All parents want their children to have a bright future. So they set aside extra time and money to give their young offspring a head start over their competitors. Many parents make their children attend various extra-curricular activities, thinking that an all-rounded child will be more admired and successful. The media hype about child prodigies has also helped fuel the public's obsession with young people who have excelled early in life. After winning prizes in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists in Germany in August, child musicians Aristo Sham Ching-tao and Wong Wai-yin's achievements were splashed across the front pages of local newspapers. With increasing emphasis on life experience and all-round development, more and more parents want to equip their children with skills and knowledge beyond the academic sphere. As the demand for extra-curricular activities rises, local centres offering music, arts and sports lessons have mushroomed. Tom Lee Music Foundation manager Hilda Ho Hsiao-shun says more parents are sending their children to study music at an early age. 'Some parents even want their children to attain piano Grade Eight before they graduate from primary school,' she said. While most parents want to instil an appreciation of music and the arts in their offspring, some adults have other motives for enrolling their children in interest classes. As the competition for places at prestigious schools becomes more intense, parents need to prepare impressive portfolios for their children. Regardless of whether the children show genuine interest in non-academic pursuits, parents have to make sure the young achievers have the certificates to impress school interviewers. Children, some as young as five, attend intensive courses that help hone their interview skills. They are taught not to behave in a childish way, but show confidence and independence in the absence of their parents. Children in Hong Kong are exposed to all kinds of challenges at an age when they are supposed to be enjoying their carefree childhood. Educators are worried that the high expectations placed on the children by their parents will put them under undue pressure and strip them of their innocence. Think about it Do you think Hong Kong parents are putting too much pressure on their children? Do you think that parents should send their children to extra-curricular classes at an early age? Share your childhood experiences with your teacher and classmates. What kind of activities were you involved in when you were a child? Have you had a happy and carefree childhood?