The best teachers teach from the heart. CPAs who teach at the Institute tell Jeremy Chan how their desire to share knowledge keeps them nurturing the next generation of professionals, despite their hectic schedules
Photography by Anthony Tung
(From left to right) Melody Li, Randy Hung and Lolita Edralin.
Melody Li became one of the Institute’s Qualification Programme (QP) facilitators almost a decade ago. She has since conducted countless lectures and workshops for many fresh-faced university graduates – with a few exceptions. “I remember a senior-looking foreigner walked into my classroom one day and sat at a table,” Li says. “I then found out that he was, in fact, a partner at a Big Four firm – I thought he had stumbled into the wrong venue!”
The Institute offers QP workshops for aspiring CPAs for the four QP modules – Module A financial reporting, Module B corporate financing, Module C business assurance and Module D taxation. QP students must also sit the final exam which features a workshop, facilitated by members. More than 21,000 students have graduated from the QP since its inception in 1999, with 772 having graduated from the December 2018 session alone.
But finishing the QP is just the start. The Institute offers a wide variety of courses for members (and students), such as its continuing professional development (CPD) courses – which saw 76,790 enrolments last financial year.
These courses and workshops, for members and students alike, are made possible by the many Institute members who are willing to share their specialist knowledge. While they work in different industries, they share a common enthusiasm for making a difference.
“You need the passion to contribute to this QP community.”
Li began by teaching accounting to both undergraduate and postgraduate students at local universities. But she sought a bigger challenge. “I wanted to apply my skills by being a facilitator for the Institute’s QP.” She now teaches Module C business assurance. She conducts a mixture of lectures and eight-hour workshops, and says workshops – which include group discussions and role play – tend to be the most effective. “I always look forward to this section of the class,” Li says. “The students take turns to be a senior-in-charge. They assign different tasks to their teammates, lead group discussions, manage time and help each other.”
By encouraging them to assume the role of a leader in a group setting, students develop their soft skills quicker, says Li. “They really do their best to carry out the role of a senior-in-charge. It’s very interesting to see how they improve in their communication, leadership and presentation skills in just a few hours.”
Li explains that every so often, older professionals attend as part of a prerequisite to attain local qualifications, in addition to their overseas certificates. Their years of experience prove extremely useful in classes. “Their work ethic positively motivates the younger students to get involved in more workshop discussions. They often share tips and even stories of past mistakes they have made,” she says. “The students eagerly listened to the partner from the Big Four firm, who shared his insights on business assurance. I thanked him for his contribution after class.”
Those considering teaching should have the right qualities and be open to the difficulties, notes Li. “You need the passion to contribute to this QP community,” she says. “Most of these students are young, so you need to be their mentor, and be able to coach them to be future professionals.”
A learning experience
Another QP facilitator, Shane Cheung, says the programme offers the ideal platform for CPAs like him to not only share, but also gain valuable knowledge.
Cheung has been a facilitator at the Institute since 2002. He remembers how nervous he was at the beginning. “Many of the questions were outside my area of expertise and industry, such as the different accounting standards,” he recalls.
QP classes are led by two QP facilitators, who first undergo a training programme. “I was very impressed with the facilitator I partnered up with, who was a practising auditor. Each time he was faced with a question, he knew exactly which section numbers, tax cases or keywords to answer with – right off the top of his head,” says Cheung, Financial Controller at APEX Harmony Profits Limited, a private commercial company. “We would also role play by pretending to be students and simulate the environment of a class – I learned so much.”
“I push myself to stay updated, so I engage in self-study to prepare for QP classes.”
Cheung, who teaches Module A financial reporting, particularly enjoys hosting group discussions. The role of a workshop facilitator is to guide students, he says. “During discussions, I like to walk around the classroom and listen to how students are performing. If I notice that a student has misunderstood a certain topic or concept, I point them in the right direction by giving them hints,” he explains. “Ultimately, they are able to solve the problem by themselves.”
Following the discussions, the groups present their findings, and Cheung then further tests their understanding. “We advise students on what they have missed out by supplementing their answers, or imposing other scenarios on top of their answers,” he says.
He is also a marker for the QP examinations – a role that helps him as a class facilitator. “By being a marker, I get to really know and understand how students are performing, or what they are struggling with,” he says. “This makes it easier for me to coach and remind future students on areas to focus on in exams.”
Like his students, Cheung is always studying. “I read up on all changes that have taken place the last six months, such as the revision of standards,” he says. “I push myself to stay updated, so I engage in self-study to prepare for QP classes. It’s a bit like my own personal course.”
Randy Hung teaches risk management and internal control.
Time to teach
Randy Hung’s first teaching experience happened while he was a student at the University of Southern California, where he studied accounting. “I remember I always sat in the front, and always raised my hand to ask questions during lectures,” Hung says. “I would also visit professors outside of lecture hours, and ask lots of questions.” His diligence and curiosity led him to being invited to become a teaching fellow.
