PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


Universities are places, not brands

It is disheartening to see a renewed push to attract, if that is the right word, so-called top universities to set up shop here ('Hong Kong risks losing the global education race', May 29).

What has made New York, London, and Paris education hubs is their ability to nurture local universities with roots in their cities over decades (sometimes centuries) of development and refinement in concert with governments and communities.

This is already happening in Hong Kong and it is a necessarily slow process.

Allowing international institutions to open 'branches' here cannot be prevented; Hong Kong is a free economy, after all. But it would send the wrong message.

Universities are places, not banking operations, let alone brands.

The examples of (mostly US) universities opening campuses in Singapore, Dubai or on the mainland are not necessarily to be lauded. Many people see them as money-making operations, while insiders know they are much diminished versions of their counterparts back home.

Having said this, I see the advantages of having private universities. I was partly educated at one, albeit one that, much to my approval, stubbornly refuses to join in the 'global education race'.

Then again, a private university in Hong Kong, too, would have to be conceived and run locally.

Giorgio Biancorosso, Happy Valley

Exams being given too much weight

Our education system is too exam-oriented. It puts a lot of pressure on pupils and stifles creative thought.

The government should implement changes in line with schools in the West so that we have a more task-based system. If exams made up a smaller proportion of results, pupils would feel less strain.

At the moment, young people who do not excel in their exams will often find their career prospects blighted.

Not all of us are academically talented, but we may have other skills that could mean we could make a useful contribution to society.

There should be more options made available to school leavers so they can achieve their full potential.

John Yau Ho-cheung, Laguna City

Overloaded students overstressed

When I think of the new senior secondary school curriculum, I think of exam machines. It has been very harsh to teachers, pupils and their parents.

In order to get ready for the Diploma of Secondary Education exams, it has been impossible for teachers to get through the whole syllabus in the time allotted, and with most schools this has led to extra lessons during the holidays.

This places stress on everyone involved.

Young people also do not have enough time to absorb the huge amount of knowledge presented to them. If they fall behind, with so much work and so little time, they find it more difficult to catch up.

As a pupil, I feel the curriculum should be expanding our knowledge and range of experience, but this is not happening, because we are overloaded with studying. Pupils are not learning things like developing social networks, moral values and the basic skills of life.

There must be a full-scale review of the current system.

Wong Pik-yuk, Sha Tin

Greek drama isn't revenge tragedy

There is no connection between a village in Niger and Greece, and it's inappropriate for International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde to suggest that there is one ('Payback time for Greeks, Lagarde says', May 27).

There are well-qualified historians, sociologists and political scientists able to offer her insight and knowledge as to why three children in a village in Niger share a single chair. As for 'payback time', the euro-zone crisis is not a revenge tragedy. Such words encourage baying for blood. Where should this lead?

Mme Lagarde would do well to consider sage advice offered by the proverb 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones'.

Ariadne Hueffmann, Sai Kung

Filibustering was first step to democracy

I disagree with Alice Wu's column ('Fili-blustering', May 28). To her, the whole event in Legco was nothing but an entertaining farce.

Why is that someone with Ms Wu's political knowledge was unable to see the filibustering as an act of defiance against the unfair legislative system, where developers still dominate local politics? Instead of mocking legislators, it would have been better for her to rail against the existence of our functional constituencies, which have turned Legco into a parody of democracy.

While 'meaningless' would not be the first word I would associate with the whole filibustering exercise, I might regard it as ineffective, because many underlying motives were either downplayed or never made known to the public.

Nonetheless, the prolonged deliberation forced Legco president Tsang Yok-sing to exercise in unprecedented fashion the president's exclusive power to guillotine the filibustering.

Also it was alleged that the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong 'had paid anti-filibuster protesters to rally outside the Legco building' (''No collusion' over debate, Legco president insists', May 19).

The heated debate over the political manoeuvres still holds the attention of the public, and people are now more concerned about what is happening in the Legco chamber. The strategy of stalling the controversial by-election amendment bill paid off.

It forced the pro-establishment camp to act and raised the public's political awareness. This is a step towards genuine party politics and future democracy.

Wang Tsui, Hung Hom

Photos alone won't do as smoking gun

I refer to the letter by G. Davies ('No fare rise if cabbies keep smoking', May 28).

If you take a photo of a taxi driver smoking, have a photo of the taxi licence plate and a clear photo of the driver, and you agree to be a witness in court, it is still not enough to convict.

I know because I have sent several documented examples to the Tobacco Control Office.

They are impotent to take action.

That is because there is no duty on the taxi owner to tell you the identity of the driver.

I would enjoy discussing this issue with the legislative councillor whom G. Davies spoke with who thinks that a photo is all you need.

The Road Traffic Ordinance must be updated to match the tobacco control laws, or enforcement against taxi drivers smoking in their cabs is impossible.

I have had to enter the taxi, take a photo of the driver's identity plate in the front window before the driver snatches it out of its holder, and send that in for the Tobacco Control Office to be able to take any action. When there is no driver ID, I have had to pay for the taxi to drive to the police station so an officer can collect the ID information. And when I do, the police tell me to look out for my personal safety.

Voting to pass a law in Legco does not mean it can be easily enforced on the street.

Legco members would do well to hire former police officers to tell them the pitfalls of the laws they seek to enact and make sure they have the bite needed so they are obeyed.

Annelise Connell, Stanley

Avoid taxing income more than once

I take strong issue with David Chappell, who proposes replacing salaries tax with income tax ('Tax the rich on unearned income', May 26 ).

Hong Kong does need to diversify its tax base, but it needs to avoid any form of double or triple taxation of the kind that blights other administrations.

People should be taxed once on their income and not at all on any dividends or interest they earn on investing what is left.

Neither should their estates be subject to an inheritance tax. I would suggest, though, that some form of purchase tax on non-essential luxury goods and electronic road pricing (first proposed in the 1980s) be introduced as soon as possible.

The problem of the wealth gap, recognised by all of us, cannot be addressed by soaking the 'rich' but by enabling the 'poor', something I feel certain that our chief executive-elect fully intends to do.

Guy Shirra, Sai Kung