Parents push for fair deal at school
Dennis Chong, Adrian Wan and Jennifer Ngo
The city's school system must address different educational needs, cut class sizes and give support to all demographic groups, say parents.
The calls have come in interviews by the South China Morning Post with three Hong Kong families for our chief executive debate series.
A new way of thinking is needed to equip students with skills for a globalised world, according to an expatriate family, a local family and a family with special needs who took part in our debate on education.
As the social spectrum widened, they said, education should no longer be monotonous but prepare students for the 21st century.
Chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying promised in his election campaign to treat education as an investment and find ways to make the system more accessible for Hongkongers of all stripes.
Leung pledged to give greater support for the underprivileged and to ease stresses on public schools grappling with changes brought about by a decade of education reform.
Chiu Cheung Lai-man, whose 21-year-old son has Down's syndrome, said the most pressing education issue in the city was to give children with special needs a greater chance to develop their full potential.
Chui said the education system, as well as support and facilities at schools, should be improved to accommodate children with special needs, who often can only receive education up to secondary level.
'Once our children finish secondary school, it's the end of their education. There is no ongoing training for them. They are then passed on to the welfare department, where the lucky ones can get jobs at centres, doing packaging and things like that,' she said.
Bank officer Sylvie Chu Siu-chun, whose two children go to public schools, said parents were still 'frantic' about the quality of education in Hong Kong, despite a decade of reform.
She pointed to the large class sizes and a lack of resources confronting teachers. Chu said she hoped there would be a day when 'there is less to worry about when children come back from school and when we come back from work'.
Briton Amanda Chapman and her Filipino husband Michael Bautista hoped the government would increase the opportunities for non-Chinese-speaking students to receive a quality education.
The couple, who live in Tai Wai, said they had serious difficulty finding a primary place for their English-speaking five-year-old daughter.
The couple said they knew their child would benefit from learning the local culture and becoming familiar with Chinese languages and would not mind sending her to go to a public school if the medium of instruction was Putonghua.
They also hoped the next administration could modernise the classroom culture to make learning enjoyable and interesting.
'Hong Kong should embrace the 21st century and abandon the old way of teaching. The old way that asks students to 'open the textbook and complete the exercise on page 52' will just turn students off,' Chapman said.
Total government expenditure on education, in HK dollars, for 2011-12 - 18.6 per cent of all government spending - up HK$7.6b on 2010-11