reasons why dads should read to their children more

De-stressing, vocabulary boosting and experiencing emotional highs – and that’s just what dads get out of reading to their kids. Rob Kemp reveals the benefits of bedtime stories …Fathers spark 'imaginative discussion' when reading to their kids

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin. A new study from Harvard University in the USA reveals that children benefit more from their father reading them bedtime stories. Dads, the research revealed, spark more “imaginative discussions” and are more instrumental to their children’s language development because of the way they read to their kids.

Over the course of a year researching the impact that parents reading had upon their children the study leader, Dr Elisabeth Duursma, found that girls in particular benefited more when read to by a male. “The impact is huge – particularly if dads start reading to kids under the age of two,” explains Duursma. “Reading is seen as a female activity and kids seem to be more tuned in when their dad reads to them – it’s special.”

Unfortunately a recent poll – of 1,000 mums and dads – by the charity Book Trust found that young parents especially are reading less to their children than older generations. Just 19pc of dads under 25 said they enjoyed a bedtime read with their children – whilst 78pc of older fathers said it was their favorite part of the day.

Author and comedian David Walliams has since led an initiative to get more dads reading stories to their children, emphasizing to fathers the many benefits that reading for just 20 minutes a day can have upon their kids … and themselves.

Here, in no particular order, are five reasons why all dads should take heed …

Dads take the stories to another level

Shared book reading – mum does a story one night, dad the next – has been found to more than just improve language skills. When mothers read, they often focus on characters’ feelings whilst dads will link the narrative to something more pertinent to the child.

“Dad is more likely to say something like, ‘Oh look, a ladder. Do you remember when I had that ladder in my truck?’” Dr Duursma explains. “That is great for children’s language development because they have to use their brains more. It’s more cognitively challenging.”

Joe Bernstein is a dad who enjoys adding a bit of challenge to his four-year-old daughter’s favorite tales. “When she knows the story well, I will change one of the words every couple of pages so she can interject and correct me, usually laughing,” he explains. “We call it reading silly. ‘Dad, read it silly’.”

Bedtime stories lead to better real life ones

Research published by the British Journal of Educational Psychology into the role of early father involvement and its impact upon children’s educational attainment showed “a positive relationship between the amounts of literacy fathers engage in for their personal use and their children’s reading test.” Dads who are seen to be reading a lot around the home – books, newspapers, Viz etc – send out a positive sign to their children that it’s an enjoyable thing to do.

“I’ve found myself laughing hysterically when reading The Twits aloud to my five-year-old twin boys,” explains Wesley Doyle. “My wife and I read different types of story to the boys – though we both do the silly voices.

“I’ve read Ted Hughes’ The Iron Man to them recently and they’re gripped by it. I think it’s because Ted was a poet that the language he uses is so engaging for them.”

Boys especially benefit from Dad’s tall tales

While the Harvard Study highlighted the positive influence dads reading has upon girls, previous research also shows how doing the bedtime read is one of the strongest forms of ‘bonding’ between fathers and sons.

According to a study entitled ‘Why Fathers Matter To Their Children’s Literacy’ by the National Literacy Trust, time-pressured dads reported reading as a major way to develop a unique relationship with their children.

Father of two boys, Will Callaghan, concurs. “My youngest (age four) likes The Tiger Came To Tea, Have You Seen My Cat and George! He enjoys reading more when we’re snuggled in the bed – I use the torch on my phone to add to atmosphere and make it more fun.”

Books build better behaved kids

Studies have also found that the time a father spends reading with his child is one of the most consistent links to that child achieving positive literacy scores throughout his or her schooling.

But it’s not just your child’s language and literacy – along with your own Gruffalo impersonations – that will improve if you read to your kids at night. The Fatherhood Institute found that children whose dads read to them regularly displayed better behavior and concentration at nursery, and performed better at maths too.

Even in families where childcare has been disrupted by divorce or separation, the influence of dads when it came to encouraging their children to read has been found to be a key factor in the ongoing educational progress of boys especially.

