Unlocking learning barriers

Loretta Shuen FCPA.

Former Ernst & Young partner Loretta Shuen is helping Hong Kong children with the learning difficulty of dyslexia on the way to a brighter future.

Loretta Shuen FCPA knows the value of education. Mentoring accounting and business undergraduates at Hong Kong’s universities over the past 10 years ignited a spark for helping other young people succeed.

“I met a family with a son who had dyslexia and the mum shared her frustrations. I chatted with the boy, who’s now 15, about how frustrated he’d felt at school because he didn’t know what was happening. He couldn’t understand why he could not read or write accurately, like the other students, and he was bottom of the class,” Shuen recalls.

“Then he told me how he got onto the program offered by the foundation and after a few years he caught up. He felt proud of himself, not only because he could learn, but also because he’d discovered his other talent in music – he’s leading the guitar team.”

“We really need to bridge the gap between the children’s performance in school and their true learning potential.” – Loretta Shuen 

It struck Shuen that the true scale of the problem had been masked, as those affected by dyslexia usually had average to high IQs.

“Most are very clever so this is really something I have a feel for,” she says.

“From available research, around 10 per cent of students in Hong Kong have dyslexia to a certain degree, so it’s a huge population. We need to bridge the gap between the children’s performance in school and their true learning potential and, importantly, to restore their self-esteem.”

Shuen previously worked with the Hong Kong Inland Revenue Department, then became a partner with Ernst & Young managing tax compliance and planning for multinational clients. She was president of CPA Australia’s Greater China division in 2009 and remains the chairman of its taxation committee.

“After more than 37 years of working in taxation, I have had quite enough of that,” Shuen says candidly.

“My main commitment now is giving back to the community.”

Loretta Shuen at a career development workshop at Pathways Foundation, where she helps students with dyslexia.

Loretta Shuen at a career development workshop at Pathways Foundation,
where she helps students with dyslexia.

Although officially retired, she’s happy to be consulted on a voluntary basis. She has been using her financial and management expertise to help Pathways with strategy development and keep its administration in shape.

Shuen sees an opportunity to contribute to its fundraising strategy to ensure that the organisation can continue to support students from poorer backgrounds.

She is also keen to be involved as a mentor as the students move beyond school and transition to work. She ran a workshop in May for teenagers who may soon enter the job market.

“When they are primary school children, coaching is important so we have teachers to help them. As they move along, they are looking for jobs so we have to start thinking how to help them. We don’t want them to turn into anti-social individuals simply because of developmental difficulties which are beyond their control.”

Path of awareness

Established in 2001, the Pathways Foundation is a registered charity that works with children who have dyslexia symptoms and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

As Hong Kong’s only not-for-profit organisation specialising in dyslexia, it provides professional teaching and services for about 500 students to strengthen literacy, numeracy and organisational abilities as well as social skills.

“Students come after school for an intervention program to help them learn to read, because we always say that we need to learn to read before we can read to learn,” Loretta Shuen explains.

The foundation also works to generate greater social awareness and acceptance of the conditions.

This article is from the December 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK


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