Our children may be schooled, but are they being educated?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 May, 2007, 12:00am

As we get ready to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to mainland China, the criticisms of our education system remain unrelenting in the Chinese-language mass media.

In the South China Morning Post, the native English-speaking teachers are the most vociferous critics.

It seems that 10 years on, our schools have failed many of our students during what should have been the best years of their lives.

I wonder if readers of this letter have read the provocative book Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich, published in 1971. Illich suggested learning networks as alternatives to schools.

Freely available learning webs with educational resources for all learners have now come into being with the advent of the internet. However, his suggestion about deschooling has yet to be taken seriously.

State schools the world over continue to provide institutional education to children whose parents cannot afford private or independent schooling. Interestingly, some parents in western countries prefer to educate their children at home instead of sending them to school.

The appalling situation portrayed in government primary schools by Ed Nelson ('Primary-school children being trained to behave like robots', April 28), was a painful reminder to me of the criticism about education during the British colonial years. Then, it was often described as 'spoon-feeding' or 'enslavement' education.

The declining quality of education in schools also got me thinking of Milton Friedman's statement that highly 'schooled' people may not be 'educated'.

I just wonder, however, if those in charge of education in Hong Kong would honestly listen to teacher and public opinion about what is wrong with our schools.

Mr Nelson may be correct in begging the question: 'Has Hong Kong not learned anything from successful education systems elsewhere?'

I hope he, and others like him, will consider staying longer to help make the changes for better the schools of tomorrow.

C.Y. Tsui, Tuen Mun