This child is so well behaved she appears to be sitting through a chapter of War and PeaceThis child is so well behaved she appears to be sitting through a chapter of War and Peace  Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Dads de-stress when reading aloud

Bedtime stories not only provide a relaxing routine for children – they can also calm adults down too.

University of Sussex research shows that reading is the most effective way to overcome stress. Participants experienced relaxed muscle tension and decreased heart rate within six minutes of turning pages.

“My boys particularly love Roald Dahl, and it puts me in a better frame of mind reading those books too,” says Mike Shallcross, father of two. “When you read the chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where he finds the golden ticket, you see what an amazing writer Dahl was.”

The Literacy Trust study also reported numerous benefits for the dads who read aloud at night – including greater skill acquisition, greater confidence and self-esteem, a better father-child relationship, and increased engagement with learning.

Reading relaxes father as well as sonReading relaxes father as well as son  Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

(Story by Rob Kemp - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/relationships/fatherhood/11896196/Five-reasons-why-dads-should-read-to-their-children-more.html)

White House sends tough message on NGOs as Chinese president Xi Jinping visits US

A top White House official Tuesday hosted US non-governmental groups who face tough new Chinese security laws, a high-profile statement of concern as Xi Jinping arrived in the United States.

White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice met several representatives from among the universities, businesses and rights groups that would be forced to register and report to the Chinese security services if the draft law enters into force.

xi jinping

“Today’s discussion focused on concerns that the draft legislation would further narrow space for civil society in China,” the White House said in a statement that came hours after the Chinese leader landed in the United States.

Sources familiar with Rice’s talks said it included some organizations that receive US government grants.

The controversial draft law looks set to be yet another area of contention when Xi meets President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday for a summit designed to strengthen ties.

“I think the president will make that clear,” a senior administration official told AFP, describing the draft law as “deeply troubling” and its impact “very unfortunate.”

“We are going to find some opportunities to speak out on that issue and also find an opportunity to meet some of the stakeholders involved.”

The Obama-Xi summit has already been beset by arguments over cyber hacking and China’s increasingly assertive land grabs in the South China Sea.

“Our concern with the law is profound,” said the official.

“First of all it is very broad, it gives a huge role to the ministry of public security, not the ministry of civil affairs that used to manage these groups.

“I have heard a number of these groups saying that they are having to question whether they will remain in China, whether they will curtail their activities in China or whether they will cancel plans to establish a presence in China.”

The White House said the legislation could hinder services to the Chinese people and “constrain US-China people-to-people exchanges.”

Pressure to push back

Christopher Johnson, a former CIA analyst now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said “there’s a lot of pressure on the administration to push back on this, to get the Chinese to change it.”

“Take Yale University, for example. They have a presence in China. If in New Haven they choose to host a dissident or the Dalai Lama or something like that, technically under this law the people in China would be subject to arrest.”

Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio urged Obama to take a tougher line with Xi.

“The past year alone has been marked by further erosion of rule of law, tightening restrictions on civil society and outright attacks on human rights defenders and political dissidents,” he wrote in an opinion article that appeared in the Washington Examiner.

He urged Obama to invite Chinese human rights activists to Xi’s state dinner.

“Too often the Obama administration wants credit for ‘raising human rights’ —- but passing mentions and diminished significance in the broader bilateral agenda provides little solace to the brave men and women who face unimaginable obstacles and hardship for daring to claim their most basic human rights,” Rubio wrote.

Xi did not fully dispel the criticisms late Tuesday when he addressed the issue in a wide-ranging speech in Seattle.

“China recognizes the positive role of foreign non-profit organizations. So long as their activities are beneficial to the Chinese people, we will not restrict or prohibit their operations,” he said, adding they have “legitimate rights and interests.”

But he added that, for their part, the foreign NGOs in China “need to obey Chinese law and carry out activities in accordance with the law.”

by Andrew Beatty. (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2015/09/23/white-house-sends-tough-message-on-ngos-as-chinese-president-xi-jinping-visits-us/)

 

Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang

Some two million residents in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region are set to receive a series of books on families and women in the next few weeks, as part of celebrations to mark the 60th year since the autonomous region was founded.

