Minorities can help with English
As a parent-teacher association committee member at my daughter's school, I recently attended the joint graduation ceremony of St Margaret's Co-educational Secondary School and St Margaret's Girls College; both English medium-of- instruction direct subsidy scheme schools preparing students for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
It was a privilege to watch so many presentable young ladies and well-mannered young men making one of the ritual transitions to adulthood.
About half the students were Hong Kong Chinese but the graduation list had many Filipino, Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, and other non-Chinese names as well. There were excellent speeches and performances in English and Chinese (and indeed French) and much evidence of integration and co-operation in the midst of diversity. We hear a lot of idle talk about Hong Kong being an international city but here was real evidence for it.
Many of our universities have publicly stated their desire to create international multicultural campuses to better equip Hong Kong graduates with the skills required to compete in a globalised world.
City University, for example, has recently announced it will spend HK$10 million annually to attract English speakers from overseas to create an English- speaking environment on campus ('CityU mentors to raise English levels in campus', June 18). In its rush to attract overseas talent, I hope that CityU, and other universities, will not forget there are many Hong Kong students from ethnic minorities who could play a pivotal role in the adoption of English as a lingua franca and contribute much to the cultural enrichment of our campuses.
Historically, our tertiary institutions tended to turn their backs on such students. A declaration by these tax-funded universities that they value applications from our ethnic minorities would be very welcome.
Paul Stables, Chai Wan
Raising a child is very expensive
Offering subsidies may motivate more couples to start a family.
The main reason couples decide not to have children is the immense cost involved in raising a child in Hong Kong.
This financial pressure could be alleviated to some extent by having child-friendly employment policies and also introducing tax exemptions targeted at young couples. They may be more willing to have children if they face fewer financial difficulties.
But subsidies will not solve all problems because another factor which leads to a lower birth rate is concern over property and housing shortages.
Therefore, the government will have to come up with a diverse strategy. It must ensure more public housing units are made available to couples, extend free education and provide adequate child-health services.
Changing attitudes is also important.
Some young couples simply do not want to have a family, and the government needs to emphasise the importance of raising the birth rate.
I hope the administration will come up with the most appropriate ways to deal with this problem and that we will see a rise in birth rates.
Vincent Hui, Sha Tin
Upside of a second escalator
Looking at a picture with old steps and the mature trees in Pound Lane, Sheung Wan, I can quite understand the opposition to a second Mid-Levels escalator there, given that the escalator in Central has environmentally ruined the atmosphere of the vertical streets.
I am all for these escalators, as they are a great asset for people going up or down the hills. However, the government needs to be more generous than it was with the first escalator and aim for a better quality design.
A case in point is the Asia Society [in Admiralty], where new structures have been inserted into old settings to celebrate, not destroy, them.
As for the former central government offices, I am for preserving the west wing for environmental reasons. We must conserve as far as we can. There is no reason why it cannot be revitalised, renovated and added to, to accommodate vibrant uses which would project new life.
Look at the High Line in New York, where the revitalisation of derelict railway structures resulted in the wonderful linear park in Manhattan, and at the vitality of the historic buildings on the Bund of Shanghai.
It calls for innovative thinking and design. I am particularly fond of the spaces between the existing government buildings and the existing trees, which I know so well as I grew up in the district.
Joan Lye, Happy Valley
Revamping old factories makes sense
I must take issue with the letter by Ho Kam-tong ('Proposal to convert old factories into temporary homes will not be practical', July 4). Having conversions and thereby extending the life of any building ought to be encouraged, and adopted as a core policy by our government.
The idea of demolition and redevelopment of a structurally sound building is akin to throwing away furniture and clothing that can still be used.
In general, any redevelopment project will create a carbon footprint.
The argument that it is environmentally friendly is only valid if the new building will save a lot of energy, drastically reducing its operational carbon footprint.
On the technical feasibility of converting an industrial building to residential use, nearly every major city has undertaken such projects, including London, New York and our own Shanghai.
I believe what is required is better planning and guidance from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's new team.
What is needed is to aim for a good mix of revitalised commercial and residential spaces from our old industrial buildings.
London's revitalised docklands area proves this can be done successfully.
It is a great place to live and work.
Nigel Lam, Kowloon Tong
Youngsters do not have right skills
W. H. Chan's letter ('We must reduce the wealth gap', July 7) touches many important points, one being continuing education.
Sadly, education at the primary level and to a large degree at university does not teach young people the importance of skills needed to enter the workforce effectively. This has led to a disconnection between the skills required and the jobs available.
Rather than looking at how to close the wealth gap, we should seek to expand the wealth available and return to Hong Kong's core values and the dream that, with hard work, anyone can be rich and successful.
Sufficient emphasis must be placed on the importance of education and opportunity.
Stephen Anderson, Macau