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.

“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

~ The Holy Bible 1 Peter 1:24-25


Dear parents,


Spring is here, and our city is filled with beautiful flowers in country parks, riverside gardens and podiums of housing estates. For the past few weeks, I’ve been to different places to view the blooming hydrangea, cherry blossoms, roses and golden trumpet trees. As all their blooming periods are limited to a few weeks, my friends and I always share information on where and when to go to catch the best moments.

Indeed, ‘people are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.’  Therefore, flowers have often reminded me not of life’s vitality but its fragility and finitude, exquisite but transient, blissful yet painful at times. Though enlightened and inspired by the beauty of flowers, my heart has often been tinged with an inexplicable feeling of sadness when I see flowers fade.

This grief of irreversible fading of life has indeed grown stronger as I get older and become acutely aware of the gradual degeneration of my physical strength despite my continued efforts to stay agile and healthy. Unfortunately, Hong Kong is too fast-paced and utilitarian a city to honour and respect seniors who are more often considered old-school, slow and even burdensome. This mentality is reflected in the lack of support for elders in varied facets of life.

First and foremost, if you are an elder who haven’t saved enough money for retirement but have to survive on the meagre old age living allowance after fulfilling the stringent income and asset requirements, you can hardly live a dignified life with only three to four thousand dollars a month to spend.  Relying on the government assistance is also deemed despicable. On the contrary, an elder who has her own home and car, and lives on the federal pension in Australia is far luckier for she will be getting a monthly allowance of three times or more of that of her Hong Kong counterpart, not to mention the many other benefits her pensioner status entails. I still remember on the pension day every fortnight, I would see streams of seniors wearing their best clothes chilling out in a neighbourhood shopping mall after collecting their pension, enjoying a sumptuous lunch or simply chatting with other seniors over an extravagant afternoon tea, feeling respected and absolutely entitled to all the privileges bestowed on them.

Conceivably, some might say the Australians have simply institutionalized financial support for elders by levying hefty taxes whereas Hong Kong has always promoted filial piety to encourage financial support for elderly parents from their adult children.  In various research reports, however, more than half of Hong Kong teenagers and young adults expect their elderly parents to be financially independent.  I remember once at a family dinner, my 33-year-old nephew, a single child, told his parents that few of his friends would give regular financial support to their parents, therefore my elder sister and brother-in-law shouldn’t take his monthly allowance for granted. I was dumbfounded upon hearing his self-righteous remark.

Financial support aside, most seniors need physical support due to their waning health. Priority seats on trains and buses are an international standard by which Hong Kong abides, but many young people apparently do not appreciate the respect for seniors that underlies this arrangement. More than once, I have reproved a child or a teenager who jostled for an empty seat beside which an elder was standing. In this respect, we do far worse than people in Beijing which I visited in 2017 with my grey-haired friend who was only 58 years old then. On many occasions, I was amused to see him being offered a seat on a crowded train, which sharply contrasted the callousness my dad endured on his journey to the dentist when he was 85 years old. To save me from driving in the heavy morning traffic to pick him up, he told me to take public transportation and meet him at the train station, but to my dismay, he ended up standing for more than 30 minutes on a crowded train before almost falling fainted and getting help from the MTR staff!

Flowers bloom and wither; so does human life that goes through a cycle of growth and inevitable degeneration. For this, I hope you can join me in nurturing your kids’ love and respect for elders so that we can all age gracefully and live respectfully in our twilight years.

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan