PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 November, 2007, 12:00am

Strict rules on uniforms contrary to direction of education reform

Thanks to Paul Surtees for shedding some light for me on the mysterious topic of school uniforms ('Uniforms are about vital factors: school spirit and discipline', Education Post, October 27).

Having grown up in the US only in public schools where uniforms were not required, I find the requirements in Hong Kong regarding school attire quite restrictive, and even contrary to the direction of school reform, which is towards greater creativity and active student learning.

My daughter's school not only requires uniforms but coloured hair ties are not allowed - only black ones - and socks and running shoes must be 'pure white'.

Indeed it was a telling analogy when Mr Surtees compared schools with the 'disciplined services' of police, army, etc. Uniforms and such strict requirements of dress do indeed contribute to a similar atmosphere to those - i.e., deterring humour and fun, repressing individuality and creativity and fostering blind adherence to rules.

I do not discount the need for rules and the contributions a uniform could make towards a common school spirit. However, to encourage learning, and not just 'being taught', schools could try to strike a better balance between discipline and fostering a sense of pleasure in attending school and learning.

I am sure many would agree spending most of one's learning years in a strict environment, and coming home to more schoolwork, contributes to stress. Some would even agree such an upbringing may even tip children towards rebellious behaviour or addictions to stimulants (including computer games) which would not seem so attractive if their daily environment were not so deadening.

My ideal balance would be: a school uniform composed of a polo shirt with school logo only, with perhaps a requirement to wear dark trousers or jeans. Leave the rest to the child. An untidy appearance can be a reason to inquire whether parents are facing difficulties at home - but should not, as implied by Mr Surtees, be a reason to assume 'parental neglect'.

The classroom should allow room for individuality and the natural activeness and fun-seeking of children so these natural tendencies can be harboured in the interest of better student learning. Fear of error and reprimand is not the most effective teacher.

If I am not mistaken, the direction of local school reform is towards more 'student-centred teaching' anyway. Hopefully the uniform tradition will soon catch up with this trend.


A multilingual CUHK could reap benefits

I disagree that Chinese University of Hong Kong should teach mainly in Chinese ('Concern over rising use of English at university', South China Morning Post, October 9). Although I think that CUHK should initially maintain its speciality by teaching mainly in Chinese, it would be a good idea to teach in other languages, such as Putonghua and English, as well.

By offering more courses taught in all three languages, CUHK will provide more opportunities for non-Chinese-educated students. In addition, it will be a plus factor for foreign students to come to CUHK, either for exchanges or for full-time study.

Not all Chinese know Cantonese or Putonghua well, especially Chinese in foreign countries. Therefore, more students will be attracted to CUHK if it teaches in languages other than Chinese.

I believe teaching in other languages will not only benefit the foreign students but the local students as well, because they will have more opportunities to practise their language skills.

In addition, many people overseas have the misconception that CUHK only teaches in Chinese, because of its name. In order to attract more students, especially those from overseas, CUHK has to make it known that it does not offer only courses taught in Chinese.

Offering an equal number of courses in different languages will not tarnish CUHK's image, as the preservation of Chinese culture and heritage can be maintained through other means, such as the campus environment.


Putonghua plans huge waste of money

Re teaching in Putonghua ('HK$200m plan to help schools use Putonghua', South China Morning Post, October 30), Hong Kong students are probably the most stressed in the world due to the unique historical background of the region. While the handling of Chinese and English is already tough and confusing, if the medium of instruction for Chinese language changes to Putonghua, students will undoubtedly be unable to cope with it. Besides, the huge economic burden is unnecessary; HK$200 million is a huge amount considering the plan's insignificance.

Although learning Chinese language using Putonghua may help improve students' writing, it isn't worthwhile spending such a startling amount on it. In addition, factors like patriotism or political reasons are not supposed to influence students' study.

LAU TIN-YING, F6, Pui Ching Middle School

Back to school for the British Council

I had always been under the impression that the British Council was no everyday institution, so I was surprised and bemused to read the slogan in their advertisement on the front page of Education Post on October 27.

It may be an everyday mistake in Hong Kong but for the purposes of education, I suggest that they change their slogan from 'Everyday an inspiration' to 'Everyday an adjective'. It seems the standard of English in Hong Kong really is plummeting - every day.