Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Call for Papers: International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2010 Shah Alam

Thanks to sharing by Ong Mooi Lian.


We are pleased to inform you that the International Conference on User Science and Engineering 2010 (i-USEr2010) ( will be held in Shah Alam, Malaysia from 13th - 15th December 2010. i-USEr2010 is organised by the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) Research Group, Faculty of Computer and Mathematical Sciences, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia. Japan Society of Kansei Engineering (JSKE) is a co-organiser for this event.
i-USEr2010 aims to address the main issues of concern within Human Computer Interaction with a particular emphasis on the aspects of design, development and implementation of interfaces and the generational implications for design of human and technology interaction.  This conference aims to explore and discuss innovative studies of technology and its application in interfaces and welcomes completed research, work in progress and case studies.
Papers on original works are solicited from prospective authors. Topics  of interest include, but not limited to the following:

  • User Science
  • Usability Engineering
  • User Experience
  • Affective Design
  • Design Informatics
  • Elderly Usability
  • Interaction Design
  • Mobile Usability
  • Multimodal Interfaces
  • Underserved Community Usability
  • Information Visualization
  • e-learning Design
  • Kansei Engineering

Important dates:
Submission of full papers: 1st August 2010
For more information, please visit our website at  or email .
Your assistance in disseminating this information is very much appreciated.
Thank you and we look forward to receiving a positive response from you soon.
Dr. Wan Abdul Rahim Wan Mohd Isa

Committee, i-USEr2010

Friday, July 09, 2010

For those interested in applying to the MIT Sloan School of Management

Thanks to my loyal blog contributor. If you are interested to further studies to MIT Sloan School of Management



Note that the dates are in MM/DD/YY format.

MBA Information Session 7/14/2010 2:00 PM ET
Master of Finance Information Session7/28/2010 10:00 AM ET
MBA Information Session8/25/2010 12:00 PM ET

Accenture Malaysia hosts inaugural MIT Lecture Series – Register now!

Thanks Lysha for this information. Sorry for me posting it late. Do try and sign up and see whether they still take in people.


Accenture is proud to invite you to the inaugural Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lecture Series in Kuala Lumpur this 24 July (Saturday). We believe attending this event is a unique opportunity for you to hear first hand from the learned MIT professors and expand your understanding of Information Technology.  

Keynoted by the distinguished Professor Srini Devadas of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the MIT, the lecture series is part of our Accenture Solutions Delivery Academy, which was developed in partnership with the MIT Professional Education Office. 

At this event, titled "Information Technology in the Year 2020: Building a Collective Intelligence," Prof. Devadas will discuss among others, how we use the Internet today as a collective repository for intelligence and the challenges that we face to advance that technology. These challenges include making networks intelligent, ubiquitous virtual computing, software design and testing challenges, and exploiting parallelism. 

Slots are limited so register through this link  on or before 7 July (Wednesday). 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

Campus Team


Invitation to "Mathematical Origami: Transforming Flapping Birds into Space Telescopes" Seminar by Robert Lang on 19 July 2010 @ NUS UHall Auditorium

Thanks to my loyal blog contributor for sharing on this.



The Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART) Centre and the NUS Department of Mathematics would like to invite you to a seminar on....



Mathematical Origami: Transforming Flapping Birds into Space Telescopes

By Robert J. Lang



The last decade of this past century has been witness to a revolution in the development and application of mathematical techniques to origami, the centuries-old Japanese art of paper-folding. The techniques used in mathematical origami design range from the abstruse to the highly approachable, but their introduction into origami over the past decades has revolutionized the art. In this talk, I will describe how geometric concepts led to the solution of a broad class of origami folding problems – specifically, the problem of efficiently folding a shape with an arbitrary number and arrangement of flaps, and along the way, enabled origami designs of mind-blowing complexity and realism. Those techniques have been built upon by mathematical, computer scientists, and origami technologists of all stripes, leading to fully 3D computer-aided origami design, phenomenally complex origami tessellations, and have even solved practical engineering problems, many of which have been first reported at these Origami Science and Mathematics conferences since the first in 1989. I will discuss several examples of how origami has enabled safer airbags, Brobdingnagian space telescopes, and more.



