PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 September, 2009, 12:00am

Celebrity tutors will not help students develop their own ideas

I refer to your report and editorial ('How trendy tutors hook pupils hungry for help', and 'Education reforms must set bar higher for tutors', August 30), and would like to respond as a teacher and parent.

The private tutorial business has become not only an extremely lucrative industry but a culture that undermines the effectiveness of the education reforms by planting a lax learning attitude among students. Expensive business suits and immaculate appearances aside, many of these celebrity tutors feel obliged to crack jokes that can get dirty to keep students amused.

What they promise is not that students will get more knowledge in the subject but that they will be better skilled in taking exams, aided by their accurate exam tips. What has been the result? This profitable tutorial business keeps booming as the academic standard of our students drops. Some of us, despite our inherent disdain for these tutors, allow our children to try out at least for a few months for fear of their losing out on getting the right exam tips. However, thanks to these tutorial businesses, many students spend more time guessing the questions to be asked than getting an in-depth understanding of the subjects.

They are good at picking and memorising key words in marking schemes but totally incapable of developing their own ideas and perspectives. They want to find short cuts or fast tracks to prepare for the exams and use the time saved for social activities rather than serious study. Some of them even consider attending school a waste of time and their teachers old-fashioned and dreary.

As a teacher, I find that the tutorial-school culture offers no help in developing independent thinking and analytical skills. Students who are drilled to memorise key points can hardly develop original and lateral thinking. In writing argumentative essays, for example, many students can usually make general statements about an issue but only a minority of them can develop their arguments with examples and personal insight. Their essays are therefore sterile and uninspiring. We are not going to do away with a public exam when assessing our students in the new curriculum.

I just hope that the authorities will continue to work towards a system where independent thinking and analytical skills are encouraged and rightly rewarded, leaving little room for celebrity tutors to cash in on exam tips given to students.

Clive Chan, Kowloon Tong

School textbook prices are far too high

Over the last few years, the prices of school textbooks have been increasing and I do not think the higher prices can always be justified.

Publishers have argued that with the implementation of the new school curriculum in this academic year, they have had to employ more staff and this has led to higher production costs. I doubt if the additional staff are employed to actually write textbooks. The existing textbook authors are quite capable of writing the new ones.

New members of staff will be there to promote the new books and the cost of hiring them will be passed on to consumers.

Publishers will send textbook samples free of charge to schools, but this will actually add to the cost of the material.

CD-ROMs come with the books, but they are never used by the students. Some publications have pages full of pictures, but only a few words.

Jolene Chow, Lantau

Needs of community must always come first

I agreed with the views of Candy Tam ('URA gives priority to developers' needs at expense of residents', August 30).

I think that local residents and local business should be given high priority in any Urban Renewal Authority project. This is important because it helps to preserve the local community and businesses within an area. This is only fair and if a building is revamped, they will then get back what they owned in a better state. I believe in a unit for a unit, a ground floor property for a ground floor property is a good deal, although subject to modifications.

I understand that most buildings in old districts do not fully utilise the plot in terms of height. That means developers can gain enormous advantages in getting the full gross floor area and height in a redevelopment after paying the residents for the old buildings.

Regarding the revamping of an old building, the URA should help existing tenants and businesses rent a place in the community while a renewal project is being completed.

However, it seems that redevelopments are for the benefit of developers to help them get prime land. Ensuring a fair deal for locals is sometimes forgotten. Officials should be seeking to find the best project for a community, not thinking about the best interests of developers.

Lam Wai-yip, Mid-Levels

'Quiet car' on trains difficult to find

Now that West Rail has been extended to Hung Hom and there is interconnectivity between West and East Rail the 'quiet car' policy must be reviewed.

East Rail trains are almost twice as long as those for the West Rail and have two quiet cars while the West Rail trains have only one.

Passengers who object to being bombarded with unwanted noise pollution while they are commuting, not only have to cross platforms at Hung Hom but on some trips have to dash up and down escalators to get to other platforms.

Completely disorientated they then face the added rigour of finding the elusive quiet car.

The only sign is on the platform floor, which is impossible to find in the rush hour.

This is totally unacceptable, particularly when passengers are carrying luggage or heavy shopping and are unable to board the departing train because they cannot find the quiet car.

Every second car should therefore be designated a quiet car in order to provide a level playing field for passengers who want to relax, read, snooze or enjoy their own entertainment via non-intrusive MP3 players or other gadgets.

Could the MTR Corporation advise when passengers who object to unwanted onboard infotainment services, and there are many, can look forward to a smooth interchange between West Rail and East Rail quiet cars?

On long journeys fare-paying passengers have a right to a seat in the carriage of their choosing instead of facing a long trek up and down the train to seek relief from the stress induced by the intrusive broadcast noise.

Martin Brinkley, Ma Wan

Plastic bag levy has been a success

An increasing number of shoppers are now bringing their own bags since the 50-cent levy was introduced.

I have no doubt that this levy is the most effective way of reducing the volume of plastic bags being used.

Until the new tax came into force, people insisted on asking for free bags.

Appeals by the government for consumers to act responsibly were only leading to a slight reduction in bag use and that was why the law had to be introduced, and it has led to a drastic reduction.

I hope that citizens will realise that it is only right that they should pay for the convenience of having a plastic bag. I would advise them each time they go shopping to save the 50 cents they would have spent if they had taken a bag at the supermarket checkout.

Once the sum builds up they will soon appreciate how many bags they alone have not used and they will appreciate that the law has made a significant difference.

Hedda Sze, Kwun Tong