SCHOOL MAY BE OUT but Canny Lam Yeung-tsin is having a very busy time. The 11-year-old is attending summer courses on skiing, piano, cooking and English and, as if that's not enough, she's got homework to do as well. 'I have to do holiday homework and prepare for next year's syllabus,' she said. Canny's itinerary may be hectic but it is not unusual. Many local students are spending the holiday studying in one form or another. The summer also offers the chance to try new things, however. At Hong Kong International School, students become forensic detectives on a crime scene investigation summer course, solving cases using techniques such as fingerprinting, hair and handwriting analysis and ink chromatography. 'I like these experiments are better than the ones at school because we get to find out who the offender is,' said Jacqueline Yeung, 10. Beverly Stevens, crime scene instructor, said the observation skills of her students had improved since they joined the course. 'This is a kind of unintentional academic course,' she said. 'Students are learning science and being entertained at the same time.' Students have also been having fun on Lantau Island, taking part in a film-making course offered by Focus on Film, a local non-profit-making visual media school. Participants filmed short narratives based on an excerpt from Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, with every student given the chance to play director, producer, editor, cameraman and actor. 'They provide us with plenty of professional equipment which I've never had the chance to use before,' said Yuki Cheung, 15. Elissa Rosati, the programme director, was thrilled with the performance of the students. 'They were quite shy on day one but today they are directing each other, acting with confidence in front and behind the camera,' she said. Many courses are tied more closely to students' academic futures and thousands are enrolled in language programmes to help prepare them for places in English-medium schools. Some kindergarten children are already experiencing the kind of pressure they will feel later in the year for places in sought-after primary schools by being enrolled in courses to develop skills to help them shine in front of principals. Jack and Jill Treehouse, in Mid-Levels, is a good example of this, offering primary school entry interview preparatory classes for five-year-olds. 'We teach them simple manners, telling them how they should behave during the admission interviews,' centre head Sarah Ling Wai-chee said. 'Our purpose is to let them familiarise with the interview environment so that they won't be afraid of the real interviews.' Similar preparatory courses are offered at Nice and Wise Studios in Central, Kowloon and Ma On Shan. However, Lau Sing, chair professor of the Department of Education Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the practice of parents overloading children during the holidays had been a problem for many years. 'Many parents get worried about how their children can learn effectively during long holidays,' he said. While it could be beneficial for children to take certain summer academic courses because there were many things children did not have the chance to learn during the school year, parents should not go too far, and should seek courses that contrasted with the regular academic approach. 'Teachers in regular school use serious methods of teaching,' he said. 'If summer programmes use the same mode of teaching, they're no different from school and students won't enjoy their holidays.' He also pointed out that while many schools or parents assigned holiday work books, they were not necessarily helpful. 'Very often parents or teachers don't mark the books,' he said. 'The only purpose of the workbooks is to occupy children.' Professor Lau recommended reading story books instead.