Robert J. Lang has been an avid student of origami for some forty years and is now recognized as one of the world's leading masters of the art. He is one of the pioneers of the cross-disciplinary marriage of origami with mathematics and science and organized the 2006 Fourth International Meeting on Origami in Science, Mathematics, and Education at Caltech. He has consulted with commercial companies and U.S. national laboratories on applications of origami to medical devices, air-bag design, and space telescopes, is the author or co-author of nine books and numerous articles on origami and lectures on the connections between origami, mathematics, science, and technology and in 2009 was awarded Caltech's highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award.



Date:  Monday, 19 July 2010

Time:  3:00pm – 4:00pm

Venue:  NUS University Hall Auditorium

Level 2, University Hall, Lee Kong Chian Wing,

21 Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119044

RSVP by 13 July 2010, to



Gaji Minima: Adakah ia cara terbaik membantu golongan miskin?

Get this from Wan Saiful Wan Jan.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affiars (IDEAS) menjemput anda untuk menghadiri satu forum awam mengenai:
"Gaji Minima: Adakah ia cara terbaik membantu golongan miskin?"
Tempat: Auditorium, Kuala Lumpur Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (Depan stesen monorel Maharajalela)
Tarikh: Ahad, 11 Julai 2010
Masa: 10.00 pagi – 12.00 tengahari
Saban tahun, kenaikan kos hidup tanpa henti menambah berat beban yang dipikul oleh keluarga miskin. Gaji pula masih di takat lama, makin bertambah berat beban hidup sedia ada. Maka kedengaran suara memperkenalkan undang-undang gaji minima bagi membantu golongan miskin.
Undang-undang ini mewajibkan para majikan membayar gaji pekerja pada kadar lebih tinggi dari biasa. Alasan yang biasa diberikan ialah untuk membantu golongan miskin. Tetapi persoalanya adakah gaji minima cara yang berkesan untuk mengurangkan kemiskinan?
Ratusan kajian mengenai gaji minima sudah dijalankan di pelbagai negara menunjukkan gaji minima adalah pendekatan yang lemah. Jika benar gaji minima adalah pendekatan yang lemah, apakah alternatif-alternatif yang ada untuk membantu keluarga miskin?
Silalah hadir ke forum terbuka ini untuk mendengari pelbagai pendapat mengenai gaji minima. Dan jika anda ingin menyuarakan pendapat anda sendiri mengenai gaji minima, forum terbuka ini adalah platform untuk anda bersuara. Kehadiran adalah percuma.
Para Penceramah:
1. Khalid Jaafar, Pengarah Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)
2. Tuan Haji Shamsuddin Bardan, Setiausaha Agung, Malaysian Employers Federation
3. Dr Lee Chee Sung, Pengarah Eksekutif (Ekonomi) Majlis Penasihat Ekonomi Negara (NEAC). Kehadiran Dr Lee adalah atas kapasiti peribadi.
4. Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Ketua Eksekutif IDEAS
Acara ini dianjurkan oleh Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), sebuah badan pemikir rentas parti yang dilancarkan pada 8 Februari 2010, sempena tarikh lahir Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. Berpegang dengan visi Tunku Abdul Rahman untuk melihat Malaysia kekal sebagai sebuah negara berdaulat ynag berpaksikan kebebasan dan keadilan, IDEAS mempromosikan prinsip-prinsip kedaulatan undang-undang, kerajaan terhad, pasaran bebas dan individu merdeka. Maklumat lanjut mengenai IDEAS boleh diperolehi daripada laman web IDEAS (

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

25th Young Corporate Malaysians CEO Series of Talk - Dato' Yusli

Live blogging of Young Corporate Malaysians 25th CEO Series of Talk by Dato' Yusli, CEO of Bursa Malaysia.

Dato' Yusli was born in Bangsar Hospital. His late father was army officer, so he used to travel a lot. However, his late father passed away when he was about 40. At that time, Dato' Yusli was 8. His mother brought them up. At that time, they were living at MINDEF at Gurney/Semarak.

He was at Rifle's Range school, and then St. John, and then went to Sultan Alam Shah in Petaling Jaya. He did his Standard Six in 1970. He skipped a year of school, so he only had five years of primary school.

He was selected as the first batch under Yayasan Selangor to study in Kuala Lumpur under the first year of New Economic Program. The school that he was supposed to go to, ended up does not exist now. He ended up going to Victoria Institution, and the rest went to Methodist Boy's School and St. John Institution.

He spent his years at Victoria Institution (VI), and it was fun. He left VI at the start of Form 6, as his mother felt that he was not studying enough. He was just made Head Boy then.

