Tutorial centres' false promises
In about three months, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority will launch the maiden English exam of the new syllabus.
Not surprisingly, many students feel anxious given that there is no precedent for them to follow. These students are being targeted by a plethora of education centres offering empty gestures and snake oil.
Students should realise that when it comes to preparing for the exam, every minute counts, so they should focus only on what is truly worthwhile.
Many publishing companies are churning out practice books based on only one practice exam released by the authority.
It may appear as if this is a good way to give students extra practice. But how can anyone be sure the actual exam will follow the outline of the sample test?
Even worse are the predatory tutorial centres which trumpet themselves as 'leaders of the 3+3+4 system'. It is ludicrous for them to tout themselves as experts before the first batch of results exists.
These centres highlight intensive courses which 'guarantee' success in the new exam with the help of their tips and shortcuts. They also brainwash youngsters into believing that they can answer questions perfectly by just knowing the format. They also offer mock exams.
The mock exams are time- consuming and only enable the students to become familiar with the format of the exam. However, it is unwise to devote too much time to the format.
The work they do in school has already prepared them for the format. Exam tips and shortcuts will not help if the foundation is not there. I urge students in the time that remains before the exam to stay away from the conmen and charlatans.
Instead, use your valuable time reading newspapers, listening to news programmes and practising your writing.
There are no shortcuts or panaceas. Success of any kind cannot be achieved overnight.
Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long
Partitioned flats must be removed
I strongly agree with the Buildings Department's plan to crack down on subdivided flats situated in busy market streets.
This kind of accommodation is dangerous. The living spaces are so small, with narrow corridors and stairs which can get blocked.
Because of the threat posed to residents, swift action is required by the government.
However, many tenants are concerned that a crackdown will result in them becoming homeless so those people who are affected must be found public housing.
We must try to prevent a repeat of the fatal blaze in Fa Yuen Street, Mong Kok.
Cindy Ng, Lok Fu
Giving with Octopus an excellent idea
Last month charity flag-day sellers used Octopus card machines for the first time, so people had an option instead of cash.
The response was generally positive, with most people saying the card was more convenient if you did not have coins ('Is giving to charity by Octopus an idea that's got legs?' December 18).
Because they were not used to it some people found it confusing.
It certainly suits me, because I tend to save up coins at home and seldom go out with any.
However, I would suggest that rather than setting the sum you can give at HK$5 it would be better to allow people to choose the amount they wish to donate.
I think the government should undertake an advertising campaign so people are aware that they can donate to a charity using their Octopus card.
The administration also has to make it clear to people which registered charities are authorised to use these Octopus machines. This can ensure people are not cheated. Flag sellers also have to make it clear the amount that will be deducted from the card.
Ken Lam King-shun, Tsuen Wan
Just stick to short-term measures
Some green groups have argued that the Council for Sustainable Development should reflect the views of Hong Kong people and ask the government to draft long-term initiatives like carbon audits.
I can understand the reasons behind these argument, but whether they will get a positive response from the administration is another matter. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's government is coming to the end of its tenure and is hardly likely to make any breakthroughs with regard to sustainable development. Instead of making high-sounding yet unworkable suggestions, I think the council should concentrate on proposing feasible measures. Take the example of a schoolchild who has two assignments, both with the same deadline. One requires a few minutes while the other one may take an hour. Which one is he most likely to do first?
Obviously, he will opt for the easier one. The same logic applies to our government.
If the proposals are too time-consuming or too difficult to achieve, the government will just put them aside. Top officials might feel that going forward with an initiative that fails to live up to citizens' expectations would mean they come in for further criticism. They might feel these more difficult, long-term tasks can be left to their successors. This form of inertia could lead to us seeing no improvements of any kind.
Getting the government to adopt some short-term measures is better than nothing.
Implementable measures such as extending the mandatory energy efficiency labelling scheme to cover more appliances, phasing out energy-inefficient incandescent light bulbs and imposing the polluter-pays principle for the disposal of electrical appliances, are worth considering. The public has almost reached a consensus on these issues and so it is easier to get approval from the lawmakers.
Also, these policies do not involve any technical issues, nor will they need a large amount of manpower. Therefore, the government is more likely to take these suggestions into consideration.
Only by suggesting suitable plans to the government can the Council for Sustainable Development helps improve the living standards of Hong Kong citizens without sacrificing the quality of life of the next generation's.
Alice Wong Kar-man, Choi Hung
Helpers have made real contribution
I am greatly amused by those correspondents who use these columns to vent their spleen over expatriates.
It is rather ironic that they do so in a 'foreign' language like English. I would have thought that, being patriots of all things Chinese, they would stick to the Chinese-language press.
Their main aim, it seems, is to get a rise out of us 'foreigners', and I have to say that they are successful in that.
When Sam Wong questioned expatriates' contribution to Hong Kong ('Expats have done little to benefit city', January 3), I almost spilt my morning coffee.
He also said expats are no different to domestic helpers, except that helpers don't claim to be enhancing the city's competitiveness.
I totally disagree.
I think that foreign domestic helpers have greatly enabled Hong Kong's competitiveness as more people (women) can go out to work. And to use the argument that foreigners in Hong Kong are always here because they cannot be successful at home is rubbish. What about Chinese who work abroad. Is it the same for them, I wonder?
Also, using the argument of a country's economic success as a reflection of the talent of that country's inhabitants is flawed.
We all studied Japan when it was doing well, but economies go up and down due to many factors, not only the so-called qualities of a people.
Anyway, I would like Sam Wong to say how he measures competitiveness.
Jennifer Eagleton, Tai Po
Welcoming overseas doctors
I support the government's decision to hire overseas doctors to work in public hospitals.
We are always hearing about the manpower crisis in these hospitals, and by adopting this policy the government is helping to ensure the public receives more timely medical care. It will also relieve the pressure faced by staff.
It is acceptable to employ those medics from overseas who have already passed the necessary medical exams and been successfully interviewed.
Just because you got a distinction in the licensing exam does not mean you are a good doctor.
I am more concerned about someone who shows dedication and passion and who has years of relevant experience in say a specialist area of medicine.
The voices of opposition have come mainly from Hong Kong doctors who are just defending their own positions and are concerned about facing competition.
Rachel Yeung, Sha Tin