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Hong Kong schools

Homework should be like vitamins – and come with a recommended dosage, Hong Kong parents’ group says

City’s competitive system has parents questioning whether their children have time to pick up life skills or even daydream

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 9:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 November, 2017, 3:11pm

A parents’ union in Hong Kong called on Wednesday for primary school pupils to be given less homework after 60 per cent of mothers and fathers said their children spent more than 1½ hours a day on assignments after class.

Some 23 per cent said their children spent more than 2.5 hours on homework.

The survey findings involving 1,402 parents with children at 341 schools were revealed by the Hong Kong Parents League for Education Renovation.

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In another survey of 518 parents, covering 116 primary schools, the group found that 68 per cent of the schools allocated less than 40 minutes for recess while 74 per cent of them allowed less than 50 minutes for lunch.

Both were below the Education Bureau’s recommendations, comprising two 20-minute recesses and an hour-long lunch daily.

Only 14 per cent of the 116 schools had tutorial classes, designated for pupils to finish homework in school. Half of these classes were actually used as extended lessons to continue teaching.

“Homework is like vitamin pills. We all know they’re beneficial but there should be a recommended intake,” Eiffel Chau King-lun, convenor of the parents’ group, said.

“The government now does not have any limit on how much time pupils should spend on homework.”

Chau said authorities had recommended that Primary One to Primary Three pupils finish homework in 30 minutes while the daily length of time for Primary Four to Primary Six pupils should be an hour. But the suggestions were scrapped in 2014.

He urged officials to reopen discussions about setting a limit on school assignments.

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“The extended time spent on this takes a toll on children’s rest, playtime, and family time,” he said.

Lena Tsang, mother of an eight-year-old boy, said: “I have no time to teach my son how to wash dishes or use a washing machine. I worry our next generation won’t have basic life skills.”

Tsang said her son, a Primary Three pupil in a school in Pok Fu Lam, spent on average more than two hours doing homework and revisions, and was barely left with any time to play.

“My child does not even have time to daydream ... By the time he finishes all homework and meals, it’s already bedtime,” she added.

Leonis Chan, said her seven-year-old boy was so nervous about school work that he wet his bed and would wake at midnight to check his school bag and make sure he had completed all assignments.

“Soon after school started, my son told me he didn’t want to go to school,” Chan said. “Teachers said they were only following the education system, and had to teach a lot in a short period of time ... But not every parent wants their child to be a studying machine.”

She said he moved to a less competitive school recently and now faced less stress.