Parents should play the supporting role
Victor Keung Fung, a Hong Kong-based commentator on language and education issues, in his article 'A lesson for parents: education begins at home' (South China Morning Post, August 26), raises the question whether parents have contributed their share to help educate their children beyond the classroom. However, I wonder if his advice to help parents really works, as the suggestions offered are what a lot of parents with a certain level of education are practising in Hong Kong.
I am not sure if other readers would agree with some of Mr Keung's suggestions, in particular on the issues of setting high expectations for their children and setting aside at least three uninterrupted hours of quality time with them once a week.
Expectations from parents can be detrimental to the healthy development of a child. But why should parents set high expectations on the performance of their child only in assessments and not find out beforehand if the child has understood those subject matters and if they need help?
Parents' expectations can put tremendous pressure on children and cause them anxieties. In Hong Kong, parents too often expect their child to be what they want them to be but not what the child wants. In the quest to achieve what parents want of their child, development of the true potential of the child could be hindered in the process, as he or she may be compelled to excel in areas which they find hard to cope with and not in those where they have the most potential.
Mr Keung's suggestion of setting aside at least three hours of quality time once a week with the child sounds horrendously Victorian - when upper-class children existed in their own little world most of the time and would only be seen by the parents during a designated time. If the child's educational development is of prime importance, parents should always find time to attend to their child's needs and every minute they spend with them should be quality time.
Parents are children's role models, mentors, facilitators and friends. Why not find the time to communicate with them, understand them and give them the appropriate support, encouragement, guidance, advice and care they need?
Tougher policies needed over private schools
So, Thailand, and no doubt many other countries in Asia including Hong Kong are going to get tough on hiring expat teachers in the wake of John Mark Karr's arrest.
As usual, this is a typical knee-jerk Thai reaction coming after the event and whilst in principle it is the right and necessary thing to do now, it will be flawed by certain individual's ethics.
International schools are opening up all over Asia and in Thailand, as in Hong Kong, many schools, kindergartens and learning centres are run as private businesses. These businesses are driven by desperate and greedy employees and will initially employ any western face without bothering to do a background check. Bums on seats and money coming in are what matter most.
In Thailand and Indonesia I have experienced this first hand so I know it to be true. It will happen again.
When paedophiles and child offenders are found out by their employees they are often dismissed and disappear in a cloud of smoke.
The parents are fed the great white lie that he, and it invariably is a male, had to return home immediately, because of a family emergency or crisis or that he decided to pursue another avenue of employment.
Head-teachers acting under school directors often have little choice but to do this, they have families living in foreign countries to think about.
At the end of the day, the last thing a school wants to do is publicly admit they got it wrong and actively recruited and employed a member of staff to work with children without doing a background check. In a private school, surely this is what parents are paying those extra fees for, peace of mind.
Perhaps it's time governments across Asia reviewed some of their policies and took a firm stance with these fly-by-night establishments that cut corners in human resources. Children, at the very least, deserve to be educated in a safe environment.
Tseung Kwan O
Anytime test can solve shortage problem
As the English Language Proficiency Assessment Tests are closed and there is still a shortage of English teachers in Hong Kong, I would advise the Education and Manpower Bureau to re-open the tests to allow potential English teachers to take them until such time when there are enough qualified teachers to make up for this shortage.
These tests could be taken so that the shortage of teachers problem can be solved as soon as possible.
Besides using English as the medium of instruction in teaching English subjects at secondary schools, Cantonese can be used sparingly as a supplementary aid for local students to help them get a better grasp of the English language.
Local English teachers have a better understanding of the difficulties facing local students in learning a foreign language than native English teachers since local teachers are themselves learners of this language too.
Moreover, the native English teachers might not have the qualifications to teach English as a foreign language, even though they are qualified teachers of English.
STEPHEN CHUNG KONG-CHAN