Letters to the Editor, January 2, 2016
Many students losing interest in science
In recent years, the government has been promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) education.
The Education Bureau has supported it as a means to maintain Hong Kong’s international competitiveness.
However, promoting these subjects is not without problems.
Because Hong Kong is an international financial centre, there are far more career opportunities in the financial sector than in science, and they also offer higher salaries and better prospects.
Although more students could do well in the areas of
science and maths, it takes a lot of time and effort.
Young people, like all citizens, face high costs in this expensive city and they have to be practical. Success is equated with having a high salary.
Schools have a crucial role to play in promoting STEM education.
While they are attempting to encourage more youngsters to study science and technology, and their link to the environment, young people still face an obstacle in the form of the rote-learning culture which persists in our local school system.
Students are hardwired to see science subjects as exam tools. The tight teaching schedule can often impair their enthusiasm for science and stifle the natural curiosity of students.
If they lose that enthusiasm, it is hardly surprising that many eventually abandon STEM studies.
There is clearly room for improvement.
The government must try to strike the right balance between business, and science and technology teaching in local schools, so that STEM education becomes more robust.
Rico Lam Man-Ho, Ma On Shan
Too much pressure bad for children
I refer to the article about the pressure being placed on many children on the mainland to do well in their studies (“Piano lessons, maths classes and hours of homework … a weekend in the life of China’s stressed-out kids”, December 27).
One pupil profiled was an eight-year-old called Amy who spends the day going from one class to another. On Saturday afternoon, she has piano lessons, and the following morning it is English, then in the afternoon she has Chinese.
Her mother has her studying maths at grade four level, in the hope she can beat grade three students in maths contests.
I think her mother is pushing Amy too hard. Forcing students take private classes and learn at a level above what they are being taught at school, puts these youngsters under intense pressure.
If they are having to do all these extra classes at the weekend when they should be relaxing, they will not be getting the time they need for some much-needed rest.
Youngsters on the mainland are already under pressure at school, often being given extra homework by their teacher. Again, this means that when they get home they might have to work late and will not get a good night’s sleep. This must make them very tired when they go to school the next day.
Parents say they must drive their children, because they do not want them to lose out at the starting line-up. However, all these extra tutorial classes and extracurricular activities is not good for students.
The intense pressure they are under can lead to psychological problems and will not necessarily guarantee them a good future.
Some of them cannot cope with the pressure they are under and even take their own lives.
There is nothing wrong with signing children up for tutorial classes, but parents must not go overboard. And it is the same with extracurricular activities which the students should find enjoyable.
Parents on the mainland need to adopt a sensible approach and ensure that their children are not under too much pressure. They need to avoid becoming what is known as tiger parents.
Ada Yeung, Tseung Kwan O
Slap a tax on landlords with empty homes
As Tom Holland suggests (“Seven policy proposals for Hong Kong’s next chief executive”, December 18), an immediate fix for the housing shortage in Hong Kong would be to tax owners for keeping their flats empty.
In Switzerland, where the land situation is similar to Hong Kong, that is, in very short supply, such a tax is applied successfully, with the effect that it is very expensive to keep a property empty for speculation.
Landlords pay tax on their flats based on actual rental income as in Hong Kong, but also on the assumed rental income if they choose to keep their property empty.
The assumed market-related rental income is established by the government ahead of each taxation period. It is no different from what Hong Kong ’s practice is for “rents and rates’’. This is food for thought for those in charge. Comments from the government would be welcome.
Hanspeter Kerner, Sai Kung
Next leader must listen to HK citizens
I refer to your editorial (“Looking ahead to the city’s positive development under a new chief executive”, December 24).
The next chief executive election is scheduled for March, and a number of people have been named as possible candidates, although one name we know will not be included is that of the incumbent, Leung Chun-ying.
He will not stand again and is set to step down at the end of June. Over nearly five years, Leung has presided over some momentous events, including the “umbrella revolution” and a further interpretation of the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
Some of these events have left citizens not trusting the government and expressing dissatisfaction with Leung's track record while in charge. They feel he should have thought things through with greater care before arriving at some of his decisions.
Some citizens have high expectations of the chief executive and what they reckon that person should be doing.
The central government contends that Hong Kong has remained prosperous and stable because of the success of “one country, two systems”.
However, many citizens disagree and now feel that Beijing has been interfering too much in the affairs of Hong Kong. They fear that the freedoms we enjoy could be eroded and we could eventually become just another communist city. They want the city to develop on its own without interference from the Communist Party.
The next chief executive must strike the right balance, so that both Beijing and the citizens of Hong Kong are satisfied with the way in which the city is developing.
Pearl So, Tsuen Wan
Parents can be role models with phones
I agree with correspondents who have said that parents have to take care when it comes to how long their children spend on their smartphones.
As a teenager, I browse on my smartphone every day. If I spent as much time on it as I would like, I would not do well in my studies at all.
Parents need to teach their kids about proper phone use. The best way to do this is to act as positive role models by being responsible phone users. Then children will be more willing to follow their example.
Before buying a smartphone for their children, they should establish some rules for its use and the children must agree to the rules. They must know that if they disobey these rules, the phone will be taken away from them. The rules could include, for instance, a ban on phone use during meals and family gatherings, or at bedtime.
Having boundaries can prevent children from developing addictive behaviour online. Prevention is better than cure.
Winnie Yeung, Tai Po