Stress of education reforms drove one woman to consider suicide The pressures placed on teachers by the government's education reforms were almost too much for Ms Chan. Two years ago, she contemplated suicide. 'I thought about just jumping to my death to end it all because even that pain would be nowhere near the pain of having to face the heavy workload at school,' said Ms Chan, a primary school English teacher for more than 20 years. She was one of 2,004 teachers surveyed by the mood disorders centre of Chinese University's medical faculty. Ms Chan - not her real name - says her stress stems from the increasing load of extra-curricular and administrative work that is overtaking her teaching work and from the constant need to upgrade her skills because of the changing requirements of the job. Recounting her ordeal at a session organised by the Professional Teachers' Union, she would not disclose her name, the school where she teaches or even the district it is in, lest her comments be treated as dissent and her constant need for medical attention be seen as making her unfit to continue teaching. Ms Chan says she frequently works until 2am. 'At times I can afford only four hours' sleep,' she said. When she contemplated suicide two years ago, she consulted a doctor and now takes a mixture of anti-depressants and sedatives. 'Now I may still cry suddenly for no reason, though my situation is not as bad as before,' she said. Kathleen Kwok Pik-shan, a clinical psychologist with the mood disorders centre, said having to give priority to extra-curricular work that was not in her original job description had dampened Ms Chan's hopes of fulfilling her educational ideals. To make matter worse, Ms Chan said, the Education and Manpower Bureau frequently changed teachers' qualification requirements 'on a whim', requiring her to take extra courses and leaving her little or no social life. Ms Lee, who teaches Chinese and physical education to primary-school children, said that if she felt too pressured by the reforms she would quit teaching. 'For me, that would only mean early retirement, as I have taught for more than 30 years already. But the education reforms are continuing to harm the younger generations of teachers,' she said. Ms Lee agreed about the harm caused by 'ever-changing' qualification requirements. 'They must be thinking teachers have a lot of leisure time to study after work. But that's simply not the case,' she said.