Second in the series on inspiring educational stories, “What’s working in education?” The Kelly Yang project in Hong Kong brings American creativity and critical reasoning in the mix with writing and a love of children. The workers in the project need outside resources to teach English, they serve over 600 students in Hong Kong every year and they also have a branch project starting in Beijing. But, their mission is to do so much more than just teach English, they inspire students to think more critically and creatively through writing, speaking, and debate. Kelly herself says, “When you think success, especially academic success, boils down to two things: the ability to think innovatively and come up with solutions, and the ability to communicate those ideas well on paper and in person.” Working with students from a very early age, the Kelly Yang project uses questioning to bring out students concepts and ideas, helping them build on the ideas of their friends until they come up with a solution of merit. The most popular class is critical reasoning where they discuss critical issues of today, building an argument, and then writing and defending it in debate.
Educators worldwide are discussing these issues. What are the best ways to encourage innovative thinking and critical reasoning? How can they be consistently brought out of student as they are the mainstay of entrepreneurial thinking, which brings about economic growth and development? What works in educational settings to inspire young people to tackle difficult subjects? The Kelly Yang project answers that question through relevancy. The project breaks down difficult subjects such as: privacy and the internet, the public funding of education, whether the rich should give half of their fortunes to charity & Bill Gates giving pledge. The young people in her schools tackle the world’s challenges and are energized by them. This is exciting to young people because what they are doing seems real and is likely to lead to their future success, which is key in this system. Speaking is also a key element of their curriculum. Every child is required to be able to speak in front of others from a very early age.
Further excitement is engendered in the children who attend the Kelly Yang project because what they write is published and then sold in bookstores. This gives students who come to her school huge pride as they see their work in print and sold publicly. English is the growing currency of the future in the business world throughout Asia. By merging English with critical reasoning Ms. Yang has a winning solution. She comments, “Critical reasoning is more important than ever in Hong Kong today. It is a skill which will not only lead to better test scores, but also a better country and world. Traditionally, critical reasoning and creative thinking have been lacking in Asian education, but with Hong Kong’s recent education reforms, these skills are now essential.”