Hung is the Director of Investor Relations of China Shineway Pharmaceutical Group, Vice Chairman of the Hong Kong Investor Relations Association, and a speaker at the Institute’s CPD programmes. He covers topics such as investor relations for listed companies, independent non-executive directors (INEDs), and risk management and internal control. “I’ve always been passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience, especially with people who are in need of that knowledge,” he says. “It’s my way of giving back to society.”
He teaches classes of up to 60 students in their 30s and 40s. In a standard lecture on INEDs, he starts by discussing case studies based on his real-life experiences, followed by group discussions, and ends with a question and answer session. He speaks on how individuals become INEDs and the selection process. “I first want them to understand why they are in this class, as that gives the students a firm objective to meet before the end,” he says. “I might ask the class ‘why do you want to become an INED?’ or ‘what do you think an INED does in real life, every day?’”
Hung covers topics of a technical nature, sometimes as early as nine o’clock on a Saturday morning. The group discussions, he believes, are a great way for students to not only stay awake, but also ask questions to clarify their uncertainties. “If I were a student again, I wouldn’t want to go to a class and listen to a long talk – I would fall asleep in a few minutes,” he says. “So I’d like them to speak too.”
“If I were a student again, I wouldn’t want to go to a class and listen to a long talk – I would fall asleep in a few minutes. So I’d like them to speak too.”
To facilitate this, Hung splits the class into groups to discuss the subject matter. “Some groups just aren’t as active as other groups, so sometimes I’ll join their table as a participant to ask and answer questions,” he says. “I really want them to speak more. When they start speaking more, they ask more questions too.”
One challenge for Hung is finding time to prepare for lectures amid his busy schedule. “I need to balance my job, overseas work trips and classes at the Institute,” he says, adding that he always makes time to prepare, no matter what. “I force myself, and stay up late if I have to. I need to make sure all materials are updated according to the latest news in the industry and accounting standards – this also means making last minute changes to powerpoint slides.”
Though he isn’t a fan of coffee, Hung has his own pre-class rituals. “If I’m tired before a class, I listen to loud, exciting dance music,” he laughs. “I talk to people, too. You definitely wake up a little more after that.” Hung wants other CPAs to give teaching a go, and says the benefits are mutual. “By speaking at these events, you make friends, stay up to date with technical information and you diversify your life,” he says. “CPAs, whether in practice or corporate, need soft, human and communication skills. Being a facilitator helps with that.”
Lolita Edralin teaches corporate financing.
A lifelong passion
Lolita Edralin had always wanted to be a teacher. She vividly remembers the first Chinese language class she taught to students in primary five as an 18-year-old university student. “It was quite a scary experience – I couldn’t find my notebook, which had all my teaching notes. On the second day, I was called to the principal’s office because some parents complained that I had given too much homework,” she laughs. Luckily, she got through that class without her notes.
That experience taught her the importance of preparation to tackle her busy schedule today. Edralin is a professor of accountancy at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and a CPD and QP speaker at the Institute. Before becoming a full time lecturer, she spent nine years at Arthur Andersen Co. and more than 25 years at British American Tobacco, with the last five years spent implementing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, used by companies to manage and automate back office functions.
She began teaching ERP systems at the Institute’s CPD courses in 2007, and teaches Module B corporate financing in the QP.
“My goal is for participants to learn something practical that they can bring back and apply in their work,” Edralin says. “For example, if the participant is an auditor, I provide examples of what to look out for when auditing, and audit checklists that they can use. For those involved in implementation, I share steps, as well as issues, lessons learned and best practices for their consideration. Every company and every ERP implementation is different, so I want the sessions to give them an idea of what other companies do for them to consider in their implementation.”
Having previously taught children, Edralin has had to revisit her approach to teaching. “When you teach primary school students, you are the boss, and you tell them what to do. They listen, do their work – and they are usually terrified of the teacher,” she adds. “When teaching CPD or university courses to adult learners, you really need to give them value. They’ve invested time and money to attend. In some cases, they are also your fellow CPAs.”
“When teaching CPD or university courses to adult learners, you really need to give them value. They’ve invested time and money to attend.”
She aims to be as approachable as possible. “I establish my credibility at the very beginning, so for example, I tell the students about the ERP systems I’ve implemented, and in how many markets. This way, the students know that you know what you’re talking about,” she explains. “I share a bit about my background and sometimes about my family and kids. This helps to show that I’m open, not strict, and that students can approach me. I make them feel that we are all there to learn from each other.”
Though Edralin is busy with her job at the university, she is able to manage her time well, and is committed to speaking at the Institute for as long as she can. “If you love something, you’ll always find time for it,” she says.
One thing she has learned is that a great teacher can be life-changing to grown-ups. “One participant came up to me after a CPD class, and told me she had been unemployed for a while, but had managed to get a job because she was able to clearly explain what controls are needed in ERP systems by citing examples she learned from my course.”
The Institute welcomes members to become QP workshop facilitators. For more details, visit www.hkicpa.org.hk