Letters to the Editor, August 12, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 August, 2013, 3:13am

Committed to vocational education

I refer to Gravis Cheng's letter ("Vocational training may be the key", August 6) asking the government to review the role of vocational education.

The chief executive and the government attach great importance to vocational education and training and are committed to providing quality, flexible and diverse study pathways for secondary school leavers.

For the 2013/14 academic year, local post-secondary institutions are offering over 39,500 full-time locally accredited sub-degree places and some 22,500 other continuing education and vocational training places. A significant proportion of these post-secondary places are vocationally oriented, aiming at equipping students with knowledge and practical skills relevant to industries.

The Vocational Training Council, being the largest vocational education and training provider, offers a wide range of full-time and part-time vocational education programmes. It provides about 260,000 training places each year, offering people of different education levels pre-employment and in-service vocational education and training programmes.

There are also other training bodies providing different kinds of training, such as the Construction Industry Council, which has launched various schemes to inject new blood into the construction industry.

The chief executive visited one of its training academies in May, and in July he invited 10 young people who represented Hong Kong at the WorldSkills Competition in Germany for a tea gathering at his office.

Through these occasions, he reinforced the message that every trade has its masters. He encouraged young people to unleash their potential through vocational training and develop their careers according to their own talents.

The government will continue its endeavour to offer quality vocational training to meet society's needs.

Nick Au Yeung, assistant director (media), Chief Executive's Office


Lawmakers escaping media scrutiny

Your editorial ("Growing discontent with Hong Kong's Legco performance", August 1) shone a timely though uncommon critical light on a crucial governance institution in the Hong Kong SAR.

How uncommon? One indicator is that the editorial had to search off into the political distance, to 2011, to find (presumably) the most recent opinion poll on Legco's performance. Interestingly, reputable media and institutional polling on the satisfaction rating of the SAR government and a host of "cabinet" members is so regular that each new such poll typically just merges into the last and the one before.

A swift web search reveals that both general satisfaction - and particular-issue satisfaction - with the US Congress have been surveyed dozens of times over the last two years. (Though President Obama has struggled to achieve a 50 per cent approval rating since his re-election, a recent Gallup Poll showed confidence in Congress has slumped to a record low of just 10 per cent.)

It is entirely right that the media and pollsters hold the government's feet to the fire continually. Given the fundamental importance of the Legislative Council within the SAR, both that institution and leading Legco members should be subject to ongoing media scrutiny of similar robustness - with their popularity also frequently reviewed by pollsters. Hong Kong needs this. It might be rather good, too, for independent pollsters to survey public confidence in the media in Hong Kong recurrently.

When a leading member of the British parliament, long familiar with Hong Kong, visited the city last year, he was asked about the institutional health of the judiciary in the SAR. His response was that, overall (at a senior level) it was performing remarkably well.

He went on to note, however, that the greatest risks of governance dysfunction were most evident in the operation of Legco, concluding that the media seemed not to be paying full and proper attention to this area of significant concern.

Richard Cullen, Sham Shui Po


Widen scope of Bruce Lee exhibition

In June, the Hong Kong entertainment world lost a valuable veteran kung fu actor and grandmaster, Lau Kar-leung.

Despite his martial arts skills, Lau was a humble man and more of a genius than the late kung fu star Bruce Lee.

A new exhibition has opened dedicated to the latter's life, "Bruce Lee: Kung Fu, Art, Life", at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum.

I would strongly urge the exhibition organisers to change it to make room for artefacts relating to other well-known kung fu masters who have passed away. Their achievements and abilities were also admired by Hong Kong people.

I would suggest it be renamed "Chinese Kung Fu Heroes".

K. M. Nasir, Mid-Levels


ParknShop's prices cannot be justified

Let us all hope any buyers of ParknShop will be better than its present parent company, A S Watson.

The prices in ParknShop stores have long ceased to reflect the wholesale cost of goods plus a retailer's margin. Instead, they reflect a level above which the crowds of mainland shoppers would balk at purchasing.

Legions of ParknShop employees now spend their days on the shop floor fiddling with prices to discover this all-important price point. Some of the goods on sale are also available at smaller retailers.

A litre of UHT milk, that cannot be bought for less than HK$16.90 at ParknShop, costs HK$11 elsewhere. The poppadoms I like to snack on are HK$18.90 at the supermarket chain, but the same brand costs only HK$8.50 at an Indian grocer in Tsim Sha Tsui. Also, it has positioned essential Waitrose as a premium line. In Britain, it is a no-frills line intended to help families save on their weekly shopping. The price of these goods at ParknShop can be more than double prices in the UK (look at waitrose.com).

If ParknShop is to be believed, we are now living in an era of massive, untamed inflation that forces it to increase prices every week. But the truth is inflation is subdued - even food price inflation - and somehow or other those smaller retailers I frequent seem to be able to hold prices down.

In case there are any Dairy Farm executives who are reading this and feeling smug, let me just add that Wellcome is just as bad as ParknShop and in some respects, more so. My nearest Wellcome store is in a modern shopping mall, but contrives to look like a supermarket from the 1970s.

Desmond Decker, Tung Chung


Banding has created real inequality

I agree with some of what Virginia Chan said ("Society more unequal thanks to the Direct Subsidy Scheme", August 5).

The banding system in schools (from one to three) is at the root of all that has been wrong with our education system for decades.

This banding categorises students.

Those with good results are all put together in the top band and those who did badly in examinations end up below that top echelon.

They are consigned to lower-band schools and neglected.

Students in Nordic countries are not separated, either according to wealth or academic performance. The more able students help other classmates. It is a workable system of mutual co-operation.

In Finland, the prevailing belief is not to give up on a student, which is similar to Confucianism.

However, in Hong Kong's education system students from families on higher incomes can get into better schools, while those from poor families often end up languishing in band-three schools.

This problem is exacerbated by the Direct Subsidy Scheme with richer students already having an advantage from the start, that is, at the admission stage.

Jimmy Chan, Tuen Mun


Procedure that can ruin people's lives

I do not know why so many people elect to have plastic surgery.

I disagree with it when is a cosmetic form of plastic surgery.

Each person is unique and you should not try and change that just because of the peer pressure.

You should trust in your own strengths and beliefs.

I am also concerned that some people choose to have these operations without thinking carefully about the possible consequences of their decision, such as the possible side-effects.

It is irreversible and if after the surgery someone feels regret, it is already too late.

Carmen Li Hong-yu, Wong Tai Sin


Long walk in search of recycling bin

Recently, while on Hennessy Road, I finished a soft drink.

I carried the empty bottle past 12 litter bins before I found an almost-overflowing recycling bin on Percival Street.

People would recycle more if the collection points were more numerous.

Allan Dyer, Wong Chuk Hang