Letters to the Editor, September 30, 2013
Punishing schedule is bad for students
Under the Employment Ordinance, employees in a company are entitled to annual leave and to at least one rest day in every seven-day period.
There is also now a debate about a whether there should be a statutory hours law. We exist in a civilised society and want to ensure that working adults get sufficient rest; but what about children?
Typically, their school day is from 8am to around 4pm. After school, most will attend tutorial classes for two hours and have another two hours of homework with as many as 10 assignments.
The additional classes can cover many subjects such as English, Putonghua, maths, and modern learning techniques. I know of friends who arrange over 10 of these kinds of lessons every week for their children, and this can include weekends. Schools may also have additional booster classes on Saturdays. It is not uncommon for some of these children to face a 10-hour working day, with no guarantee of a rest day.
When people talk of child abuse they are often referring to cases of neglect, but I think this level of pressure is another form of child abuse.
We have unions fighting for enhanced labour protection for adults, why is there no one to care about the interests and well-being of children? At least, adults have a choice, but children must obey their parents.
Education policymakers claim they are improving the education system for the benefit of students, but they are pursuing their own eccentric agendas. They are trying to meet parents' misguided demands, especially those from the wealthy levels of society.
If we continue with this culture where greater pressure is put on children, it will result in fewer opportunities for the talented and the poor and less hope of Hong Kong having a future generation which would be innovative and competitive.
Lee Yat-sau, Kwun Tong
Why English lessons are so important
I disagree with former top official Wang Xuming who is against teaching English to young children to, in his opinion, save Chinese.
First of all, English is globally the lingua franca.
Students use it when they join exchange programmes and adults use it in commerce to speak to clients abroad.
Also, if you are travelling abroad, for example, to Europe, you are expected to be a fluent speaker.
Young mainlanders who grow up unable to do this could miss the boat in career terms.
In order to ensure a high standard of English, students should start learning as early as possible. Research has shown that the earlier you start, the easier you will find it to learn the language. This is especially important for native Chinese-speaking children. They can strengthen their English reading, writing and speaking skills if they have an early start.
It becomes even more important at secondary and tertiary levels of education, where so many books, research papers and theses are written in English.
Students who are unable to read this material will find it more difficult to broaden their intellectual horizons.
Obviously, some books will be translated into Chinese, but sometimes what has been written in English is lost in translation.
I therefore strongly disagree with Wang Xuming's proposal. I think that Chinese and English teaching can work side by side and be mutually beneficial for students.
Tao Sha, a professor of developmental psychology at Beijing Normal University, says that there was no scientific evidence showing that studying a second language would hurt the study of a mother tongue ("Call to reduce English lessons to 'save' Chinese", September 12).
Mr Wang called for more classes on Chinese traditional culture.
There is nothing wrong with that proposal, but such classes could be held after school. They should certainly not be taught at the expense of English classes.
Wong Yiu-man, Sha Tin
Surfers act in responsible manner
I refer to your editorial ("Such foolishness in face of peril", September 25).
Surfing is a skilled activity. The requisite skills include not only those that are called upon during the actual act of surfing itself, but also the ability to gauge and assess the particular conditions on any given day. In a sense, every surfer is an amateur meteorologist.
As such, surfing is very much a calculated risk.
Surfers, in general, have a fairly good understanding of ocean safety and most would find that your assertion that surfers were "seemingly daring one another to take on the extreme conditions" was quite unfounded.
The reality is that Hong Kong witnessed the best surfing conditions of the year during the days leading up to Typhoon Usagi's strike, yet the conditions were more subdued than an average day in the surfers' paradise, Bali.
Ultimately, surfing is sport. Like many sports, it has, inherently, some inescapable risks, which include drowning, spinal injuries, shark attacks and possibly death.
It is in spite of these risks and because of a profound passion for the sport that surfers knowingly imperil themselves to the forces of nature.
That is no different from many other action-adventure sports.
This is not remotely comparable to pedestrians standing near the waterfront in the face of extraordinary waves, with innocent children.
Bernie Kuan, Sai Kung
Get tough with maids' cruel employers
I refer to the report ("Couple jailed for 'cruel and vicious' treatment of maid", September 19).
The domestic helper, Kartika Puspitasari, described how she was attacked and imprisoned by her employers.
Hong Kong is an international city and this kind of treatment of foreign domestic helpers is intolerable. The government has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect them from exploitation, yet there seems to have been little improvement.
There are some Hong Kong people who may still look down on ethnic minorities. Also, many of these women are desperate for a job and they may not complain even if they are being treated badly.
Officials need to look at the relevant legislation and make whatever changes are needed to offer foreign helpers a greater degree of protection.
Those employers who are found guilty of serious mistreatment should face stiffer punishment. Also the helpers should be encouraged to speak up if they are victims of abuse so that unscrupulous employers can be brought to justice.
Jeff Chan, Sha Tin
No openings for altruistic young lawyers
I agree with Robert Precht about the need to nurture public interest lawyers in Hong Kong ("More public interest lawyers can help ease Hong Kong's social tensions", September 17).
I am an aspiring public interest lawyer and a recent law graduate from the University of Hong Kong where I was involved with the school's free legal advice clinic.
I soon realised that I would not be able to pursue a career as a public interest lawyer in the region to help low-income clients seek access to justice.
I have since moved to New York City where I am now working at a legal services organisation.
Anita Wu, New York, US
Graduates really struggle to succeed
It used to be the case that having a university degree was seen as a ticket to a good career. However, in today's Hong Kong this is no longer the case.
Only a small proportion of fresh graduates find a top job in an international corporation. Many, even though they have done well academically, are consigned to low-paid jobs. Some may struggle to even find a decent place to live and end up in subdivided apartments.
They suffer from feelings of low self-esteem and of being alienated from society. In a worst-case scenario, some young people resort to suicide.
The government cannot turn a blind eye to this state of affairs because it is undermining social stability.
I think it should provide some programme of funding to small and medium-sized enterprises to help them develop. They should be given allowances so that they can employ young people and give them a chance to gain work experience and become more competitive in the job market.
They are future pillars and must be given a chance to make a contribution to society.
Cheng Jia-min, Sha Tin
Use internet to get top three candidates
I do not see the logic of a proposal which would demand that candidates for the chief executive election in 2017 must get 100,000 signatures.
I think getting 1,000 to 2,000 signatures from the public should be enough.
It would mean there were a lot of candidates, but the government could then use the internet to gauge public support for all these people. The top three could be chosen to run in the actual election with people voting for them at polling stations.
Gary Ahuja, Tsim Sha Tsui