Schoolchildren have to cope with work that is too advanced for their years

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2011, 12:00am


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While watching the news on television last month, I saw an item about a survey that found 65 per cent of Hong Kong primary schoolchildren do not have sufficient sleep and the majority of them have less than half an hour of playtime a day.

I do not regard these findings as surprising. Every day at 3.15pm in Cheung Sha Wan, I see a lady collect a dozen Primary Two and Three pupils, with loaded bags on their backs, from their school and march them straight into a tutorial centre in the adjacent mall.

I feel sad for these children. They have just come off a full day in school. Then they have to endure more than two hours of tutorials. This is a Hong Kong phenomenon. From the standpoint of child development, it is wrong.

Parents realise that their children are tired from excessive schoolwork. However, in an education system obsessed with exam results, they have no choice but to play catch-up.

In my opinion, the overloaded curriculum is to blame. The Education Bureau ignores the fact that many syllabuses can be learned more efficiently and effectively at an older age.

For example, 11-year-olds certainly need less time to learn fractions than eight-year-olds. Then why not let children learn fractions at 11? I learned fractions in Primary Six in 1964. Now it is a subject taught in Primary Three. I guess soon it will be slated for Primary One, and some day we will have calculus in kindergarten. When will this end?

Hong Kong children face school materials that are too advanced for their age. Add the obsession with exam results to the top-heavy syllabus, and you have a state of affairs that is tantamount to cruelty. Children get more than 10 homework assignments a day, and they get tired. Teachers are put under pressure, and some parents become paranoid about their children's performance. This can lead to stress within the family. Also, Hong Kong pupils often lose interest in their school work.

So why is it that the Education Bureau seems so apathetic about these problems in the system? As I understand it, over the years, most of the children of our most senior education officials have not attended local schools. This might explain the lack of empathy the bureau has shown.

I hope the next chief executive will look into this matter. Why not cut the curriculum back by 50 per cent? I want to see the smiles put back on the faces of Hong Kong children.

Tony Yuen, Mid-Levels