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  • Jul 26, 2014
  • Updated: 3:19am
NewsHong Kong
EDUCATION

Hong Kong babies 'being sent to tutors at the age of 15 months'

Veteran teacher warns of pressure on children as parents ask for lessons for toddlers and older pupils take 12 or more tutorials a week

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 January, 2014, 9:13am

Hong Kong children are being put under more pressure at younger ages by their parents, with youngsters being forced to take a dozen tutoring classes every week and some parents seeking tutors for their toddlers, the author of a new book on parenting and teaching says.

The heavy workload at such a young age could be behind a range of problems suffered by a growing number of, children such as a "chronic lack of sleep" and attention disorders. So says retired teacher Pat Kozyra, who wrote the book after spending more than half a century working in the education field.

Now a private tutor for kindergarten and primary-level children, Kozyra told the Post that a number of parents had asked her to practice conversation with children as young as 15 months old. Some pupils told her they had to take as many as 12 to 15 tutorials every week.

"The amount of regular good sleep is so important for a child but this doesn't seem to be happening as much as it should here in Hong Kong," said Kozyra, who came to the city in 2001 from Canada and taught in two international schools until she retired in June last year.

"I'm also observing more pupils with physical tics now than ever before. [Such tics] can be a sign of too much stress.

"Are we forcing these children to learn too much too fast? And what's happening to play?"

Kozyra has dedicated a whole chapter in her book, Tips and Tidbits for Parents and Teachers, to the developmental benefits of playing with simple toys such as balls - a toy she says "never goes out of style" but is often ignored by parents in favour of more expensive ones.

Parents are worrying more about their children's ability to get into a good school, while schools are also raising the bar for acceptance, Kozyra said. Many schools now require candidates to be reading fluently at a very young age when, in other parts of the world, children may not be able to read at all. She cited Finland, where children do not start reading until the age of seven but develop into the best readers in the world.

The love of reading, according to Kozyra, is key to a child's academic and personal development, but it cannot be tutored and needs to be encouraged by parents' own activities. She suggested that parents spend some "quality time" every day with their children and read to them.

"I often hear experts say that you shouldn't stop reading to your children until they're in university. You can laugh at it but this is what the experts say. Most children just love to hear mummy or daddy read," she said.

In many cases in Hong Kong, domestic helpers spend as much time with children as the parents do, if not more, which is why Kozyra also emphasised the importance of incorporating maids into children's upbringing. She said parents should maintain good communication with helpers and ask them to report the children's misbehaviour, instead of ignoring it or even blaming the maids for reporting it.

"Note that your own attitude toward your helper will be reflected in your children," she said.

She has seen children hitting, kicking and spitting at their helpers. She called it a "vicious circle", as children are often spoiled by the helpers simply so they will not upset their employers.

Kozyra also warned against parents agreeing to everything that their children want in order to compensate for the time they spend apart.

"That's guilt," she said.

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This article is now closed to comments

blue
These parents are complete morons. If their children aren't creative, then they're worthless. Let the child have a happy childhood filled with imagination, and everything will fall into place.
sipsip1238
Having done an interview for a perspective new hire who were all born in the 80s over the last couple of weeks, you may come from a good school and your parents may constantly tell you that you're the best thing that has happened to this world, but if you dress in a suit without a tie; stand up straight and shake hands with me before the interview, you're pretty much not worth my time.
Oh did I mention that one was late and didn't apologise...why would I even bother hiring you if you fail to know proper etiquette.
mercedes2233
Please advise: what is wrong with "stand(ing) up straight and shake(ing) hands with me before the interview"? I thought that is great etiquette.
Your English is not the best: "...a new hire who were all born in the 80s over the last couple of weeks"? So how old are they? A few weeks old or 30+ years old?
sipsip1238
As someone who was also born in the mid 80s...I wonder what has happened to our generation to make us so rude in the eyes of our elders. Do we not teach our kids anymore.
mercedes2233
How about teaching manners to yourself as a start? You are now old enough to know better.
charlie212
stopping parents/maids/helpers carrying their school bags for them is a start -- spoiled, entitled, spoon fed - the generation of tomorrow
sipsip1238
Exactly...but the question is also why parents believe that children require that, when they themselves did not have that and turned out for the better.
Why are parents not pushing their kids to go do part time work when they are able to in order to make them understand how proper workers work; the fact that you overprotect them is ruining them, not helping them.
Parents keep thinking that because they do not spend as much time with the child, they must therefore compensate with money, face it parents, you owe the child nothing, if anything they owe you for bringing them into life.
There's a lot of bad talk about Gen-Ys and it saddens me being a Gen-Y myself who has put in the hard work and still sometimes subjected to bad prejudices when I meet people for the first time just because of my age; but honestly, after interviewing many candidates now, I understand where people's frustrations are...I try to lecture some, but to see the glaze come through the inteviewees eyes, it makes me feel, why do I bother, and isn't that your parents job.
CatInAFlap
Just wait. It'll be classes for embryos next.
superdx
As an employer, I would not hire such candidates. Especially if they proudly show being at a prestigious school, or have paid for an expensive tutor service, or having gotten multiple A's on their exams.
Such people have no creative thought, working well in groups or self motivation. Because everything is a test to be aced. Unfortunately, real life is not always a piece of paper to be filled out.
syracuse37
You can make children learn and learn again, however from my experience what is most needed by business is people that creative and that can create good relations with their coworkers and clients. For this you need to play with other children and also have time to use your imagination which you take out from those children by pushing them at such a young age. If I need to get information I go down to the library or use internet I don't pay a high salary to a encyclopedia I pay a high salary to a motivated creative and good client developer employee.
robroy
I know several of these english teachers that talk to toddlers.. ..madness..
kyoto
There are crazy parents, and there are crazy parents. Just because you can afford it, doesn't mean you do stupid things to your children !
Quite often the kids would ended up looking at empty walls with no responses and vacant eyes due to over exhaustion even before they turned into a teenager !
aplucky1
is there ANY proof these super students create ANYTHING
or just get good grades
mercedes2233
Don't understand. Do all non-super students 'create'? If so, what do they create?
 
 
 
 
 

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