Ethnic minority students getting short-changed
I read with interest the report ('Top-tier schools widen the net', January 2). Diocesan Boys' School and St Paul's Co-educational College have developed plans to offer alternative Chinese language programmes.
Overseas-returned Chinese and ethnic minority students have fewer educational options and are effectively disbarred from many local schools. From the point of view of equal opportunities, their tax-paying parents should have more choice, including in publicly-funded schools.
For students who have first learned to read and write in a language other than Chinese, a Chinese as a second language (CSL) programme should be designed to meet their needs. The rationale for such a programme is the same as the English second language programmes provided for Hong Kong students when they study overseas.
The school of which I am the principal is a direct subsidy scheme secondary school that has offered a CSL programme for our overseas returned and ethnic minority students since 2006. We are an International Baccalaureate world school. The International Baccalaureate authorised us to implement its middle years programme from Forms One to Four. We also plan to offer our students the opportunity to follow either the new Hong Kong diploma or the IB diploma course when they reach Form Five and Form Six.
IB world schools students are expected to study a second language course called Language B in addition to studying their first language.
Therefore those students whose first language is English are provided a CSL course in our school. However, our CSL students feel they are limited to choosing the IB diploma programme instead of the Hong Kong diploma when they reach Form Five and Six for two reasons.
First, there is no CSL examination course provided in the Hong Kong diploma and second, CSL students without Chinese (in the new diploma) may experience difficulties in entering local universities.
I sincerely hope that the Education Bureau and the Hong Kong Examinations Authority will look again at this issue, refine our current language policy and establish a CSL curriculum and examination.
They should address this need as a matter of urgency.
This would also be a helpful way to relieve the pressure on international school places in Hong Kong, as well as ease the financial burden of families that can ill-afford international school or private independent school fees.
Cheung Siu-ming, principal, Creative Secondary School
Have a culture and science day
I am against the establishment of a public holiday for Confucius' birthday ('Public holiday for Confucius a step closer', January 8), because the heyday of Confucianism in China is long past. The May Fourth Movement of 1919 broke the orthodoxy of Confucianism in China so that new schools of thought such as democracy, science and Marxism-Leninism could be introduced into the country.
I propose renaming the Tuen Ng Festival, the day of the dragon boat races, Chinese Culture and Science Day. It would commemorate the contributions made by great thinkers such as - Confucius; Lao Tzu; Mo Tzu; Qu Yuan (the poet we commemorate on the Tuen Ng Festival); Yen Fu (his translation of the theory of evolution changed Chinese history at the end of the Qing dynasty); the May Fourth Movement reformers such as Hu Shih and Chen Duxiu, and rocket scientist Qian Xuesen who died in October.
Joseph Lam Wing-kau, Quarry Bay
Keep Easter Monday break
I am fine with celebrating a holiday for the birthday of Confucius if that is what a substantial number of Hongkongers want. But please don't take away a Monday holiday to do it.
Three-day weekends (or even four-day ones) are a breath of life and air in Hong Kong's overly intense working environment.
I doubt anyone can really verify when Confucius was born, anyway.
Wikipedia tells me it was 'traditionally September 28, 551BC'. If we are going to celebrate his birthday, let's just decide to celebrate on a Monday, as the Americans have done with George Washington and Martin Luther King.
John Medeiros, North Point
Combine two MTR rail lines
There has been much discussion (or rather negative feedback) from East Rail Line passengers after the West Rail Line was extended to Tsim Sha Tsui East while the East Rail Line now terminates at Hung Hom.
The change of terminus has caused problems for East Rail passengers, as it is now at an inconvenient location.
Some people would rather change to the Central Line at Kowloon Tong, which makes that route even more crowded.
I think the best solution is for the MTR Corporation to merge the East and West lines.
They would form an (almost) U-shaped route, from Lo Wu to Tuen Mun.
There would not have to be a terminus in Tsim Sha Tsui East or Hung Hom.
I do not have the technical specifications of the trains, however, I think that modern-day locomotives should be able to run long distances.
If the fatigue of the drivers is a concern, then drivers can change in Hung Hom.
The fact that the East Rail Line used to terminate in Tsim Sha Tsui East station, before the West Rail extension was completed, means that the train design and the platform design allow East Rail trains to go through the Tsim Sha Tsui East station and the rest of the West Rail stations.
For the same reason, if West Rail trains can terminate in Hung Hom, they should be able to run through the rest of the stations along the East Rail Line.
Karina Lam, Sha Tin
Simple question unanswered
Jake van der Kamp ('A bumpy ride', January 8) rightly asks the crucial question that should have faced us concerning the controversial high-speed rail link. Does it make sense to spend HK$66.9 billion to reduce the time it takes to travel by train from Kowloon to the border and connect with the mainland's high-speed rail system? All other questions are distractions.
Unfortunately, it is almost certain that the above question has never been in the minds of the policymakers and their supporters. When has an economic model, even a simple one, been shown to the public by the authorities detailing the long-term cost and benefits?
In this nation, political logic, as a rule, has always preceded economic logic.
Simply search our history books on such subjects as the construction of the Great Wall or the Grand Canal. When compared with those projects, this HK$66.9 billion rail link is nothing.
Raymond Lai, Quarry Bay
Late arrival of mail to Europe
I have sent private and business mail regularly to Europe and Southeast Asia over the last three years.
The postal service has always been top grade with the mail reaching its destination in four to five days.
However, on October 22, I sent a normal-sized letter, with the correct postage and address, to Sweden. Two months later I decided that it must have been lost. I had made copies of the enclosed documents. But on January 5, I learned that the envelope had finally reached its destination. There was no explanation for the delay.
Mail sent to Japan in early December did not reach Tokyo until the end of the month. Christmas cards for Scandinavia also posted in early December, reached the addresses on January 11. That mail took five weeks. I could understand if the cards had been sent by surface mail.
When I approached the GPO in Central, the explanation I was given was that there might not have been enough outbound flights from Hong Kong to Europe. What?
Should we all now resort to sending e-mails instead?
B. Karlstrom, North Point
Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah was able to get legislation passed that introduced a levy on plastic bags. It has brought a lot of inconvenience to people, without helping the environment.
However, when it comes to the oil companies, his hands are tied.
On Sunday night I noted that prices at the petrol pumps had gone up again.
These firms say they must raise rates when oil prices go up, but there was no reduction in the cost of petrol, when oil prices fell sharply a month ago.
There is probably nothing Mr Yau can do about this problem. The reality is that our society is controlled by the rich and their companies and no one can do anything to curb their money-making moves.
Joseph Lee, Pok Fu Lam
Make the effort
Many Hongkongers find it difficult to know what to do when they encounter someone who is mentally disabled.
People who are mentally disabled will often be more candid than other citizens who are reserved. However, I wish Hong Kong residents would try harder to understand these individuals and make the effort to communicate when they meet them. We should treat them just like we would treat anyone else and help them to increase their self-confidence and to be part of society.
Karen Fong, Sheung Shui