Letters to the Editor, June 7, 2013
Equality at stake in college DSS proposal
I would like to express my opinion on the proposal by St Stephen's Girls' College [and St Stephen's Girls' Primary School] to join the Education Bureau's Direct Subsidy Scheme (DSS).
I have been moved by the campaign expressing opposition to this switch, which has been organised by alumnae and parents concerned about the school's future within the DSS.
As a Hong Kong citizen, I identify very much with their actions and the arguments they have put forward.
I am also impressed by the views of other Hongkongers expressed in press reports.
They wish to preserve the role of St Stephen's as a government-subsidised school that provides universal free education. Indeed, whether a school should remain open to everyone concerns not only those within the institution, but the entire community which the school is supposed to serve.
I fully understand that St Stephen's Girls' College did not achieve its fine reputation overnight. It has taken more than a century of hard work and dedication by people within the school.
However, I fear that this 100-year tradition and all that it symbolises will, under the DSS, become essentially a privatised commodity.
Although the school council has argued that joining the DSS will help improve educational standards, only those who can afford to pay will be able to benefit from such improvements. Society will become more unequal as one more avenue for upward social mobility will have been closed. And it must also be recognised that other schools with good reputations have moved to the DSS.
The fact that there has been more vocal opposition from some people to the St Stephen's proposal, than in the case of those other schools, reflects the students' strong sense of responsibility towards the society that has nurtured them.
Their actions show that they see it as essential to build a better and more equal society where people can live with dignity. It will be a great loss to the community if St Stephen's makes the switch to the DSS, as the students who attend it under the new arrangement will lose their sense of social awareness.
I see the DSS as being detrimental to our society.
I therefore strongly urge the school to withdraw its proposal. However, if it refuses, Education Bureau officials must give consideration to the widespread opposition from stakeholders.
Selina Cheng, Wong Chuk Hang
Lots to learn on concepts of education
I share the concern of those people who have highlighted the problem of students' language proficiency in English and Chinese.
I agree that the education system, including exams, leads to Hong Kong students lacking critical thinking abilities.
Under the new 3+3+4 set-up, students have insufficient time to study. They are subjected to rote learning, and so find it difficult to think independently.
They are given textbooks and model answers to study which do not emphasise the importance of observation, analysis and reasoning.
This problem could be dealt with if teachers allowed students to discuss current social issues, so they could think more for themselves and express their own opinions.
Some schools use both Chinese and English when teaching, and this can lead to young people developing bad habits in the use of language and adopting short forms on the internet. These bad writing habits adversely affect their general communication skills.
They can acquire a keener grasp of pronunciation by watching more films and drama series.
There need to be fundamental changes in schools and on the part of young people.
Sun Man-ching, Tseung Kwan O
Smartphones as toys for tots a bad trend
Hong Kong faces an important social issue that has yet to be dealt with, causing problems that need to be resolved.
Advances in new technology have improved our lives. We can get the latest news and other information very quickly and the internet is a very convenient tool.
Even little children seem to be at ease with these innovations and I see them holding their smartphones on the streets outside their kindergartens.
It seems to me that, to get some peace, some parents will allow their young children to play with the phones.
However, I do not believe it is good for children at such a young age to rely so much on these gadgets. It would be bad if they developed the attitude that these devices can do everything for them.
Parents and teachers need to educate children, including those just in kindergarten, that they must not overuse or rely too much on devices such as smartphones.
They must learn that, if not used properly or used too much, computers can be harmful.
Fatin Shahira, Yau Yat Chuen
Rule of law is bedrock for democracy
I refer to the article by Benny Tai Yiu-ting, of Occupy Central ("Central issues", May 23).
Our city is famous for its freedom. However, that does not justify Tai supporting action which undermines the rule of law. I find that to be intolerable.
I applaud the aspirations of this group to achieve democracy in Hong Kong. But I do not believe that staging this kind of protest in the city's central business district is rational and it will not bring any benefits to our society.
Hong Kong is not a country but a special administrative region of China. Allowing every permanent resident aged 18 or above to vote for our next chief executive is in line with basic democratic principles.
However, that does not necessarily imply that any one of these citizens should be entitled to stand for the post and get elected. Such an electoral process, without restrictions, does not exist in Western nations such as Britain or the US.
An elimination process in Western democracies is widely adopted and this is also what has been proposed for the election of our chief executive in 2017. The central government has guaranteed a democratic process.
Therefore, I cannot see any reason to support Tai's claims. In fact, his Occupy Central movement is actually sowing the seeds of serious social and political instability. In time this could damage Hong Kong's competitiveness and undermine its reputation.
I do not want see my city ruined by this political movement.
Raphael Leung Lok-hin, Yuen Long
Expertise able to counter tree rot fears
I refer to recent reports on tree management and plant health, particularly those relating to brown root rot ("Killer fungus threatens swathes of city's forests", April 26; and "Dead wood", May 8).
Following up on reports that trees in Kam Shan Country Park and King George V Memorial Park, in Sai Ying Pun, were infected with brown root rot, including some defoliating deciduous Burmese rosewoods, tree professionals of the Tree Management Office of the Development Bureau have conducted thorough site inspections and laboratory diagnosis.
Tests to date have proven negative for the disease at these sites.
Poor tree health is attributable to many biotic and abiotic factors such as inclement weather, plant pathogens and vandalism. Brown root rot is just one among many. Professional judgment is essential to assess the exact cause of the problem.
To make accurate assessments, we depend on a team of professionals who have the relevant academic background, professional training and practical experience of tree management.
As far as brown root rot is concerned, since 2010 the Tree Management Office has provided guidelines and training on tree pathology to government staff to better equip them in handling the disease.
With the continual efforts of government and the industry, the expertise of tree professionals in Hong Kong has improved considerably in recent years.
Nonetheless, the office encourages members of the public to help identify problematic trees.
As part of our public surveillance programme, we have organised seminars and public talks as well as published relevant information through our trees website trees.gov.hk
We welcome the participation of the public in nurturing a sustainable and healthy tree population for Hong Kong.
Lawrence Chau, head of Tree Management Office
Prepaid credit can fix travel cash problem
It is a shame that HSBC in Hong Kong does not offer some credit card and debit card services that are offered by some of its overseas units - for example, debit and prepaid credit cards.
Perhaps this is because providing these services would dent interest income.
However, prepaid credit cards are available at certain major Chinese banks in Hong Kong.
This would solve the problem highlighted by your correspondent Chris Stubbs with regard to his daughter during her travels overseas ("HSBC should reassure over ATM fears", June 2).
O. Wingate Gray, Ngau Tau Kok