Letters to the Editor, May 2, 2015
The hope and frustrations of a DSE slave
I share Tina Chung's disappointment with Hong Kong's education system ("Reconnect with purpose of education", April 28). Like her, I am a secondary five student getting ready for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam; real learning is never an option.
Thanks to our spoon-feeding education system, students learn only what it wants them to learn rather than what they want to learn.
I am a DSE slave: I wake up every morning at 7am and study right until the moon hangs in the sky. After school ends at 3.40pm, I go to Sha Tin for tutorial lessons at 4.30pm - every school day.
Hong Kong's tutorial centres are famous around the world. A product of the exam-oriented system, they are big business in Hong Kong.
Since our exam system does not test us on knowledge, but rather on how to give model answers, these tutoring centres drill students on the skills needed to do well in exams. Students study for the system and not for themselves.
I wish the government and education experts would show more concern about what students actually need and see things from a student's perspective.
Tom Yau, Sheung Shui
Overly high expectations kill motivation
I refer to the letter by Tina Chung ("Reconnect with purpose of education", April 28). I totally agree with what she said.
Many people in Hong Kong would agree with the view that examinations here do not test students' abilities but rather their writing speed and examination skills.
To do well, students today just focus on learning these skills and the keywords of past exam papers. I also share the view that answers to exam questions should demonstrate understanding of the relevant concepts and topics, rather than consisting of keywords.
Once, I could not get a single mark for a whole question because I had missed some so-called keywords or symbols.
I agree with Tina Chung that adjustments have to be made. A friend recently chatted with me about her tremendous stress and her parents' high expectations of her. Her parents liked to compare students today with students of their time.
But such intergenerational comparisons are not helpful. Parents don't seem to understand the system now and expect too much of their children.
Hong Kong must change its education system. We should be aiming for happy faces and motivation to learn. How many more robots must the system produce before the government will do something about it?
Chau Pui Yan, Kowloon Tong
Allow death row prisoners to serve society
There have been many debates and even antagonising exchanges - filled with hatred, anger and expletives - about the capital execution of prisoners sentenced to death.
In today's world, many lives are lost to hunger, diseases, natural disasters and human animosity such as terrorism and war. The United Nations and its supporting countries are all working to save and improve the lives of those who are deprived or destitute. It is ironical, then, that in some places we see the voluntary ending of lives as punishment for crimes committed.
Prisoners should be given a chance to repent.
They could also be made useful. These offenders could be enlisted by the United Nations in an orderly and systematic manner to be placed in countries requiring aid. There, they can redeem themselves by helping to save the lives of people exposed to tragedies and the ravages of wars and terrorism.
These prisoners could undergo a rehabilitation and correctional programme to prove that they want and are qualified for a second chance in life. Simply executing these prisoners on crimes that are not a direct act of heinous murder is wasting lives that can be put to better use in places where the dangers are high and volunteers are required.
Further, advanced technology will also make it easy to track prisoners' movements and monitor their behaviour. They may be detained if they do not follow the terms of their deal.
Such a concerted effort to punish offenders, yet also help them give back to society, is better than executing them.
It will also relieve pressures on the congested prisons and save society the money needed to feed and house prisoners.
L. B. Saw, Tangerang, Indonesia
Teach the virtue of inner beauty
Recently, a 15-year-old girl who had extensive cosmetic surgery became a hot topic on Facebook and other social media. Many people commented that she looked more beautiful than before but I think she looked weird.
Social pressure is one reason girls choose to have cosmetic surgery. Especially today, when technology has improved and one hears often of successful cases. Adverts promote the advantages of cosmetic surgery but fail to mention those for whom the procedure did not go well.
This is not a problem the law can solve. It's moral education. Teachers should teach children it is not so important to have a pretty face, that if they are confident and kind, they will also be beautiful.
Lau Ching Lam, Kowloon Tong
Promote the great outdoors to tourists
Tourism is a pillar industry in Hong Kong. With the expected fall in the number of mainland Chinese visitors, given the new entry restrictions for Shenzhen residents, we should diversify the industry to attract others. An ideal way to do so would be to promote green tours.
Such tours will appeal to many foreigners. Environmental issues such as global warming and the energy crisis have raised people's awareness about sustainable living. More people today are willing to spend on green tours, which allows visitors to enjoy the countryside while minimising damage to the ecosystem.
Hong Kong has an abundance of hills and countryside, much of it within easy reach. In fact, one can get to the great outdoors within 20 minutes from anywhere in Hong Kong.
To draw more tourists, we should improve facilities such as hostels. Some hiking tracks that have become overgrown or are blocked also need attention.
We should not sit here doing nothing while tourism revenues decline. The government must act now.
Shirley Sham Wing Yin, Kowloon Tong
Incineration won't destroy pollutants
As noted in previous letters to the editor, Elvis Au, assistant director of the Environmental Protection Department, has shown great bias in pushing plans for the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator. Yet during an RTHK radio show on April 25, his comments were even more skewed.
Asked about heavy metals in the ash, he said the technology would enable the complete destruction of these toxic materials.
This is a preposterous falsehood. As many a schoolchild will know, it took the energy of supernovas to create elements heavier than iron, which include toxic metals of concern with waste incinerators, such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury. Hence, they cannot be destroyed by incineration.
Instead, incinerators emit these along with particulates and a veritable cocktail of organic toxins - leading to serious health concerns, and documented cases of elevated levels of disease and deaths near incinerators.
Not only does Mr Au avoid mention of such research, but he also seems intent on rebranding the incinerator by calling it a waste-to-energy facility.
On the face of it, turning waste to energy seems a good idea, and Mr Au asserts the incinerator will power 100,000 households.
But much of Hong Kong's waste is soggy rice and other food slops, which will not readily burn. So the incinerator will surely require fuel such as coal, or drying with electrical power.
Hong Kong deserves a far better waste policy, with real efforts in waste reduction and recycling, and trustworthy technology.
And Hong Kong deserves officials who have the willpower, passion and acumen to work with the community in protecting the environment.
Dr Martin Williams, director, Hong Kong Outdoors
Beware the costs of development
I refer to the article, "China Railway sees 'one belt, one road' boosting overseas revenue" (April 10). It is interesting to see this kind of news often now, after China announced its "one belt, one road" ambition.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has really been a neglected region, yet its natural resources, labourers and geopolitic location make it a neighbour not to be ignored for mainland China and Hong Kong.
What we need to be aware of is the environmental and social impact of China's overseas ambition. China has had a long record of its hydro and mining projects sacrificing local people's rights. As we in Hong Kong discuss how to seize the opportunities brought by the ambition, we should also turn our eye to this aspect.
Pei-Hua Yu, Kennedy Town