Parents who place importance on achieving high academic results lower their children's self-esteem, according to experts on child growth. The assertion is supported by the results of a survey conducted on 700 children aged between six and 10 in Hong Kong and China, which charted the development of their self-image from 1994 to 1996. The survey was sponsored by the Centre for Child Development at Hong Kong Baptist University. According to the figures, Primary One children had an average score of 2.9 in academic self-concept. However, their confidence in handling school work dropped to 2.25 when they were at Primary Three. Director of the centre, Dr Lau Sing, said the greatest drop in children's self-esteem occurred at Primary Three. 'Parents focus too much on children's academic achievement. As children face more difficult curriculum than before and parents push too much, children's confidence is lowered,' Dr Lau said. Associate Professor at the Department of Educational Psychology of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Cheung Ping-chung, agreed. Parents and teachers were important to children, Professor Cheung said. 'When children find that their academic results cannot satisfy their parents, their self-image is lowered.' He said studies conducted overseas showed that self-concept affected children's creativity, study motivation and future achievement. The survey also revealed that the general self-concept of Primary Five children in China scored 2.4 while Hong Kong children scored only 2.25. Dr Lau said: 'Parents in Hong Kong push their children too early. They even start the pressure at kindergarten stage. 'Parents think that children at Primary Three are old enough to handle their school work properly. In fact, children need more care and support at this stage.' He said parents must be more accepting of their children's academic performance and should spend more time with them, teaching them to manage problems through daily interaction. Professor Cheung said the education system required a revolutionary change. He said curriculum was too examination-oriented and that children should be encouraged to explore non-academic activities such as music, sport and art.