The books are being donated by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), which held a book donation ceremony in the region’s Kashgar on September 16.

Song Xiuyan, secretary of the ACWF’s Party leadership group, vice-president and first member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, attended the event and handed out the books to representative local families.

ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
Song Xiuyan, secretary of the ACWF’s Party leadership group, and vice-president and member of the Secretariat of the ACWF, hands out books to local women in Xinjiang. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]

The books are written on the themes of parenting, teenage safety, women’s health and infant care, and are published both in Chinese and ethnic Uyghur languages.

With vivid illustrations, they provide recipients with a useful and easy-to-follow guideline in their daily lives.

The publishing of the bilingual books shows the care of the Party and the government for Uyghur families and symbolizes the deep bond between women’s federations and Uyghur female citizens, said Song at the donation ceremony.

The books were well received by readers.

“It was useful. I have slept badly recently. After reading the book, I know it is normal,” said one middle-aged woman who pointed to the chapter on the menopause.

“I like this best,” said a woman who picked up the volume on how to be a good parent. “My husband and I agree that we should not beat or curse our son, but talk with him nicely,” she added.

While chatting with them, Song expressed her wish that all Uyghur women could live happier and more harmonious lives.

The books, a product of over a year’s preparation, are the first batch of their kind delivered to the locals in southern part of Xinjiang.

The second batch on related themes are being translated and reviewed and will be ready by the end of this year.

Vice-Secretary of the Standing Committee of the Party Committee of Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Aierken Shiniyazi; Vice-President of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee of the Region and Vice-President of the ACWF Reziwan Aibai; and Vice-President of the ACWF Jiao Yang, were among the officials who attended the ceremony.

ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
 ACWF officials chat with local women in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]
ACWF Officials Gift Family Education Books to Households in Xinjiang
Officials pose for a group photo with women that received the books. [China Women’s News/Yang Rui]

(Source: China Women’s News/Translated and edited by Women of China)

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Heroes of reading – Teachers have a critical role in promoting reading and literacy to children

Much has been said about how the Internet and handheld devices like smartphones and tablets have made it harder and harder for parents to raise children readers. And while printed books continue to win its reading battle against the ebooks and ebook readers, a study conducted by Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of over 600 original titles annually, showed that children reading printed books are dropping—a sad fact considering the numbers never really got that high.

“That’s why Scholastic’s mission is simple: help children read and learn,” says Scholastic Asia President Frank Wong. “We want to help build a nation of readers and learners. When you read, especially when you read independently, the next phase is learning. Reading promotes critical thinking, connecting thoughts, creativity—these are all 21st century skills. Without love for reading, it’s very hard to see how our children can progress and really excel in the 21st century.”

Image by Noel B. Pabalate

This is why teachers have a critical role in promoting reading and literacy to children.

“In the Philippines, we have been very successful with our literacy agenda simply because our teachers have embraced it,” says Dr. Duriya Aziz, Scholastic International publisher and vice president. “I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of classroom observations in Manila and I observed that teachers read aloud to kids. Every reading lesson, there is a read aloud session. This is very important because it means that of the 60 minutes of class, the teacher believes that reading is valuable enough to devote 10 or 15 minutes to it.”

By advocating reading, the teachers are modeling a good behavior to their students that is sustained. “I can see the kids so excited about reading. So teachers are fundamental to our advocacy,” Dr. Aziz adds.

Recently, Scholastic held its second Scholastic Readers Cup in recognition of the exemplary efforts of educators, from teachers and librarians to principals and school administrators, in improving literacy in their respective schools. The winners were chosen among educational institutions that participated in Scholastic’s Assessment and Enrichment program (AEP) and Independent Reading Program (IRP); two literacy programs which proved instrumental in producing significant improvements in students’ reading abilities.

