PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 September, 2011, 12:00am


Not all goals are readily measurable

I refer to the letter by Diane Salter ('Outcome-based approach is consistent with quality teaching', September 21) in response to Lingnan University professors Andrew Goatly and Ersu Ding ('Real education is about much more than just student grades', September 15). Ms Salter says 'it is a shame' that they did not find out more about what an outcome-based (OB) curriculum actually is before criticising this approach to education.

Yet they clearly knew enough about it to identify valuable educational goals that are not readily aligned with classroom assessment instruments and the OB measurability requirement.

The OB approach does have many well-informed critics, some of whom have been unsuccessfully trying in the US, Australia and elsewhere to make this approach yield its promised outcome of improving educational institutions.

With accountability to the taxpayer in mind, it is germane to ask why the University Grants Committee opted for this approach and how much will be spent on this project. It is also fair to ask whether the OB doctrine has lived up to its own standards by leading to large-scale, measurable improvements in education anywhere in the world.

Ms Salter says educational institutions and teachers using OB are 'likely' to be better at advancing student learning. But on what basis could this likelihood be known? Have rigorous empirical measurements involving large-scale comparisons between educational systems been made? She claims OB is 'consistent' with an interest in educational reform.

That rather attenuated claim is surely correct, yet the key question is whether the large amounts of money spent on OB would have been better spent on other, less controversial ways of improving education, such as reducing the staff/student ratio or spending less on educational consultants and bureaucracy.

Paisley Livingston, chair professor and head of philosophy, Lingnan University

Pot should not call the kettle black

Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun lambasts the government for wanting to impose a national education agenda as part of the curriculum for primary and secondary schools ('Cardinal slams 'brainwashing' in schools plan', September 26).

If making an effort to help Chinese students learn more about their own country's history and culture can be labelled brainwashing, then what about the scripture lessons and perennial sermons that take place in Catholic schools and churches?

I wish the cardinal would concentrate his attention on the kind of religious brainwashing that goes on and avoid talking about educational and political issues.

Nigel Ng, Happy Valley

Palestinians suffer a kind of apartheid

Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas' bid for membership of the United Nations is a milestone on the long and torturous road to recognition of the Palestinian state.

Unfortunately, it seems that the US government, pressurised by Israel's lobbyists and the right-wing Christian fringe, will veto the bid.

The drive by the United States' Christian fanatics to torpedo any form of Palestinian statehood is ironic given that a large chunk of the Palestinian population is also Christian.

I have visited Israel four times in the last 15 years or so and witnessed the brutal apartheid-like suppression of Palestinians on the ground.

The ultimate goal of Israel's government is not peace but to stonewall negotiations, thereby allowing the land grab and colonisation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank to continue relentlessly.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu will only be willing to start genuine peace negotiations when the Palestinians are left with slivers of 'Bantu' lands, following in the footsteps of South Africa's rulers during apartheid.

Kristiaan Helsen, Sai Kung

Delay in train crash report bad for China

Given the fact that the Wenzhou high-speed train crash was so serious and attracted international attention, many people are keen to see publication of the final report on the investigation by the central government.

The delay has sparked speculation, rumours and a great deal of discussion about the possible reasons behind the delay ('Panel seeks more time for train crash report', September 22). The report was originally 'due to be published in the middle of this month'.

The central government must now give a new schedule and announce a release date for the final report.

The relatives of those who died are eager to know the truth behind the accident.

The international community is also keen to learn details of what caused the crash.

If Beijing does not come forward with a comprehensive and timely report, it will have a negative impact on China's international image, and there will be further criticism of the government's handling of the matter.

It may lead to allegations that officials have something to hide.

That is why it is so important that Beijing at least comes up with a schedule regarding the investigation and report.

Teresa Fung Wing-man, Tsuen Wan

Free papers should avoid racy content

Another free newspaper was recently launched in Hong Kong, Sharp Daily.

Newspapers face a challenge now from new technology. People can get news from around the world by surfing the internet. The fact that these papers are free makes them more attractive to Hongkongers.

However, Sharp Daily has been criticised for its racy content. I agree with those who say this kind of content is inappropriate and that newspapers exist to report facts to their readers.

I am also concerned about the effect adult content will have on students. It is easy for them to pick up a copy, as free papers are distributed at MTR stations.

Parents should warn their children about the kinds of material to avoid in free papers.

Eva Kong, Sheung Shui

Smoking, fast food harm our health

I refer to the report 'UN warning of tobacco and fast-food time bomb', (September 21).

I agree with Dr Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, director general of the World Health Organisation, that a healthy lifestyle should be promoted to combat disease.

She referred to a study that said non-communicable diseases could become a serious economic burden for governments over the next 20 years.

As Hong Kong people have busy lives and work long hours, many of them smoke and eat fast food.

Some people feel that using tobacco can help relieve the pressures they face, but they harm themselves - and others through second-hand smoke.

Fast food is popular with people who work long hours, because it is cheap and convenient. No matter where you are in Hong Kong, there is always a fast food shop nearby. Unfortunately, for many people, it becomes a habit to eat these kinds of unhealthy meals.

I support any efforts by the government to promote a healthy lifestyle in society. It needs to produce more adverts emphasising the importance of having a healthy diet, with more vegetables and less sugar, salt, oil and fat.

People should be encouraged to exercise more.

The government should also increase the tobacco tax so that more smokers will be persuaded to kick the habit.

Isis Ching See-nga, Tsuen Wan

Housing must be affordable

A survey has found that many Hong Kong citizens do not believe they will be able to afford to buy a flat in the next decade ('Hongkongers pessimistic on price of flats', September 22).

The government should introduce appropriate measures to deal with this problem.

A lot of luxury flats are being built, but they are beyond the means of many people in Hong Kong.

Also, those blocks in desirable and convenient locations (above an MTR station or with a view of the harbour, for example) will be too expensive for most citizens' budgets.

This is not a problem for the rich. Many of them probably own a few flats. But this is not possible for many Hongkongers, in spite of the fact that they have a reputation for saving hard.

I think legislation is needed to control spiralling property prices.

Also, the government should revive the Home Ownership Scheme and start a new HOS building programme.

Lydia Chau Hiu-fung, Tsuen Wan