Happiness of Hong Kong schoolchildren drops to new low, homework increases by up to 40 minutes a day: Lingnan University survey

According to poll of 428 primary pupils and 718 junior secondary pupils, students spend up to 40 minutes more on homework a day

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 March, 2016, 3:43pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 March, 2016, 9:02am

Hong Kong schoolchildren’s level of happiness dropped to a new low last year, while the time they spent doing homework increased by up to 40 minutes a day, according to a survey.

The Children’s Happiness Index, published yesterday, was based on research conducted by Lingnan University from October last year to January.

A total of 25 primary and secondary schools took part, with 428 primary pupils and 718 junior secondary pupils asked to rate their happiness on a scale of 0 to 10.

Researchers found that the ratings among children aged eight to nine and over 14 suffered the sharpest drop, as the time they spent on their homework was found to be the longest.

They also found that these children had less sleep than they should have at their age.

A paediatrics expert called the situation alarming and warned of increasing risks of child suicide and family abuse triggered by growing pressure to study.

“Schooling should be the happiest and most exploring phase in life,” said Patrick Ip, associate professor at the University of Hong Kong’s department of paediatrics and adolescent medicine.

“The current situation is really not ideal.”

The index dropped to 6.49, the lowest rating since it started in 2012, when the score was 6.91.

For children aged 14, the rating dropped the most, by six per cent to 6.15, while the rating among children aged eight to nine dropped by five per cent to 6.86.

Correspondingly, Primary 4 pupils, usually aged eight or nine, spent an average of almost three hours every day doing homework – the longest hours among all primary school children.

Form Three secondary school pupils, usually aged 14, spent an average of two hours on homework – the highest at the junior secondary level.

The primary school respondents slept an average of less than nine hours a day, while the secondary school pupils slept for about seven hours on average, lower than the international standard of 10 hours for primary school children and nine hours for those at secondary school.

Ip said an analysis of official figures showed that over half of the 800 to 900 child abuse cases that happened every year over the past few years occurred around May and December, which are exam seasons.

He said this was unique in Hong Kong and that parents often got very mindful and nervous about their children’s performance during the period and tended to be upset more easily.

“In the past decades, the whole education and social environment has focused too much on academic scores,” said Ip.

He added that not enough sleep would also undermine children’s physical and mental health and lead to higher risks of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and even suicide.

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