The Readers Cup is a tribute to the countless teachers, librarians, principals, and school administrators whose work and leadership have paved the way for students to become better readers and good learners.

“The concept of the Reader’s Cup is you enable the school to assess the students reading capability. Read at the level that they are comfortable in and then pick and choose the kind of things that they like to read. So if a child can read at the right level books that they like and enjoy reading, eventually they will have that good reading habit,” says Frank Wong.

This year, the Readers Cup was given to a number of educational institutions including OSJ-Sto. Rosario Academy, OSJ-Holy Family Academy, St. Thomas Academy, Dr. Yanga’s College Inc., St. Paul College, Balayan,  Iloilo Scholastic Academy, OSJ-Saint Joseph Institute, Saint Mary’s Angels College of Valenzuela, OSJ-Saint James Academy, OSJ-Joseph Marello Institute, Sta. Teresa College, Notre Dame of Greater Manila, MGC New Life Academy and Falcon School.

“Our teachers, librarians, principals, and school administrators are doing a fine job at helping us raise a nation of readers, and we should all be grateful to them. The Scholastic Readers Cup is just one way of giving recognition to these notable educators. They are the real heroes in our quest for a more globally competitive Philippines. We hope to continue this tradition every year. By shining the spotlight on these individuals and institutions, we hope to inspire other educators to raise more and better readers and good learners, too,” says Fritzie Salem-Cruz, general manager of Scholastic in the Philippines

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Statistics on literacy rate confusing

As internationally-acclaimed promoter of literacy Dr Frank Serafini said, “There is no child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book.” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s views on the International Literacy Day on Tuesday were in tune with those of the award-winning Professor of Literacy Education and Children’s Literature at Arizona State University. She explained why children drop out at the primary stage and why a large number exit from schools. That was why, the PM had never missed an opportunity in the past to tell the authorities to lessen the heavy load of textbooks in their school bags which they cannot even bear on their backs. The prime minister is a hardcore realist when she said such a load continues to distract attention of children from burdensome studies.

In the same vein, the prime minister suggested that children must be enrolled in Class I without any written admission test.  Whenever a child turns to the age of getting admitted to Class I, he or she should have to be admitted and there’s no need to sit for test with printed papers because this is his or her right, not a matter of test, she pointed out.  Today, it is simply because of the wrong approach of persons tasked with attaining 100 per cent literacy, Bangladesh is set to fail to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in this regard by 2015. The condition of the countywide primary schools is so pitiable that it casts a damper on psyche of toddlers entering their new lives as beginners in literacy. And without literacy, the dream of Bangladesh to turn the country’s huge population into human resources and then human capital will always remain a mirage.

(Source – http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/09/12/107461)

Today, the country’s literacy rate reached 71 per cent till June this year which should have been 100 per cent by December-end. Fallout of cent per cent literacy is obvious. Literate parents can teach their children about health, nutrition and discipline from their early childhood. Also to create accountability for society, the children can be taught basic norms from their early childhood and steps should be taken keeping that in mind. The ‘Bangladesh Literacy Programme’ has been in place with an outlay of Tk 4.52 billion of taxpayers’ money to make the illiterate people literate and create skilled manpower but where does the money go?

Statistics on literacy rate in the country are confusing. The authorities have failed to compute the correct figure as it is not very difficult to do it through its existing countrywide network. When the PM says the literacy rate is 71 per cent, primary and mass education minister Mostafizur Rahman disclosed 61 per cent people in the country are literate now. Last year he said 65 per cent of the people are literate. Immediate past primary and mass education minister Afsarul Amin said 71 per cent people of the country were literate in 2013. The confusion was compounded by education minister Nurul Islam Nahid after he told parliament on June 16 last that 70 per cent people of the country were literate. The minister quoted Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) statistics while replying to a written question from a ruling party MP.

Officials of the primary and mass education ministry officials say the rate of literacy among people aged 15 and above is taken into account. Quoting BBS statistics released in June, the mass education minister said 61 per of people aged 15 and up are now literate and the rate is 57.2 per cent for people aged 7 and up. If the country lacks vital statistics on literacy, all plans and programmes to make a headway in literacy are fated to fumble.

