Letters to the Editor, August 17, 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 12:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 12:01am

History can be an interesting subject to learn

I refer to the letter by Jonathan Kung Chi-yip ("No subject can replace liberal studies", August 4).

As a history graduate, I am concerned that history is often seen as a subject that is not important.

Critical thinking is the most important factor when studying history in higher education. Students have to appreciate they are not just learning about the past, but also from the past. They need to analysis and investigate the causes of historical events, and can use this to explain such things as international relations, politics and economics.

In tutorials, undergraduate students will hold different perspectives on every topic. A preferred answer doesn't exist, as long as you support your view with logic and supporting sources.

In secondary schools, a totally different approach is adopted. The teacher is basically saying, "I told you so, and therefore this is how it is". This stops history being a subject that develops students' critical thinking skills.

In this respect, liberal studies is very similar.

There may be free debates in the classroom, but there will still be preferred answers. These answers help students get better exam results.

It is a fact that if the government wanted to, it could just as easily use liberal studies as a brainwashing tool as history.

Rather than pitting one subject against the other, it would be better to look closely at history and come up with a different teaching approach in schools.

The best thing the Education Bureau can do is to take the methods that are used at tertiary level that I have described and apply them to the way history is taught in secondary schools.

If these changes are implemented, then hopefully the attitude of students can change and they will no longer look on history as a boring and pointless subject.

Instead, they will see it as something which helps them develop their critical thinking capacity.

Hiram Liu, Causeway Bay

End tradition of long hours in office

In many offices in Hong Kong, some people, to gain the admiration of senior staff, will stay as late as possible. Others have to stay because of their workload.

The common practice of working very long hours is bad for employees and their employers.

It leads to decreased efficiency. People who are exhausted are more likely to make mistakes. Being so tired adversely affects their mental and physical health.

Many of these employees will resent having to work this hard and this will cause discontent. It is difficult to feel loyalty towards an uncaring employer.

Companies need to recognise that these long days are counterproductive. They must impose rules saying staff must leave before a fixed time.

Firms should make it clear staff will be promoted based on their performance, not on how late they work.

Mok Sze-lam, Yau Yat Chuen

Hong Kong must change wasteful ways

In Sham Shui Po, the Food Angel Community Centre collects food that would normally be thrown out, from supermarkets and wet markets.

It then prepares meals for people in need, including elderly citizens.

The meals programme has expanded substantially over the past four years. This indicates how much food is wasted every day.

Citizens need to reduce the volumes of food waste in this city by making good use of leftovers. For example, they can try and be creative and turn leftovers that are still fresh enough to eat into new dishes. Also, diluted rice water can be used to water flowers and plants.

What is important is to reduce food waste at source.

In May, France passed a law banning supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. It must be given to charities or used for animal feed.

I would like to see such a law in Hong Kong. Not only would this reduce the volume of food wasted, but it would give a big helping hand to charities.

Citizens must become more aware of the importance of this issue so that we can put less pressure on our landfills.

Judy Wong, Tseung Kwan O

Clarifying city state's real contribution

Shalom Levy's dismissal of Singapore's aid to the earthquake disaster in Nepal by referring to countries which "were simply satisfied to make financial contributions" is most unfortunate and uncalled for ("Israel sent experts to help quake victims", August 7).

The total amount in financial contributions was more than US$3.5 million. This included about US$190,000 from the government, and far more than the US$75,000 Mr Levy quoted.

Also, the tiny Lion City sent search-and-rescue and medical teams comprising over 70 personnel and other supplies. This excludes the ongoing assistance from NGOs like the Singapore Red Cross and Mercy Relief, to help Nepal get back on its feet. So Singapore sent more personnel than the 62 Mr Levy says were sent by China, a country with a population of 1.3 billion.

I hope he understands that the point of this letter is not to draw up a scorecard of which countries had contributed most to Nepal's recovery, simply because gratuitous self-praise should not be on any donor's mind when rendering humanitarian relief.

It is simply to correct his inaccurate portrayal of Singapore.

John Chan, Singapore 

Be vigilant when using credit cards

When people make a transaction of any kind, they will frequently use a credit card.

There have been reports of alleged scams where people used their cards and were left out of pocket.

It is very important that we remind ourselves of the need to take care when signing contracts with, for example, a fitness centre or indeed any transaction where you use your credit card.

You should always stand near staff in a shop or gym, and check how they are processing the card.

If they ask for your card when you are paying cash, you should ask them why this is necessary.

Basically, people need to take special care when using their credit cards and ensure they are charged the correct amount.

Icy Wong Wing-lam, Tseung Kwan O

Long wait for luggage is now normal

For years, Hong Kong International Airport was the pride of Hong Kong, and rightly so.

It was the envy of all other Asian, if not international, airports for its modernity and speedy access by MTR, internal computerised trains and one of the fastest security checks on the planet.

One other thing the airport was famous for was its fast baggage handling, with bags falling off conveyor belts either before or just after tired travellers had squeezed through immigration.

What happened? Where did the efficiency go?

I fly almost every month and in the last two years I would be surprised to see my bags after an hour of arrival, let alone when I get out of immigration.

There is a reason for using a Scottish voice to tell passengers that there is baggage delay - supposedly a Scottish voice is calming. Well as a Scotsman, I can assure you that if your flight is three hours and your wait for bags in one hour, then there is something wrong and calm is the last thing I am.

Every other regional airport, even the developing nations in Asia, manage to get bags flying off the carousel.

Hong Kong is failing miserably, and even more so if a third runway is going to be the answer to making us a regional hub.

We have an impressive and wonderful airport, let's get back to making the arrival as good as the departure.

Callan Anderson, Quarry Bay

Gay rights simply not an issue in Kenya

I refer to the letter by Chloe Chow ("War against discrimination still not over", August 8).

I agree that there are still battles to be fought globally against discrimination, but should that include people's sexual preferences?

The Kenyan government's response to US President Barack Obama's call for protection of gay rights in the country was appropriate and correct.

Every country has its own laws that should be respected. In Africa, gay rights is not an issue, because our traditions do not accept such rights. In many African countries, homosexuality is unlawful.

If people cannot change their sexual preferences, they can go and live where homosexuality is legal.

What people want to hear in Africa from a leader like Obama is, for example, talk of economic development, transfer of technology, how the US will help us fight terrorism, and how to stop the proliferation of arms in the region. They do not want to hear about gay issues.

Will a country advance economically if it embraces gay rights?

We should fight against genuine discrimination - against colour, race, gender and faith.

Ndemio Stephane, To Kwa Wan