Youth suicide in Hong Kong

Why can’t Hong Kong create a happy learning environment for youth?

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai calls for university admissions system rethink and better support for low-income families amid worrying suicide trend

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2016, 2:27pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2016, 2:39pm

The chairman of a government-appointed student suicide prevention committee has called on Hong Kong’s educators to “deeply reflect” on why the city cannot create a happy learning environment for its youth.

Led by Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai, the committee was set up after a worrying spike in the number of youth suicides in the city between January and April this year.

Speaking on radio on Saturday, Yip said an analysis of the suicide cases found school and family relationship issues, social media and academic pressures were the main reasons forstudents taking their own lives.

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He called for the score-based university admissions system to be reformed, more support for low-income families and working parents, and more responsibility from social media operators and users.

Yip said the local curriculum for secondary school students was too crammed and created a culture where teachers and parents often needed to provide additional classes or send children to after-school tutoring.

“Why can’t we allow students to study happily at different ages? Why can’t we answer to such a simple and humble request? Educators need to deeply reflect on this.”
Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai

The score-oriented university admissions system and society’s lack of recognition for vocational training mountedfurther pressure on students who already feared disappointing their parents, Yip added.

“Secondary school life and the curriculum have been twisted for the purpose of entering university,” Yip said.

“Teenagers are undergoing a process of understanding themselves and will see many changes in life. If you don’t give them enough space to experience and instead ask them just to study, they will soon lose interest in study.

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“Why can’t we allow students to study happily at different ages? Why can’t we answer to such a simple and humble request? Educators need to deeply reflect on this.”

Yip said many students who committed suicide repeatedly apologised to their parents in their death notes, indicating that they had been under high pressure to live up to expectations.

The committee also found that many such students did not dare to tell their classmates or friends about their problems, and were fearful of being labelled as having a psychological illness, Yip said.

They also tended to express their intention to commit suicide in private Whatsapp or Facebook groups instead of calling for help, he added.

Yip said the committee had been in cooperation with Facebook in identifying at-risk young people, and that Google had also invited Youtube stars to deliver positive messages and advice for young people.

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Yip said improvement in the minimum wage and the establishment of standard working hours were needed in order to provide working parents, especially those from low-income families, more time to communicate with their children.

He added that there should be better housing conditions for parents because crowded living conditions could have additional negative impacts on children’s psychology.