He then went to UK in 1977 and did A Level and university, as well as working in UK. He came back in 1990, and joined Renong Berhad, which also does not exist today too. Dato' Yusli was joking that places he went to, ended up does not exist today.

He went to do ICAW, and joined an accounting firm in UK, Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co (which eventually became part of KPMG). He was in UK till 1990. In between, he got married. However, unfortunately, it didn't last. His daughter is now staying in UK and now is a doctor there. When he came back, his daughter was 6.

Dato' Yusli was supposed to start working with Petronas. Before he went to Petronas, he got "hijacked" to Renong. At that time, Renong just took over UEM, and they were building the North South Highways. Renong was one of the preferred companies then.

During the New Economic Model, Tun Dr. Mahathir selected a bunch of bumiputera businessmen to build a bigger pool of bumiputera professionals, and at that time, Tan Sri Halim Saad was one of them. Tan Sri Halim Saad was Dato' Yusli's first boss in Malaysia.

Dato' Yusli then had to explain to Tan Sri Hassan Merican on he had to turn down the offer. In hindsight, Dato' Yusli felt that in the fairly new group, like Renong, there was a lot more flexibility and he got a good learning curve.

In Renong, Tan Sri Halim Saad set up a Group Management Office, and that company was HBN Management. He set up with the help of an ex-partner in PwC. Dato' Yusli's first job with Renong was to write report on the companies that Renong had. Having worked under Tan Sri Halim Saad, Dato' Yusli shared that Tan Sri's culture was ruling by fear. He shared that everyone needs to know everything at finger tips, or else, would "get bitten off the head".

Dato' Yusli shared on those quarterly presentations back then, and some of those subsidiaries people were terrified and sometimes they didn't even dare to sleep. One even fainted in the meeting.

Tan Sri Halim Saad knew a lot about each of the companies, and he could literally ask anything on the company. And if people could not answer, they would be in trouble. Dato' Yusli highlighted that while Tan Sri's style "sucks", his style was admirable, as he was able to get everyone on their toes. Dato' Yusli credited him as the best bumiputera managers that he had worked with.

Others who were working at Renong was Datuk Seri Che Khalib. He worked very long under Tan Sri Halim Saad, whereas Dato' Yusli worked for five years under him.

After HBN, he moved to Faber Group, and then Time Engineering and then went back to Renong Group as Chief Operating Officer in 1994/1995. At Renong Berhad, Dato' Yusli reported to Tan Sri Halim Saad.

After that, Dato' Yusli joined Shapadu Corporation for about 2 years, but he left as he felt that what was promised to him was not carried out the same way.

Dato' Yusli felt that as country progressed, then people would need to specialize, instead of being "jack of all trades". In developed nations, there were not many conglomerates.

In Renong, Dato' Yusli had exposure to construction, infrastructure, property, engineering etc. At Shapadu, it was similar.

At that time, Dato' Yusli joined Sime Merchant Bankers Berhad, which was joint venture of Sime Darby, ANZ Bank and another Japanese Bank. (And he joked that Sime Bank does not exist today too.) Sime Bank got hit by Asian Financial Crisis and Sime Darby decided to get out of Banking industry. Sime Bank was acquired by RHB.

Dato' Yusli decided to leave before the bank got folded. The worst thing that Dato' Yusli felt was that Sime Darby decided to pull the plug. The first thing that Dato' Yusli chose to join them, was that it was supposed to be stable.

Datuk Jaafar Hamid, who had worked with Tan Sri Halim Saad, planned to do Management Buyout for Intria Berhad and Metacorp Berhad. So, Dato' Yusli decided to join them as Managing Director of Metacrp Berhad. After Tan Sri Halim Saad, Datuk Jaafar Hamid was the person he admired the most.

However, two days before Dato' Yusli joined them, the MBO fell through. So, Dato' Yusli had to report to Tan Sri Halim Saad again. He was asked to be Managing Director for both Intria Berhad and Metacorp Berhad.

At that time, Intria then bought into a UK firm, and had to take a huge Pound Sterling loan. At that time, the exchange rate was about RM4 to 1 Pound, but during crisis, it became ended up to RM8 to 1 Pound at one pound. Intria ended up going into receivership.

During back then, Tun Dr. Mahathir encouraged local big companies to venture abroad, but, not many of them succeeded, as they were not ready to match the foreign "con" people, until Petronas was successful abroad.

