PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 September, 2008, 12:00am

Are schools doing enough to protect children?

I am a student at an international school and am returning for my third year here in Hong Kong.

I have lived in many places in Southeast Asia, including Taiwan, the mainland and Thailand.

In all of these locations I have had no doubt in my mind of my safety as a student with respect to my teachers' background and the overall security of the school I was attending.

This illusion of being 100 per cent safe was caused by the belief that with the resources available (for example, having sufficient funds and access to the correct information), the schools' administrators would do a thorough background check on all teachers and other staff so as to protect the students and ensure there was no potential danger. Campus security seemed like a no-brainer to me.

After reading Dennis Chong's article on the schoolteacher convicted for 'a child-related offence' ('Schools didn't ask about my conviction: teacher', September 16), I asked myself about the security of the schools.

In a school you may have an efficient system with guards on patrol and cameras throughout the school, which can go a long way towards preventing students coming to any harm.

That kind of system exists in so many private schools. But why is there all this fuss about keeping potentially dangerous people out, if students are not aware of the character of their teachers?

Schools can easily allay the concerns of pupils and parents by advertising that they have a system of background and character checks of all their staff.

We all know that the positions in highly rated private schools are mostly given to those candidates who have the best credentials and capabilities needed to perform their job.

A lot of time is taken checking applicants' certificates and degrees. It would surely be very simple to also undertake a check on an applicant's character.

Jake More, Repulse Bay

I don't think the schools have taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of their students ('Schools didn't ask about my conviction: teacher', September 16).

I believe some schools have done better than others, but there is still room for improvement.

They should require teachers to hand in any details of criminal records before they are allowed to start work.

However, it should not end at that. Schools can enhance their monitoring of teachers' performances by, for example, having cameras in classrooms.

Some teachers might object, but they have to realise that such a security system may be necessary.

Yiu Shing-wan, Kwun Tong

Should schools be targeted for closure?

The government plans to close about 50 secondary schools over five years. Officials argue this is necessary because of Hong Kong's low birth rate and ageing population.

Closing all the targeted schools because they fail to attract enough students is not the solution. The Education Bureau is being incredibly shortsighted.

It is only thinking about the short-term benefits, about the savings that can be made with fewer schools. In fact, the government has done nothing to try to deal with this problem of a low birth rate and ageing population.

In the long term, the government must introduce some practical policies to encourage Hong Kong couples to have more children.

It could follow the example of Singapore, France and Japan, and offer subsidies to families that have babies.

What should also be done, as soon as possible, is for the Education Bureau to adopt the small-class policy. If this happened there would be no need to close schools.

The small-class policy should be introduced now, but we must look at outlining long-term policies.

Candice Cheung, Mid-Levels

Should a watchdog be set up for yoga?

I refer to the report ('Government told to flex its muscles to keep yoga safe', September 13).

I consider B.K.S. Iyengar to be one of the greatest exponents of yoga of our times. Thousands of his students from all over the world have benefited from his teachings.

Many have set up yoga centres in Britain, elsewhere in Europe, Canada, the United States, Asia and Australia. B.K.S. Iyengar lives in Pune, India.

I strongly advise the Hong Kong government to send an e-mail to him in relation to setting up some kind of standards for teaching yoga in Hong Kong. It would be better to do this than to talk to practitioners of yoga in Hong Kong.

K. M. Nasis, Mid-Levels

Do our old streets need more protection?

With redevelopment we have lost more than 300 old streets in Hong Kong in the past century. It is anticipated we will lose more as new urban renewal projects are devised.

Many old streets reflect Hong Kong's unique culture and history, and now they have gone, streets like Bird Street in Mong Kok and Duck Egg Street in Sheung Wan. They have been wiped out to make way for high-rise shopping malls.

We have more than enough malls. It is time to think again about what we need in Hong Kong. No matter how prosperous a city is, if it has lost its history and collective memory, it means nothing.

Instead we have some fake replicas replacing the original buildings, such as the new Star Ferry pier in Central. We must stop this indiscriminate destruction of our old streets. We need to strike a balance between cultural conservation and urban development. The government can act as a leader in this respect and show its determination to protect these old thoroughfares.

For example, guidelines should be given to developers and they should not be allowed to knock down those old streets which are of cultural value. Grants and allowances can be offered to developers to revitalise these streets.

After they have been revamped they will offer more open space to people and attract tourists.

In this sense giving them a new lease of life is a win-win situation.

Lui Na-chun, Wong Tai Sin