PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2008, 12:00am

Reassurance sought as too much teaching time is being lost at Island School

It appears that the Education Bureau has approved a rise in English Schools Foundation fees. I would therefore like to ask it and the ESF board whether there are a minimum number of school hours that have to be adhered to during a full academic year, as I am concerned at the number of hours that have been lost at Island School.

In Island School for the 2007/08 year, parents were informed that the school would close every Wednesday at 2 pm instead of the usual 3.10 pm, in part because of the new IB curriculum that the school was implementing, resulting in teachers needing training/meetings, etc.

Therefore, according to my calculations, in the 190 days of schooling in 2007/08 the students were losing over 200 hours of teaching time. The 190 days of school were not really 190 days, either, as five days were allocated as professional development days for the teachers (this, for the uninitiated, are extra holidays for the students) - an extra 35 hours lopped off?

At the end of the 2008 term we were informed that in the next academic year, due to parental concerns, the hours allocated to parent-teacher consultation would be increased and on the day a particular year group has consultations, school would finish early at 2pm.

Since school already finishes at this time on a Wednesday, I would have thought that this would have been the logical day to have the consultations on, but no - Island School will shorten yet another day of the week to fit in the consultations.

We have seven year groups in Island School, therefore seven shortened days adds to yet another eight hours being lost in terms of teaching time. Approximately 243 hours less tutor time than the 2006/07 academic year!

Surely alarm bells should be ringing amongst the staff and student body. Island School is a fine school but so much of teaching time is already spent on sports day, swimming galas, field trips, interim week, etc.

These are all legitimate and enhance the school (in my eyes) but they cannot keep whittling away at the hours - surely the teachers losing eight hours of meeting times has to be better than students losing eight hours of curriculum time?

Something has to be done and I await a response.

C. DASWANI, Sheung Wan

City must support classical musicians

I am a Form Six student studying at a local secondary school and I am writing to express my view on a problem in education in Hong Kong.

For many kids, every minute outside school is packed with activities ranging from tutorial classes to playing football. Among all the different activities, the most common is no doubt learning to play a musical instrument.

Though the number of young classical-music learners is astounding, the number of local professional musicians is pitifully small. It has been observed that many talented young classical musicians are forced to abandon their dreams due to the unfavourable circumstances.

In my opinion, the problem of limited resources and support for classical music must be addressed.

Firstly, people's traditional belief must be changed in order to let them understand the need to increase resources and support. Parents push their kids to learn instruments, but they never encourage them to become professional musicians for fear of limited opportunities and tough competition.

Secondly, the emphasis of the education system must be reconsidered so as not to put fine talent to waste.

It has been debated for many years that Hong Kong education stresses on exams rather than learning itself. Hopefully, with the education reform that is about to take place in a few years, the situation will be improved so that exam results are not the only thing that students get from their education.

It has been observed that many professional musicians excel in musical performance yet cannot do well in exams. In Hong Kong, the over-emphasis on exam results in universities' admission requirements has deprived this group of talented young people a high standard of tertiary education.

To tackle this problem, universities' admission requirements can be adjusted in order let prospective students be looked at more comprehensively, especially those who are not academically outstanding.

Thirdly, facilities for musical usage must be improved. With the small number of performance halls, musicians have nowhere to show off their talents or for the public to enjoy them. Continuous support is crucial to the development of classical music.


Comic-book art shows too little creativity

A new 'school' is preparing to open for business in my local shopping mall. Its main claim is that it will teach children how to be artistically creative.

Oddly, the majority of the student artwork on display is far removed from anything I would call 'creative'. So many pieces are done 'mock-manga' style, with legions of huge-eyed, ragged-haired, heroic young-teen characters.

Perhaps the fee-paying parents will be pleased to see their offspring emulating such comic-book art, but all I can see, so far, is uniformity.