Usually when Japanese companies wanted to invest abroad, they would be there for some time to observe, whereas for us, we usually just went out.

Dato' Yusli shared on the reason of Asian Financial Crisis, due to too fast growth and companies went on too much gearings. And the Western world didn't learn the lesson, and ended up in crisis recently.

Dato' Yusli was always in fascination with financial sector, and one day, Datuk Seri Nazir called him and he joined as Chief Executive Director of CIMB Securities Sdn Bhd. That was in 2000, and he stayed on for 4 years. And then he joined as CEO of KLSE.

Dato' Yusli was always willing to try to new things, and he was always involved in general management. In this manner, one does not need to be technical expert, but one builds expertise in organizing and managing people. Technical expertise would help, but not a must.

Dato' Yusli shared that having some knowledge of finance and accounting would help in progressing in corporate world. Like when one is a CEO, one has to speak to analyst, and the analysts would not be impressed, if the CEO does not know about finance and accounting.

Bursa Malaysia requires all listed companies to have briefing to analysts and media.

Prior to end of 2003, KLSE was owned by brokers, and the brokers gave a guarantee for the exchange. And then KLSE was demutualized and became a company limited by shares. So, they wanted a new board and a new CEO, and Dato' Yusli came in as CEO of KLSE.

Dato' Yusli then responded to a bunch of questions.

Dato' Yusli shared that every time one joins a new company, it would be a new set of experience and new set of challenges. He was fortunate to have the chance to move into various industries. As of now, he has been in stockbroking industry for 10 years.

Being in general management, it gives us the ability to influence the culture of the place. Dato' Yusli tried to learn from the bosses that he had worked along the way, and extracted the good thing and not to take on some of the not so good things.

Having worked abroad, one of the things that Dato' Yusli found more common in MultiNational Companies or companies abroad, is that they probably treat their employees differently. Things like respect for the individual are different in the more developed economy. Over there, people tend to pay more attention to quality of life. In developing countries, it is easier for employers to "force" people to work hard, as people here are less likely to complain.

Dato' Yusli felt that people should have a good work life balance. He felt that if people work all the time, then people would become unproductive. If people do that day in day out, productivity must decline after a certain point. Dato' Yusli preferred that they go back and rest and energize, instead of staying back late.

Dato' Yusli felt that sometimes lower-ranked staff don't dare to go back earlier, because their boss don't go back early, and sometimes the boss don't go back early, because they don't want to set the wrong example. So, ended up people stay back later.

In corporate life, people are different, compared to students' days. So, in a group of people, there might be difference in personality, and people might not work well together. So, if one is unlucky, then one would have to work to get people to work together. So, as one moves up the ladder, then one would have to handle that.

In any position, people are still people and would have character. Dato' Yusli always advised that people should be firstly professional at work. That means one should do the job that one is paid for. One is not paid to not like a person, not paid to not cooperate with another person.

Dato' Yusli does not expect people to like each other, but do expect people to work together. That sounds simple, but almost impossible to do. That is probably the biggest challenge for anyone. If people don't talk to each other, someone has to break the ice, and professionals would do so, to get things done.

There are close to 1,000 companies, which they are quite diversified. In Malaysia, we are quite blessed with resources and we have enterprising people, and generally, people are quite well educated. Dato' Yusli felt that the challenge is not too many people invest.

Securities Commissions is the commission that approves listing. ACE board is meant for businesses that do not have much track record. Lets say that there is a younger company that wants to list, they could find with a sponsor investment bank, and then they can list.

A lot of people do not want to let go of power, and that is especially so, for entrepreneurs. So, as the number of employees grow, entrepreneurs need to learn to give up the power, or else, it might be hard to grow the companies. It is important to look for professionals to handle the companies.

Most of the problems we have today is due to dishonest people. So, it is tough for entrepreneurs to find someone that they can trust.

Dato' Yusli credited YTL group to have a balance of professionals and family members.

As company promotes staff up, the skill sets needed would differ, and company should ensure that the skill sets is built up.

Dato' Yusli felt that there is nothing wrong with subordinates who are better than the boss. In fact, it is better, as it can help the boss to do a better job. Then, Dato' Yusli's advice would be for one to be better than one's boss.

Dato' Yusli shared on Bursa Malaysia, where there are only 600 staff, so there are limited jobs on the top. However, there are some specialist roles, which those people would choose to stay there, as there is only one exchange in the country. Of course, Bursa Malaysia did face the challenge of being poached by other banks.

