Promoting critical thinking from multiple perspectives through hot social issues

Professor YEP Kin-man Ray
Professor/Associate Head Department of Public Policy

Compared with similar departments in other universities, the Department of Public Policy covers a much wider field of subject matter. To ensure they gain a deeper understanding of the various subjects, first-year students can enrol in advanced courses. Professor Ray YEP has been teaching at CityU for 18 years. He does not consider himself an educator who places a special focus on teaching according to students' aptitudes. Instead, he likes to inspire students' interest in a subject by discussing hot social issues before guiding them onto the path of critical thinking and analysis from multiple perspectives.

A method without a method

Professor Yep emphasised that he does not have any specific pedagogy. He usually begins his classes with issues his students can relate to. "Students can only remember as much about current affairs as a goldfish. As such, I must quote something really recent. For example, when the concept of nationalism is discussed, I start with the football match between China and Hong Kong. When we come across civic resistance, I bring up the Mongkok incident." Although the way Professor Yip starts a lesson may seem random, there are concepts put in place to link the courses. For example, economic reforms in China are approached from the concept of property rights theories, and subsequent topics are also themed around that concept. Professor Yep does not talk too much about textbook contents in his class. He would rather guide students to consider issues from different angles. "I keep an open mind in my teaching. I listen to different voices and consider the same question from various perspectives. I prefer my students not to jump to conclusions too soon."

Proactive CityU students

In this age of information explosion, the campus is no longer the one and only location where learning takes place. "In the past, the campus represented the entirety of a student's world. The campus is where they started and finished learning for the day. Students of today do not have to join the student union when they want to develop their knowledge. They may join external political parties, and they can equip themselves through other channels. As a result, a student's abilities may not be fully demonstrated in the classroom."Professor Yep added that CityU students are very proactive and know very well how to plan for their future. This quality is particularly evident in non-classroom activities. "Our exchange or internship programmes are usually very well received. Students take an active role participating in activities that help their future career."

Not an ivory tower scholar

At CityU, politics is Professor Yep's main teaching subject. As Vice President of the Student Union of the University of Hong Kong, he was very active during his university years. "I thought there was too much that I did not know. That was why I had to study and learn. I intended to do a PhD and that naturally put me onto the academic path." To widen his exposure, after he earned his Master's degree, Professor Yep worked as a researcher in an American trading company that sold chemical fertilisers to China. He mainly studied the situation of agricultural development in China. He became familiar with a wide range of topics and gradually grew fond of China studies. Rural China became the subject of his PhD dissertation. "After completing my doctoral programme, I wanted to continue with research. A teaching position at a university is a great platform. I can work on any research, and I enjoy a great deal of freedom."

Teaching and research aside, Professor Yep is passionate about social affairs. He was once active in a political party and has mainly engaged himself in the work of think tanks in recent years." Someone had asked me why I joined an advisory committee of the government. I thought that would give me the opportunity to get in touch with the business sector and the pro-establishment camp. I would be able to listen to different voices and ideas, which would be helpful in my academic research and in understanding what public policies are really about." Professor Yep hopes that his participation in society can drive certain ideas or raise more attention from the public. "Speaking as a university professor undoubtedly draws more attention." Such attention was exactly what he had hoped for.

“I would describe myself as 'professional'– in the sense that I take responsibility for my profession. Students should also perform their own duties by really participating in the classroom. Participation is the key to benefiting from the teaching and learning process.”

An advocate of academic research

Academic research is a time-consuming deed, but Professor Yep is certainly enjoying it. "An article can easily take one whole year to complete, as each and every sentence is the result of repeated polishing. The article is evaluated by authorities on the subject, and amendments are made after discussion. I have benefited greatly from the process alone, and my knowledge has grown as a result." He also mentioned that, after receiving expert advice, it usually becomes obvious that there is room for further improvement. His position as a university professor gives him the opportunity to conduct different types of research.

Professor Yep has been focusing on two research projects in recent years. The first one looks at issues in rural China, such as the effect of urbanisation on governance. The second one looks at the effect of colonial governance on the Hong Kong-China relationship. He believes that the current conflicts between China and Hong Kong come from a lack of mutual understanding of history. "We will start a new research area: how do new immigrants integrate into Hong Kong society? Who are Hong Kongers? Is someone a Hong Konger when s/he recognises the social value of Hong Kong? If we exclude these new immigrants, how can they integrate into the community?" Professor Yep pointed out that all of the preceding questions are worth our reflection.

Professor YEP Kin-man Ray

Professor/Associate Head Department of Public Policy

Professor Ray Yep joined CityU in 1998. He specialises in the study of issues in rural China and colonial governance in Hong Kong. He is very active in community affairs and was formerly a member of the Advisory Council on the Environment and the Council for Sustainable Development. He has engaged himself in the work of think tanks in recent years, offering his input to SynergyNet, Path of Democracy and the Central Policy Unit. He has held visiting posi t ions in Bristol University, Peking University, University of Macau and Brook ings Institution.