PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 September, 2011, 12:00am


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Teachers face impossible workload

I have recently arrived from Britain and taken a teaching position in a Hong Kong school.

Prior to my arrival I had been made aware of the stress suffered by teachers, but only after my first week at work did I actually come to understand why these levels of stress exist.

I have taught in a number of countries but have never come across a situation where teachers need to sleep at their desks between lessons. From my discussions with teachers working in other schools it seems that this is not uncommon.

It is no wonder teachers are stressed and tired, as they work exceptionally long hours and have very little time to relax and unwind. I have also been told by my school that all the teachers are required to work both Saturday and Sunday twice during the coming year.

I thought that labour laws in Hong Kong set a minimum of one rest day in a seven-day cycle, but it seems schools are allowed to ignore these.

When teachers are forced to work eight hours on Saturday and Sunday it places great stress on them, as their week is now 12 days long. If they have two of these in a row the number of days without a break can stretch to 20 days.

When will schools wake up and realise that tired teachers are ineffective teachers. It's time to put an end to modern day slavery.

Tamara Kiew, Fanling

Small classes can help students

Children in Hong Kong are under extreme pressure, as parents have high expectations.

Some parents concentrate too much on academic performance and this can lead to mental health problems at a younger age. Often when they have finished the school day, children have to go to tutorial classes. For some parents any sacrifice is justified to gain acceptance by a school that teaches in English.

The opinions and wishes of children are often ignored. For example, they may not want to have piano or violin lessons. They can end up being deprived of a happy childhood and the sort of freedom that goes with that. In Western countries, children usually enjoy a higher degree of freedom than in Hong Kong. They are encouraged to think about their future on their own with little interference from parents. But the opposite is the case in Hong Kong.

Another problem is the exam-based education system. Starting from kindergarten, there are tests and dictation. At secondary school the situation gets worse. Comparisons between pupils create tension, and the main aim is then to be near the top of the class. Teachers want their pupils to do well in exams and give them a great deal of homework in an effort to make them study hard.

Rather than being a place where you can enjoy your studies and make friends, school becomes competitive. This is not a healthy learning atmosphere.

Small-class education would help ease the pressure in schools, as there would be less competition among students.

In such classes teachers could pay more attention to each pupil. The relationship between teachers and pupils would improve.

For Hong Kong parents, my advice is not to try to decide the future for their children and to respect their views.

Vera Fan, Tsuen Wan

Dog owners should be considerate

I refer to W. F. Sze's letter ('Dog owners must act responsibly', September 4).

We share your correspondent's concern over some dog owners' failure to dispose of dog faeces in a sanitary manner.

We all want to live in a clean, hygienic environment, and good hygiene in public and private places is equally important. Dog owners should be considerate and avoid their pets causing any sanitary problem to the neighbourhood.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department is responsible for the upkeep of cleanliness in public places. For the convenience of dog owners, dog latrines and excreta collection bins are provided at suitable locations. While it is the responsibility of property management and residents to keep the common areas within private places clean, upon receipt of complaints the department inspects private places and gives advice to the property management/residents concerned.

It is indeed an offence to fail to clean up after one's dog in public places under the Fixed Penalty (Public Cleanliness Offences) Ordinance. Offenders are liable to a fine of HK$1,500.

We agree with W. F. Sze that most dog owners are responsible and considerate. We hope all dog lovers can do their part for a clean and hygienic environment.

Leung Wai-chung, district environmental hygiene superintendent (Tsuen Wan), Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

No way to check daily mobile costs

The rising cost of using hand-held devices, phones such as the iPhone and BlackBerrys is a cause for concern, especially when there is no way of checking how much it is costing on a day- to-day basis. When you get the bill you sometimes get an unpleasant surprise.

Surely the phone companies should be made to provide such information on demand from the user? They know at any one time how much you have spent so why do they not make the information available? They can do it with pay-as-you-go phones, so why not contracted devices?

Probably they are afraid that people will use the devices less and it will affect their profits.

This may or may not be the case, but surely the government should have regulations that protect the customer? Transparency of pricing is required in virtually every other sphere of commercial activity. Why are the phone companies allowed to get away with this?

Michael Jenkins, Central

Regina Ip's attitude is so superior

Let's face it, Hong Kong is never going to get legitimate universal suffrage any time soon if people like Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee ('Say 'no' to rule by referendum', September 11) have their way.

To her and her ideological kin, the public are easily swayed beings, always ready for handouts and unable to make rational decisions by themselves. What makes Mrs Ip, the tycoons, the functional constituencies and the 'pro-establishment' camp so superior to everybody else? Aren't they people too?

Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po

We can all cut carbon emissions

Changing tariffs and having tougher legislation can help to reduce carbon emissions from buildings. But I think public education is the best way deal with this problem.

When people understand that reducing carbon emissions can have a long-term and positive effect on our environment, it will help them realise they need to do their bit in this regard.

They will then make an effort to change their habits by reducing the levels of energy they consume, knowing that they can really help the planet.

Kelvin Ng, Sha Tin

Waterfront Ferris wheel a tacky idea

I refer to the report ('Now it's a Ferris wheel race', September 11) and the other articles that have appeared about this proposed 'giant wheel on the waterfront in Central'.

It is tacky. Why be common and copy?

Surely, Hong Kong, a city that leads in opportunity, forward thinking and a few architectural wonders, could come up with something unique and apt for the surroundings.

And why ruin one of the most spectacular skylines in the world? It is so out of character.

S. Cullen, Pok Fu Lam

Pseudo solutions not eco-friendly

The Humanist Association agrees with Lam Wai-leung ('Incandescent bulb ban is a bad idea', September 15). We would also point out that compact fluorescent bulbs are still being promoted as green.

Clearly, with that mercury content and the advice given of immediately clearing any enclosed space where such a bulb is dropped or broken and to stay out of there for 15 minutes at least, those bulbs are not green.

Where was government research on this matter?

Self-serving corporations and companies are cashing in on eco-friendly devices of all kinds and it is that type of cheating that is provoking people to take a stand against all the silliness surrounding the global warming phenomenon.

Yes, there is climate change, always will be and we will always be adapting.

Yes, we have to clean our act up but let's have real green thinking and action, not pseudo solutions aimed at profiteering.

Tony Henderson, chairman, Humanist Association of Hong Kong