Dato' Yusli shared that Renong took on too many projects, and funding obtained was often short term, and the projects were long term. And interest rate went up, so it was harder to get income matched. So, cash flow problem could happen. It ended up with Khazanah Nasional bought over Renong.

Dato' Yusli shared that back then Prolink, a Renong subsidiary, was the master planner for Bandar Nusajaya. And if not due to the crisis, Renong would be the one that took charge of Renong.

Dato' Yusli felt that there is a trend for the Robert Kuok's linked group to list abroad. Dato' Yusli said that if followed logic, then they should have listed in Malaysia.

Dato' Yusli shared that it is challenging to attract Indonesian companies to list here.

On his goal when he joined Bursa Malaysia, he wanted to improve the culture of Bursa and created a better atmosphere. He felt that he hasn't really achieved that yet. There are some people who prefer to be told what to do, and if there is no instruction came down, then there could be problem. So, if things are not doing well, then one has to change. Change is always difficult. People don't like to change, especially if they have always been doing something for the last many years. This is another thing that one has to deal with, as one progresses.

The skill required would be to learn how to sell the idea. That is a skill that everybody needs to have. Looking back to those at school, the one who is doing well at corporate life are those who don't do well at school. They were the ones who were really socialing around. Those who don't have good social skill, would find it hard to do well in society.

Bursa Malaysia is in service industry, and there are a lot of stakeholders. Pretty much everyone has opinion on Bursa Malaysia. In dealings with direct stakeholders, Bursa tries to be as efficient as possible.

Dato' Yusli's comment on 10th Malaysia Plan, the plan is on the right plan, but the challenge is to get everyone to work together with Prime Minister. First is to get all the ministers to work together, and then to get all the civil services to work together and then all Malaysians to work together.

Dato' Yusli felt that when he was younger, inter-racial thing was better. But over the years, society has lost some of that, but what our Prime Minister tried to do with 1Malaysia is to find ways to get everyone to work all together, for the country to progress.

Dato' Yusli felt that we should have more solid government schools, so that schools can produce better quality people. Maybe today, there is more pressure, life is more stressful, and there could be some structural issues, and the government should definitely find a way to quickly fix the education system. That is about the future of young Malaysians. This should not be politicized.

In life, there are many decision points, and one makes decision and one can't turn back the clock. Dato' Yusli thought that most of the decisions were correct. Perhaps one of his personal choices would be to bring his daughter back, but he can't turn back the clock. Once a kid grows up, it would no longer be the same.

He wanted to create high quality professionals, and people would work together. It is easier said than done. One is paid to do work, so one does work for the salary, instead of one does work for the bonus. The bonus is just if people exceed the performance. One should look at whether one contributes more than what they were contracted to do. Nobody works eight hours flat out, although in theory, that was what one was paid for.

Dato' Yusli would like to see Corporate Malaysia to have very high corporate governance standards. He wants companies to run with high transparency, and a lot of failure that we see in the past, was due to lack of corporate governmance, for instance fraud. Fraud could happen at all sort of level. It could be people stealing cash or selling fictitious products to fictitious people, and sometimes even public listed companies.

If one buys a share in a company, then suddenly we find that one month later, the company goes bankrupt, due to auditors said that the stocks or debtors in the companies would be worthless. Of course, people have paid money earlier, and one would lose money. If one knew that the company would go bankrupt, then one won't invest it. So, Bursa's attention is on companies disclosing it. If dishonest people discloses things, then chances are things might not be honest. So, Bursa has to detect those. Fact of life is that there would be dishonest people.

Directors of companies are meant to monitor the performances of the bosses in the companies. Bursa Malaysia did set up mandatory training for board members, but it was taken away after Directors were against it. So today, only first time board members of public listed companies go through a few days of training.

Today, public listed companies do list down the trainings that the directors went through.

Dato' Yusli ended with hoping that all the attendees would become investors, and also to make sure that one read the annual reports. As long as one buys reasonably low, then sells reasonably high, then it would be good.

Dato' Yusli felt that it is important to know the management of the companies. If one trusts the top management, then one can invest in the company.

Dato' Yusli always supports the countries of the captain of Arsenal. Last World Cup, he supported France, and this time, supported Spain.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Appreticeship Training Programmes for School Leavers and Dropouts

Thanks to Krista for sharing on this.


Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad (PSMB) would like to invite school leavers and school dropouts from the age of 16 - 25 years to upgrade their skills by pursuing the following apprenticeship training programmes: 

•Hotel Industry 
•Wood Based (Furniture) 
•Plastics Injection Moulding 
•Tool & Die (Mould) 
•Tool & Die (Press Tool) 
•Industrial Sewing Machine Technician 

Course Duration 

-3 to 16 months 


-The course fee is fully borne by the Government 


-Apprentices will be given a monthly allowance of RM350 to RM450 during the training period by Pembangunan Sumber Manusia Berhad. 


Apprentices who have completed training will be awarded the Malaysian Skills Certificates Level 1 & 2 (SKM 1 & 2) by the Department of Skills Development (DSD) from the Ministry of Human Resources. In addition, they will also be awarded the Apprenticeship Certificates by PSMB. 


-The concept of learning under the apprenticeship scheme is based on theoretical and hands on training at approved training centres and practical training at the premises of sponsoring employers. 

Job Placement 

-Apprentice who have successfully completed training will be offered employment by the sponsoring employers. 

Those who are interested, please register thru online. Only short-listed candidates will be notified for interview sessions. 

For more information please contact :- 

•Cik Siti Nabillah (03-20964930) - Email (
•Cik Faezah (03-20964834) - Email (



MACEE Penang

Teik Aun from Inti shared with me the following

"Just something that might interest some of you or your friends.  MACEE (Malaysia-American Council for Education Exchange) has re-opened in Penang (at the State Library at Scotland Road) and they are looking for full or part-time education counselors (I'm sure they will welcome summer interns also).  If you know of anyone who is interested, please contact myself or directly MACEE at "

Astro's My Story Channel 318

Thanks to Kian Ming for sharing on this Astro's My Story Channel 318, in conjunction with our National Day.

Article on China's Lack of Passion Problem

Thanks to Sriram for sharing this interesting article with me. For your reflections. 


In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes how back in the late 1960s, a computer purchase at Seattle's Lakeside High School brought destiny calling to its two most famous students. Computers back then were large and unwieldy, but for whatever reason Lakeside mothers still decided to buy a machine that most people had never heard of. Two students, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, became fascinated with it, and when it broke down they hiked all the way to the University of Washington to play with that university's computer instead. So, when the computer revolution finally came to the United States in the late 1970s, college freshmen Gates and Allen were already veterans.

Practice makes perfect, and according to Gladwell a person needs to practice for about 10,000 hours to be truly good at something. Hard work is an attribute of success, but it's passion that drives people to work hard. That's why, I tell Shenzhen Middle School students, America's top universities search for that elusive quality in admissions applications. 

But passion is part of the process, and Chinese students only understand results. They apply their national examination mentality to the US application process: they memorize vocabulary lists and take test cram classes so they can score high on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) so that they can get into a US News and World Report  top-25 American university.

I ask them why they want to study in the United States, and it's clear they don't really understand the American education system. I ask them what major they want to study, and it's clear they've never thought about their careers. When I tell them to research the country's liberal arts colleges because they'll provide a better education than the Ivy League,they tell me the point isn't to get an education but to get that Ivy League diploma. When I tell them that it doesn't matter what school they get into but how they perform, the students think there's no point in talking to me. And when I talk about passion and how Chinese students lack it they think I don't understand them. Of course, they have passion: they're passionate about scoring high on tests, very passionate about getting into an Ivy League school, and extremely passionate about making a lot of money in the future.  

In January, one of my students Pan Fangdi returned to talk to the Special Curriculum's new first-year students. I introduced her as a success story and a role model: she was performing well in challenging courses, she was on the university dance team, and she flowed easily between the mutually exclusive worlds of US and Chinese students. 

A student raised his hand, and asked which school Panattended. She replied that she went to the University of Wisconsin, and the room fell silent and flat. 

I told them that Wisconsin was a great university, and that Pan Fangdi had spent a year building the Special Curriculum. She came in to manage the coffeehouse students when they were in limbo, and she finished the renovation of the coffeehouse when that went awry. She worked hard to renovate the Special Curriculum rooms and facilities, and did all that numbing paperwork necessary to bring over the US faculty. Without her, I told the class, there would be no Special Curriculum. But the students remained cool and indifferent.

Then one of Pan's classmates returned to talk to the students. He took the easiest courses he could, and still struggled through them. He spent his time with his rich Chinese classmates watching the New York Knicks play at Madison Square Gardens or hanging out at bars. But he filled a lecture hall with Shenzhen Middle School students—because he was at Columbia University.  

A long time ago,China became a great civilization because its elite sought self-cultivation and learning. But too often today,Chinese only care about brands and labels, statistics and results. Yale is not an opportunity to receive an education that will make you successful—just getting into Yale is success enough. You don't buy a real Louis Vuitton bag to enjoy your wealth—you buy it to show you are wealthy. Getting a high score on the national examination is not the result of your love of learning—it's because you crave the praise and admiration of your classmates, parents, and teachers.

Chinese admire Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, but they also admire Napoleon and Stalin. In China it doesn't matter how you obtain wealth and power, and everyone just assumes that if you have wealth and power it's because you'rewicked.

'Get Rich or Die Trying' seems to be the motto for too many Chinese students.

Chinese saw my job as director of the Special Curriculum asgettingstudents into the Ivy League, and I saw my job as educating students and developing their passion. 

Take Zhou Yeran, whospoke perfect English, shot music videos, and wanted a career in film. I introduced him to two difficult works of journalism—James B. Stewart's Den of Thieves and David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter—and he loved both. I suggested he shoot a documentary about the building of the Special Curriculum, and he began shooting the renovation work and the coffeehouse students. The more I got to know Zhou the more he impressed me: he worked hard, and he was so serious about everything he did. 

I asked Zhou Yeran to be editor of a new English magazine I was starting, and he readily agreed. He did all-nighters to learn the publishing software Quark Express. He wrote features on migrant workers, and his writing was strikingly mature. He had worked so hard on the magazine ( he didn't have time to study for the Scholastic Aptitude Test, but he got a 2260 out of 2400 anyway, and a 790 out of 800 in the reading section. 

I thought for sure that Yale would take Zhou Yeran, and he would prove to all Shenzhen Middle School students that my philosophy was right: be passionate and work hard to develop your passion, and you'll be successful. 

This April, when Zhou Yeran failed to get into Yale or any other Ivy League school, his classmates mocked him on-line for being a failure. How was he a failure? At 18, Zhou Yeran now knows how to write magazine feature articles in English, and shoot and edit his own documentary. That's what I told him, but I could see that he blamed me partly for his failure. I thought he wouldn't speak to me again, and I began doubting myself.

Then one day Zhou Yeran re-appeared at the school with his video camera and started filming Special Curriculum classes and interviewing students. From then on, he came everyday to the office to shoot and edit his documentary. He showed me his edits, and I was so impressed I paid him the highest compliment I could think of: I told him he was so talented he didn't even need to go to college. 

The Ivy League will never know Zhou Yeran's brilliance, but the world soon will. Zhou Yeran has passion, but he has a rarer quality seldom found even in the United States—character. 

In awell-known Chinese parable, a farmer loses his best stallion one day and his neighbour comes to offer his condolences, but the farmer just replies, 'Wait and see.' The next day, the stallion returns with three wild mares, and the neighbour runs back to congratulate the farmer, who again replies, 'Wait and see.' The next day, the farmer's son falls from the wild mare, breaking his arm and his leg. The neighbour offers his condolences, and again the farmer says, 'Wait and see.' The next day, the army comes to conscript village youth, but finds the son an invalid. And so on. 

Life will always have ups and downs, Nassim Nicholas Taleb warns us in his book Fooled by Randomness. Chance is omnipresent and omnipotent, and we humans foolishly and futilely seek explanations and reasons and patterns for what after all are just random coincidences. In a world of flux and randomness, Taleb exhorts us to be above all stoic, to maintain dignity even in death—in other words, to have character.

Zhou Yeran may be going to a US state university, but he's discovered his passion and has proven he has the character to maintain his passion despite failure and adversity. Before I thought that I could have it all, and now I see that I must choose either to develop students' passion and character or get them into the Ivy League. Knowing that Pan Fangdi is so happy in the United States and seeing Zhou Yeran in the office every day excitedly and happily showing his edits to my office staff, that choice is obvious and clear.

Fund Raising for St. Jude Children Research Hospital

A Cornell friend of mine, Bess has decided to go running for her first full marathon, in aid of fund raising for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

If you would like to support her, the link is below:-