Junior Primary contestants pose for a group photo during the “21st Century Cup” English-speaking competition on May 8, 2021. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)
HONG KONG – Seven winners in the Hong Kong regional final of the “21st Century Cup” English-speaking contest will compete in the national final in the summer, after delivering their winning speeches on Saturday.
The seven stood out among the 50 finalists who each gave two speeches, one prepared and one impromptu, in five categories — Junior Primary, Senior Primary, Junior Secondary, Senior Secondary, and University. This year’s regional contest tested the English-speaking skills of hundreds of students across the city.
The seven regional winners will face contestants from 27 other divisions in the national final of a competition that was launched by China Daily in 1996 and attracts more than 1 million young participants across the country each year.
Michael Chong Yat-tsun from Hong Kong Baptist University speaks at the competition. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)
Michael Chong Yat-tsun, winner of the University category, said he is excited to compete in the national final, as there will be more outstanding contenders and a wider audience.
A sophomore at Hong Kong Baptist University, Chong said participating in competitions is one of the most useful ways to master speaking skills. It is also a way to build self-confidence and the ability to improvize in unfamiliar situations, he said, adding that an opportunity to challenge oneself can be hugely rewarding in itself.
Isabelle Ho Yan-ching, the Senior Secondary winner from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, said she is eager to meet the judges and members of the audience in the country’s largest English-speaking competition.
Ho said: “I’ve realized that in public speaking, passion and sincerity (can) take a speech to the next level.”
Wong Man-yan, Junior Secondary winner from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, speaks at the contest. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)
The five younger winners were: Trinity Hsu Chuo-yan from Fukien Secondary School Affiliated School, in the Junior Primary category; Su Yue-sheng from Ying Wa Primary School, in the Senior Primary category; and three students in the Junior Secondary category, namely, Wong Man-yan from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, Gladys Wong Ying-chun from The New Territories Heung Yee Kuk Yuen Long District Secondary School, and Charmaine Wu Sum-ching from Diocesan Girls’ School.
The regional champions will receive their awards at a ceremony in July. Hong Kong candidates have an impressive record in the national final since the competition was extended to include the special administrative region in 2017. Secondary students Christian Suen Chung-man and Sham Pui-yan won the national championship in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Margaret Leung Kam Sau-ling, chairman of educational charity the English-Speaking Union who has judged at the competition in recent years, said she has seen a continuous improvement in the English proficiency of Hong Kong students at the annual competition. The competition also provides a platform for English educators from different schools, universities, and organizations to exchange ideas, Leung said.
Leung noted the multicultural elements of the competition that are unique to Hong Kong, as candidates from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds presented colorful and inspiring interpretations of their topics.
Amy Tan Yan, director of VDO English — co-organizer of the competition — said she was impressed by the enthusiasm of Hong Kong students to improve their English outside school. Active participation in these competitions is an effective way to help students maintain their interest in the language while developing broader real-world speaking skills, she said.
Judges hear speeches delivered by the regional finalists. (CALVIN NG/CHINA DAILY)
A panel of nine judges graded the speakers’ performances. They were: Leung; Jenny Yeung Li-wa, senior curriculum development officer of the Education Bureau; Jeff Streeter, director of the British Council; Christopher Ng, head of programmes development of the British Council; Raymond Lo, founder of Seeding’s Culture Youth Exchange Centre; Stephen Chua, secretary general of the Hong Kong United Youth Association; Frank Liu, a member of the English-Speaking Union; and China Daily’s copy editor Gregory Ahlstrand and multimedia reporter Azam Khan.
The regional contest was a joint effort by the Education Bureau, the English-Speaking Union, the British Council, the Hong Kong United Youth Association, the Outstanding Young Persons Association, Seeding’s Culture and Haitong International Securities Group.