Letters to the Editor, January 7, 2017

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 12:17am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 January, 2017, 12:17am

Small-class teaching has its pros and cons

Small-class teaching has been in the news lately, and sparked a lot of debate.

Many see this teaching method as a means to improve the education system. However, it has its pros and cons.

In terms of the benefits, small-class teaching can definitely provide opportunities for personal attention and additional instructional help.

If a class has only 10 students, the learning process tends to be more effective as the teacher can spend more time on each ­student. Even if all 10 have questions, the teacher can answer them one by one and interact with them. This is impossible in the case of a large class. One-on-one attention is what small-class teaching can ensure.

Apart from individualised attention, a better learning environment is also an advantage. Discipline problems will be fewer or better tackled in smaller classes. This will leave the teachers with more time and energy for effective teaching, and they will be less stressed out as well.

However, while it may seem that small-class teaching is the superior system, it also has a few disadvantages.

Smaller classes might mean less competition between ­students, as keen rivalry thrives when there are many contestants. With just 10 students per class, the competition between them may not be that tough, and students may feel less motivated to push themselves. Competition leads to better academic ­results – this is a fact. So small classes may actually lead to loss of motivation to study.

Moreover, small classes mean more classes per school day, which means more teachers will have to be hired. But the supply of teachers is insufficient. If a school does not have enough teachers, each one will need to teach many classes throughout the day and become exhausted.

Given these drawbacks, it is hard to decide whether small-class teaching is the best way to improve the education system or not. There are other means as well to achieve that goal, such as improving teacher quality, better teaching methods, and so on.

Small-class teaching can be an alternative but it will never be the only choice.

Tutti Sung, Tseung Kwan O

Students will gain if school starts later

I think that school should start later so that students can sleep longer in the morning.

I strongly believe that having sufficient sleep can help young students study better, as they are well-rested and their brains are more receptive.

It is common to see students who always get insufficient rest finding that their attention flags easily during lessons or they cannot remember clearly later what they learnt in class.

The situation is far worse for students who live a long way from school. They have to wake up even earlier and often have no time to have breakfast before class. This may cause them to be sluggish and less ­receptive to new concepts.

Lack of sleep can also affect mental health, and youngsters with chronic sleep deprivation may become emotional much more easily. So starting classes later and shorter school hours will benefit students, as well as improve learning efficiency.

Samantha Situ, Yau Yat Chuen

E-vehicle tax waiver must remain in place

In Hong Kong, we often see ­pedestrians covering their nose and mouth in a futile attempt to avoid breathing in toxic fumes from cars and buses.

I believe replacing gas-guzzling, polluting machines with electric vehicles (EVs) is best for public health and well-being.

There are those who allege that EVs pollute more, due to our dirty power generation or ­vehicle production methods. Those claims are simply false, and quite often disinformation.

One can look up on the web unbiased research from the Union of Concerned Scientists. They say, “Over their lifetime, battery electric vehicles produce far less global warming pollution than their gasoline counterparts – (and they’re) getting cleaner.” This holds true even with Hong Kong’s current fuel mix for generating electricity.

Also, as Hong Kong’s fuel mix gets cleaner over time, e-vehicles will get cleaner, while gas guzzlers will only get dirtier.

Coming to the waiver of the first registration tax for EVs, it is not a “subsidy”, because the government is not the source of any revenue given to EV makers. Also, the exemption is fair ­because it is applicable to all automakers. Those against the exemption also argue that the government is forgoing millions in revenue, but the figures are exaggerated. Also, without the waiver, most eco-conscious consumers who bought EVs could not have afforded them.

Just look at Denmark, where repealed tax breaks and a 20 per cent hike in taxes on new vehicles resulted in an 85 per cent drop in EV sales, as buyers went back to polluting vehicles. The exemption should remain until the majority of vehicles on our roads, including buses and minibuses, are fully electric.

I urge the Hong Kong government not to bow to pressure from automakers, car dealerships and oil companies. Hongkongers deserve pollution-free streets and EVs help in a big way to achieve that.

Derek Tom, Pok Fu Lam

E-car drivers could do with more support

The government should offer more facilities to drivers of ­electric cars.

Global warming and climate change are huge concerns worldwide. We know we have to do our bit to protect the planet.

The invention of e-vehicles brings hope in terms of conserving the environment. As these are powered by electricity, ­e-cars help alleviate air pollution. So why are e-vehicles not widely used in our city? I would say that’s because the Hong Kong government has not done enough to promote their use.

Apart from the lack of charging stations, fossil fuel vehicles are often seen occupying spaces at such stations, making it difficult for e-car drivers to find a place to park and charge.

Emily Yeung, Sham Shui Po

Old electronics will now have a place to go

I refer to the report on e-waste treatment (“Hong Kong’s first integrated recycling plant for e-waste part of plans to make ­polluters pay”, December 27).

I am glad our city finally has a solution for e-waste. With new electronic devices being developed everyday as technology advances, the ­problem of ­e-waste is ­exacerbated.

Old electronic products would in the past mostly end up in landfills. The e-waste recycling plant can tackle this ­problem.

Electronic products will be detoxified, dismantled and turned into secondary raw materials, such as plastics, copper or iron, which can be reused or landfilled locally in a clean way. This is a welcome move.

Amy Leung Fung-yan, Kwai Chung

Hike in A&E fees violates welfare code

I refer to the proposal to increase accident and emergency (A&E) services fees at public hospitals, from HK$100 to HK$220.

Perhaps the aim is to make charges match the fee levels at private clinics, so that non-emergency patients turn to those instead. The ultimate goal is to alleviate the overcrowding in A&E units at public hospitals.

But it may be difficult for us to determine whether some health conditions require emergency medical care or not.

The public hospital system is one of the most important welfare infrastructures in our city, providing medical treatment at a relatively affordable cost. Most people still rely on A&E services when they feel unwell, but the higher fees will make them think twice about seeking treatment.

Raising fees may reduce the long queues of patients but it violates the meaning of public social service.

Yau Chi-hung, Sai Wan Ho