PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2008, 12:00am

Rosy picture of teaching is not from this world

I listened with amusement to a government advertisement broadcast recently on the radio about what a 21st-century teacher is like.

Predictably, he or she is innovative in teaching, being able to interact with students in class. But that's not all.

The cheerful voice, apparently the teacher's, continues to say that he is also a counsellor sharing students' 'goods and bads', and a student never stops learning to prepare for the new academic structure. Whoever came up with this rosy picture of a teacher's life should go to some real schools. He will see how teachers implement interactive teaching in a class of 40. In the case of 40 unmotivated teenagers, the interaction may even extend to personal combat. He will also see teachers counselling students whose problems are too thorny even for professional social workers.

As for the teacher with a life-long passion to learn, I would say that fire will quickly die out thanks to the piles of marking (if the teacher is lucky enough to have students who do their homework) or constant pleading (with students who never do) and many people's, most notably the Education Bureau's, rather strange and myopic vision of teachers.

Carrie Cheung Po-ling, North Point

Real renewal lost on URA

The 150-year-old Graham Street market is vanishing, with the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) buying properties in the area. Many residents have moved elsewhere after obtaining compensation. The soaring property prices deter these original residents from staying close to where they had been but instead they have to move somewhere else.

About 10 per cent of the shops are now closed and more face the same fate with the URA continuing its current property acquisition approach. This historic and culturally rich market will one day fully disappear from Central. Whatever replaces it will be unable to bring back the current atmosphere. It is simply impossible to renew heritage and cultural activities.

Urban renewal must be people and culture-oriented. Sadly in the current URA set-up, they do not have any expertise to tackle such complex social and urban issues. Their jobs have always been on the development side rather than respecting the existing urban fabric.

Their recent announcement that they will make changes to their strategies in urban renewal policies would allow them a little more flexibility but ultimately they need to employ people who understand the urban preservation approach.

H. C. Bee, Ho Man Tin

Planners serve whose interests?

The comments from the Planning Department ('URA sets target for HK$30b Kwun Tong project', March 12), highlights the avoidance of governmental responsibility or control of our city's urban redevelopment. The department contends that the plan prepared by the Urban Renewal Authority should not be amended as the community's concerns of excessive height and preservation of local heritage would be addressed by the Town Planning Board when the master layout plan was submitted.

These comments give the impression that the Planning Department is isolated from the process.

However, the department does the overall planning for urban renewal schemes; prepares the master layout plan brief; critiques the URA's plan when preparing papers for the Town Planning Board, and makes explicit recommendations for approval or rejection to the board.

When will the department start doing its job and control development in the public interest, rather than allowing the URA's commercial developers to be in the driving seat?

Roger Emmerton, Wan Chai

Motor racing irresponsible

In what must be one of the most striking juxtapositions of headlines I have seen, BBC Online on March 17 posted the following stories: 'Glaciers suffer record shrinkage' and 'Hamilton hails best ever F1 win' [on Lewis Hamilton's victory in the Australian Grand Prix].

Millions of petrol heads the world over who support the Formula One multibillion-dollar oil-burning circus are unable to make any connection between its huge waste of the Earth's resources and its role as a gratuitous contributor to global warming - their so-called sport.

If we can't rid our lives of something as pointless and wholly unnecessary as motor racing, what hope is there for changing more serious human behaviour that impacts climate change?

Peter Sherwood, Discovery Bay

Civil servants contribute too

I refer to Candy Tam's letter on civil service pensions ('Fairer pension payouts needed', March 20).

I am not a civil servant but I think we have to be fair when talking about the pension system. This is part of the remuneration package and should not be mixed up with the old-age allowance, which is a handout to everyone eligible, including those who have never worked.

When the economy is thriving, some in the private sector can earn a substantial bonus.

This is something that civil servants can never dream of but in return, they have a comparatively stable job.

People take into account different factors when considering whether they prefer to work in the private or public sector. In addition, 'the government has replaced pensions with a contributory provident fund for new recruits from 2000' ('Civil service pension bill soars to HK$16b', March 10).

I believe that civil servants have contributed to the whole of Hong Kong as much as those in the private sector and therefore should not be singled out for unfair criticism.

Susan Chan, Wan Chai

One couple, two visas

I totally agree with Terry Scott ('Is visa rule down to race?', March 13) and Tom Smith ('No reciprocity for expats', March 11) regarding mainland visas for permanent Hong Kong residents.

My husband and I were both born in the UK and have British passports.

We have lived in Hong Kong for 14 years. However, my husband has a home return permit as he is ethnic Chinese whereas I am ineligible for the permit and have to pay a lot to obtain a mainland visa. The system is clearly unfair.

My husband doesn't even have a 'hometown' or any family on the mainland, so I cannot see the reason for this discrimination.

Mary Potter, Tsim Sha Tsui

Right decision

The government was right to close schools because of the flu outbreak.

It lowered the risk of the flu spreading and brought to the attention of the public the serious threat that flu poses.

The government does face logistical problems, such as getting homework arranged for pupils and working out a teaching schedule, but it had to act, before lives were put at risk. The government must promote a greater awareness of health care through adverts, and educate people to take the necessary measures to prevent the spread of flu.

As with any outbreak of this kind, prevention is crucially important as it can save lives.

Ng Shuk-yee, Mong Kok