PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 July, 2010, 12:00am

We need to save small businesses

The number of small businesses in Hong Kong is decreasing. Some of them are shut and replaced by large chains.

This trend is very much evident in the catering industry. The number of restaurants in the city dropped from 12,354 in 2005 to 11,539 in 2008. Those that have survived are becoming bigger and run by large restaurant chains with huge resources.

Many Hongkongers dream of owing a business. They believe that having their own business is better than working for others. However, this is easier said than done.

Starting your own business from scratch is very difficult. You have to be prepared to take risks and bear losses.

Besides, when you run a small business, you may have to compete against people who have unlimited resources. Small businesses who fail to be competitive may have to shut down. Then all your money and efforts are wasted.

What's really worrying is that the rents are rising at a rapid rate. Also, labour costs will probably increase in the future if the minimum wage law is passed by the Legislative Council.

So who says owning a business can make you rich? I think you may earn even less than when you were working for others.

To prevent big companies from monopolising the market, the government can offer more subsidies to small businesses to help them deal with skyrocketing rents and soaring operating costs. After all, it's the small entrepreneurs who are passionate about their business and come up with the most innovative ideas.

Vivian Leung Cheuk-yan, Tsuen Wan Government Secondary School

Give problem students a chance

Schools are persuading underperforming secondary students to leave, according to media reports.

They are under pressure from a shrinking population of pupils and a race to boost enrolment and stave off closure. Hence, schools are finding roundabout ways to get rid of problem students in the hope of enhancing their reputation and academic record.

Forcing low achievers to leave school goes against the true objective of education. Different people have different abilities, so it's the teachers' duty to help those who cannot cope with their academic work.

If the students fail to reach the required standards, it means the teachers' performance is unsatisfactory.

Moreover, some schools seem to underestimate the potential of students. A Form Four student who received an academic improvement award was persuaded by the school to drop out. The school said they expected his public exam result would not exceed 14 points. It's obvious that they used this as an excuse to expel him.

I think there are several reasons why students get poor grades, for example, family problems or illness.

Teachers should be more caring about low achievers and give them a chance to shine.

Schools have no right to deprive students of their education.

In addition, there will be serious consequences if schools expel problem students. For instance, a boy was convicted of stealing after he 'voluntarily' left school. Not many dropouts are lucky enough to find a more understanding school where they can flourish.

The unlucky ones will lose their motivation to study. As a result, they may choose to hang around with friends rather than continue studies.

Schools should always think about the meaning of education: Is it aimed at boosting their reputation or nurturing teenagers into independent and useful people?

Jessie Lau Si-nam, Kit Sam Lam Bing Yim Secondary School

A cheerful life

I am writing to share my opinions about a cheerful life. Many students believe that good academic results are vital for success in today's society. So they work hard to secure a university place, with the hope of getting a well-paying job after graduation.

However, this does not guarantee a happy, successful life. We can be happier if we help the less-fortunate.

In addition to doing voluntary work, we should help our family, neighbours, classmates, and friends. I believe this is the key to a cheerful life, and a truly bright future.

Chan Yat-hei, Po Leung Kuk Celine Ho Yam Tong College