It is really worrying that the primary school drop-out rate reportedly stands at over 20 per cent. This means that even though efforts to increase primary school enrolment have progressed well topping 97 per cent, the benefits of this achievement are being hugely undermined by a large proportion of children dropping out of schools.

The present government had pledged in its 2008 manifesto to achieve the MDG on literacy, but efforts to develop non-formal education schemes for adults have languished behind other projects, notably those to increase primary school enrolment. In primary schools, programmes to distribute mid-day meals and breakfasts, or to pay stipends to poorer families, have been successful in preventing drop-outs. But these are taking place in a few areas, not nationally. At the secondary level, more emphasis should be given to keeping girl students in schools by curbing child marriage.

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Vietnam still has more than 1.5 million illiterates

A class for illiterates in northern mountain Dien Bien Province’s Muong Nhe District.— Photo vnexpress.net
Story http://vietnamnews.vn/society/275674/viet-nam-still-has-more-than-15-million-illiterates.html

HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam has more than 1.5 million illiterates between the ages of 15 and 60, an official from the education and training ministry has said.

Head of the MoET’s Continuous Education Department, Nguyen Cong Hinh, said all provinces and cities nationwide had achieved the national target of eliminating illiteracy in 2000, and had continued their universal education programme since then.

However, some localities neglected their duty to eliminate illiteracy and thus missed the target deadline in 2015.

The number of people attending literacy and post-literacy classes had decreased from 60,000 in the previous years to a little more than 28,000 in the 2014-2015 period.

Hinh said in some localities, the authorities were not really interested in eliminating illiteracy. The local people’s awareness of the issue was also very limited.

The teachers involved in the illiteracy elimination campaign were also unprofessional as they did not have a chance to attend training courses.

Some localities did not research and compile teaching materials suitable and specific to their learners.

Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Study Promotion Association Nguyen Tat Dong said illiteracy has become quite a serious issue, especially in the remote mountainous areas where its elimination was difficult, mainly because the people were too poor to focus on learning the Vietnamese language.

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Fathers ‘should encourage reading’

Alison Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material.

Alison Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material. http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/71780892/fathers-should-encourage-reading

Kiwi men start out behind the eight ball when it comes to reading, often leading to a poor start for their children’s literacy.

Auckland Community Education Trust (COMET) said Father’s Day and Tuesday’s International Literacy Day were opportunities to call for an increased focus on literacy for boys and men across the country.

COMET Auckland manager for literacy and family learning Alison Sutton said men fell behind their female counterparts from an early age, causing troubles in later life including having a negative impact on their children’s reading.

COMET Auckland's Alison Sutton says more needs to be done to put the focus on male literacy in New Zealand.

SUPPLIED/LINKEDIN

COMET Auckland’s Alison Sutton says more needs to be done to put the focus on male literacy in New Zealand.

Sutton said 81 per cent of Auckland primary school-aged girls were reading at or above the standard level for their age but only 72.6 per cent of boys were reading at the same level.

Those figures were even lower for the four South Auckland areas captured by Auckland Council’s The Southern Initiative programme, with just 58.9 per cent of boys reading at or above the standard for their age.

“Those figures are really worrying, because the gaps in literacy between girls and boys widen as young people go through their education journey,” Sutton said.

These issues manifested as a “startling” trend in the workplace, where 50 per cent of all workers struggled with the basic literacy needed to do their job, she said, adding that men faced the biggest problems when it came to literacy at work.

Sutton said reading and the associated literacy skills impacted on education, employment prospects, the ability to be informed citizens, relationships, creativity, insight, and parenting.

“We need to build the literacy levels of parents and caregivers so that our young people can get the best start in school, and adults can thrive in their work.”

Attention was often given to improving mums’ literacy as they typically spent more time with their children.

However, dads had an equally important role to play in their children’s literacy and oracy.

