Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.

Grit isn’t talent. Grit isn’t luck. Grit isn’t how intensely, for the moment, you want something.

Instead, grit is about having what some researchers call an “ultimate concern”–a goal you care about so much that it organizes and gives meaning to almost everything you do. And grit is holding steadfast to that goal, even when you fall down. Even when you screw up. Even when progress toward that goal is halting or slow.

-       Angela Duckworth


Dear parents,

Grit has become a buzzword among educators in recent years after Angela Duckworth, a former classroom teacher turned psychologist, publicized the idea that the success of students in their studies can be predicted by their grit scores measured by a simple questionnaire like the one below.

1. I have overcome setbacks to conquer an important challenge.

2. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

3. My interests change from year to year.

4. Setbacks don’t discourage me.

5. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

6. I am a hard worker.

7.   I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

8. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

9. I finish whatever I begin.

10. I have achieved a goal that took years of work.

11. I become interested in new pursuits every few months.

12. I am diligent.


In Duckworth’s words, grit is passion and perseverance for long-term goals.   Grit helps us to keep our eyes on our goals, stay focused on a task and remain steadfast when facing obstacles. 

We may tend to think that the average grit score of Hong Kong students will be higher than their American counterparts given our rigorous and highly exam-oriented education system.  However, while it is helpful to cultivate perseverance and audacity in our kids, it is important for us to understand their passion or ‘ultimate concern’ so that we don’t force our own goals on them and blame them for not being determined to achieve the targets.

It has taken me quite some time to discover such ultimate concern of my older son who started learning the violin at the age of 3 and had his first solo performance at the age of 4.  Though seen by his teachers as talented and expressive in his playing, I honestly didn’t see his passion for the instrument.   He rarely took the initiative to practice but would drill enough before performances to receive complimentary remarks from relatives and friends.

Later, when he stopped playing the violin and spent countless hours uploading YouTube videos, which earned him a partnership offer from Google and an audition invitation from Warner Brothers for a Hollywood movie, I thought that his passion would be in entertainment.  While some YouTubers can really make a living by producing videos, his long-term goals have been apparently different.  Now, video production is more a pastime for him to connect with his ‘fans’, while his passion is still very much in keeping up with the fads, which is probably useful to his current work as a young manager in an international clothing company.  His long-term goal, however, is to run his own online business, which won’t be realized immediately.

You would probably like your children to be gritty and be persevering so that they can attain their dreams.  It is good to bear in mind that grit is not talent but a long-term goal to which your child is so truly dedicated that she or he will hold steadfast to it despite repeated setbacks.  It is surely more than good exam results or even a university degree.  It may also take some time for your child to discover their grit, so I urge you to be patient.  Inspire them rather than impose goals on them!

Enjoy the rest of the summer vacation with your kids!

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan