Most Hong Kong students highly motivated

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 July, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 July, 2000, 12:00am

David Ho's article headlined, 'Myth of the docile, respectful Chinese student' (South China Morning Post, June 22) should not go unanswered.

Some of the things he describes might well be true of some students, in some schools, some of the time, but he seems to be generalising across a very broad sweep: Hong Kong, the mainland, across the centuries and in both schools and universities.

This has not been my experience of university students in Hong Kong. Last year I came out of retirement to teach at a Hong Kong university, after many years teaching there previously.

My answer to the question 'What do you enjoy most about being back?' is: 'The students.' Most of the students here are highly motivated, eager to learn, responsive to different teaching and assessment methods and outside the class, friendly, warm and outgoing. One class of mine graduated in 1991. We have met for dinner each year since then, including each year of my retirement.

I was recently on a teaching excellence awards panel at another Hong Kong university. Many teachers were nominated by their students, with glowing student testimonials. Interviewing the contenders, variations on the theme 'I-love-my-students-and-they-love-me', were very common, especially amongst the Chinese teachers. Obviously, there is more to it than this, but mutual positive regard is a sure foundation for excellent teaching. And that is as true in the East as it is in the West.

If the most frequent complaint of students is about 'boring' lectures, and that 'they did not know what the professor was talking about', it sounds to me like they have been taught badly, not that they are a new breed of uppity, disrespectful students who ought to know their place.

NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED Much has been written and said about the parlous state of education in Hong Kong. But, as the cliche says: 'Every coin has two sides.' I have just spent the most rewarding week in my 12-year teaching career. Twenty-four NETs (Native English-speaking Teachers) and I took 500 Form One and Two students on a week-long English-speaking camp to Wu Kwai Sha Youth Village in Ma On Shan.

My colleagues used words like 'gentle', 'enthusiastic', 'talented' and 'able' to describe the attitude and demeanour of the students. Yet, at the same time, so many young people in the West seem to believe the world 'owes them something'. All too often their attitude is one of belligerence, aggressive arrogance and hostility. The attitude and demeanour of the SAR school students I and my peers dealt with, were exemplary. They were a credit to their parents, schools, teachers and most of all, to themselves.