Online Letters, October 17, 2017
Ethnic minorities must struggle with inequality
While the chief executive in her policy address outlined measures implemented by the government to help citizens from ethnic minority groups in the city, especially, young people, I think there is more that it could and should be doing to deal with concerns of inequality in society.
These citizens face this inequality in core aspects of life in the city, that is, education, employment opportunities and medical services. More must be done to help these groups integrate and ensure a level playing field for them.
There needs to be more Cantonese language training. Some cannot speak or write Chinese, while others can speak it, but have not been given the training they need to read and write it, which puts them at a disadvantage in the jobs market. If young people from ethnic minorities can speak and read Chinese to a high level, they are likely to face less discrimination and have more opportunities to integrate.
In conjunction with language lessons tailored to their needs, there must also be far more jobs training. When seeking work these citizens often feel marginalised and take low-paid work, when they may have talents that have not yet been tapped. They need to be offered the chance to achieve their potential and find rewarding careers.
These minority residents are an integral part of Hong Kong. Their communities have made an important contribution to the growth of Hong Kong. They should be treated in the same way as all other citizens. The government must do more to ensure that they no longer suffer from discrimination.
Polly Lam Po-ni, Kwai Chung
Local school pupils are put under too much pressure
Thanks to the education system in Hong Kong, young people are suffering from tremendous pressure.
The pressure has grown as the city has developed into a knowledge-based society and a number of young people have taken their own lives. There is too much focus on pupils getting good academic results, especially when it comes to the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). You need to do well in that exam to get a place at a local university.
Not all youngsters will do well academically, and they should be encouraged to follow their dreams and their talent (in other directions) should be nurtured. Unfortunately this does not happen as they are victims of the distorted core values of society. Often they are forced to attend a lot of supplementary classes and extracurricular activities.
For example, I am not very academically gifted, but I am good at and love playing volleyball. But I have been grounded sometimes and forced instead of playing volleyball to do revision every day.
My experience is not an isolated one. Most parents in Hong Kong adopt the same attitude towards their children. By contrast, teenagers in the US and UK have a lot more freedom. They do not have to study so many subjects and have less homework. Instead of being forced to study all the time, why can’t they be allowed to get involved in what they love doing?
What is wrong with a young person who failed to get into a tertiary institution doing an associate degree instead of a bachelor’s degree? If a young person does badly in the HKDSE exam they are marked as a loser and this is wrong.
The whole curriculum to prepare students for the HKDSE is too demanding, with so much drilling of past exam papers, tests and often tutorial classes during the evenings and at weekends. This is a dysfunctional education system and it needs to change. When it leaves so many young people feeling inferior and depressed, then it must be reformed.
When stress levels are so high that youngsters have breakdowns or commit suicide, it should be an alarm call for the government to act and reduce stress levels for youngsters.
Officials should face up to these issues, instead of just saying they sympathise with students and overhaul the education system.
Ibbi Chan Tze-tung, Ho Man Tin
It is important to understand Chinese history
In her policy address Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announced that Chinese history would be an independent compulsory subject for junior secondary pupils.
Eventually Hong Kong will be fully integrated in the country. Young people need to understand the history of their city, but they should also feel a sense of belonging to the country. We have seen a lot of citizens, including youngsters, adopting radical ideas. I would like to see more of them recognising the importance of being part of the nation.
Also, learning this subject can help to develop pupils’ critical thinking skills. It is a long, rich and often complex history, so it will prove challenging to them and help them to become more analytical.
Also, if they start studying it from an earlier age, some might find they have a real talent and decide to specialise in Chinese history. So I support it being made a compulsory subject.
Walter Chong, Tseung Kwan O
We should not throw out used textbooks
I agree with correspondents who have complained about the waste of textbooks, so many of which in Hong Kong are discarded when a new edition is published.
I am a student and often have to throw out textbooks, because most students will not buy used ones, even if they are in a good condition. This phenomenon is very common in our society. It places a huge burden on the environment as they end up in our landfills and cause problems for low-income families who are struggling to deal with tight budgets.
Already, a lot of food waste and plastic are discarded in landfills every day and we have very poor waste treatment policies.
The government should encourage pupils to pass on textbooks for continued use rather than throwing them out. They can charge a reasonable sum that is a lot cheaper than buying a new edition. Books could be given to children from poor families who could not afford to buy them.
There certainly needs to be further discussion of this pointless waste of reusable books which happens every year.
Angela Ngai, Yuen Long
Cash help will make a real difference for special needs youngsters
I was pleased with the announcement by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she became chief executive in July that her new government would inject an additional sum of HK$3.6 billion to boost education spending. This has aided different sectors of education, including pupils with learning difficulties (“School cash boost helps pupils with special needs”, October 11).
It was important to make this extra investment in our education system. As a society we must do more to nurture future talent. Pupils are more likely to perform better with additional resources and better quality material. And special needs pupils can benefit if teachers are able to allocate more time to them.
Increasing capital investment in education today, can create a stronger society tomorrow. It is always an investment that is well worth making. We must see the development of education as a long-term process.
Hui Wing-ka, Kowloon Tong
Trump has acted because of concerns over Iran’s missile tests
Barack Obama believed that reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran would usher the Islamic republic into a period of cooperation with the West, especially as the arc of history, Mr Obama assured us, his comfort blanket in lieu of an effective strategy, was bending our way.
Seeing the arc differently, however, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quickly put the kibosh on that idea and went ahead with multiple ballistic missile tests, fired rockets close to American warships in international waters, revealed a new missile bunker, specifically rejected conferring with America on anything else, assumed an intransigent posture with respect to a full accounting of past nuclear research, sanctioned the capture of American sailors and the harassing of our ships in the Persian Gulf, and dispatched Iranian agents to Germany in search of nuclear technology. He did all this while his country fomented terror and turmoil throughout the Middle East.
Iran knew that it would pay no price for ballistic missile tests in defiance of UN resolutions or for any other impertinence as long as Mr Obama held sway, for it could easily weather expressions of “grave concern” from the Obama administration and the UN. It knew that Obama would not jeopardise the nuclear agreement no matter how uncooperative or combative it appeared.
Donald Trump is more concerned with arcs described by Iranian missiles as they course toward allies than he is with the arc of history. The hope that Iran will observe international norms and strictures has been dashed by its repeated actions. It is time for thoughtful reckoning with a defiant terror-supporting state and that is what the refusal to recertify the nuclear agreement is intended to do.
Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati, Ohio, US