Reading for pleasure was seen as more of a female activity but New Zealanders needed to change their conversations and expectations about boys and men being readers, Sutton said.

“Dads should encourage their sons to be readers, and this is most effective when Dad himself is also a reader and role model.”

COMET was trying to encourage fathers and father-figures to increase the amount of time they spent talking, reading and singing with their kids.

Some of the country’s large employers, like The Warehouse, offered workplace literacy courses.

Sutton said boys, men and dads should try and read an interesting range of material, including illustrated novels, comic strips, manga, poetry, and even fictional stories linked to a popular TV series or movies.

UNQUALIFIED PARENTS:

Figures from the latest census show more than 100,000 New Zealand parents left school without any qualification.

Out of 893,706 parents with children between the ages of 0 and 17 at the time of the 2013 census, 123,120 or 13.8 per cent did not have any formal academic qualification.

Parents from the West Coast had the highest rate of no qualifications at 21 per cent, followed by Gisborne on 19.3 per cent.

Wellington parents were the most likely to have gained a qualification, with 99,132 out of 10,239 parents gaining some kind of formal academic qualification.

Meanwhile, 11.8 per cent of Auckland parents left school or university with a qualification and 13 per cent of parents living in Canterbury at the time of the census.

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Literacy event shows location no barrier to learning outcomes

http://www.educatoronline.com.au/news/literacy-event-shows-location-no-barrier-to-learning-outcomes-205112.aspx

LiteracyPlanet, an Australian-developed online literacy resource for children aged 4-15, held the National Child Literacy Competition – Word Mania 2015 – on Thursday last week.

The event, held at Macquarie University in North Ryde, involved more than 10,000 children and 1,300 primary schools. The event is designed to help students improve their literacy skills through an online word-building game called “Word Mania”.

The nation’s top 12 young “word builders” from Years 1-6 travelled from various parts of the country, competing to become Australia’s top word builder – a title taken out by Evan Luc-Tran, a Year 1 student from Rhodes in NSW.

LiteracyPlanet CEO, Adam McArthur, told The Educator that the most amazing story to come out of the event was a small school in Alice Springs – Living Waters Lutheran School – ranking ahead of the nation’s top schools.

“This school was competing with all the big schools in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and elsewhere. Two of the finalists were from Alice Springs, based on the points scored from words built,” McArthur told The Educator.

“That is just amazing to me. It shows that the delivery of online education levels the playing field for everyone around the country. Any school that has online access can participate and compete against the big private schools.”

McArthur said the inspiration behind Word Mania came from parents pointing out that most education-based competitions were focused around mathematics rather than on literacy.

“Parents were saying there were too many maths competitions and activities and not enough building literacy skills and making this area of learning fun for students,” McArthur said.

“The whole premise of our business is that reading should be fun. We get great feedback from parents who participated in Word Mania with their kids, even competing head-to-head with them.”

In August, the Smith Family outlined the importance of parental engagement in child learning during National Literacy Week, saying research had shown that students performed better at school when their parents were actively engaged with their learning.

The Smith Family’s acting CEO, Wendy Field, told The Educator that location was no barrier to success, saying parents in poorer households can make a significant impact on their child’s learning,.

“We know that when parents are involved in their children’s learning, it can help improve their outcomes – even though they might have a low-socioeconomic (SES) background,” Field told The Educator.

McArthur agrees. He said that parents are helping to bridge the classroom divide by engaging with their child’s learning.

“The most common feedback we get from teachers is that parental engagement can make a massive difference to the child’s learning. They see the difference when they walk into the classroom the next day,” McArthur said.

“However, many parents see it as the school’s job – not theirs – to get their kids engaged in their learning.

There are the parents who say they are simply too busy with work or chores at home to juggle those responsibilities with their child’s homework.”

For next year’s Word Mania event, McArthur is hoping to increase coverage and participation in the competition through live streaming and video conferencing.

“We have a lot of technology readily available to us which will help bring people closer together. Next year we might make it a real time competition with a leader board that shows the schools and how they’re performing,” McArthur said.

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