When I look back now, I think my schooldays in 1970s Hong Kong were about learning life patterns, such as behaviour in the classroom, rather than acquiring knowledge from textbooks. A lot of my teachers tried to deliver knowledge formally and I don't think that works very well. It doesn't tend to answer or satisfy a child's curiosity, and I don't think it makes them very secure in themselves either. It certainly didn't make me want to become a teacher because I felt mine failed largely, both as characters and human beings. As a result, I found at the age of six or seven that my concentration was always wavering. I'd practise drawing properly and by Primary Three in Ngau Tau Kok I'd be creating historical characters. That led to teachers smacking me in the face or throwing things at me. However, by Primary Five I found my art skills had really begun to develop and it was like a voyage of self-discovery. It also led to more respect from the teachers, perhaps because they could see I had talent and I was top of the class. Mine was a grass-roots family and there was pressure, such as having to make plastic flowers to help our finances. The upside was that it encouraged me to think in different ways, and led to my maturing more quickly. The first two years of secondary school in Choi Hung were better as I found I had more time and because the teachers were generally more civilised. That said, I had a class supervisor who did nothing but insult the kids, saying: 'You're rubbish.' Fortunately, art was a way of enjoying myself and of communicating, and I liked to decipher the secrets behind the images I studied. I entered art design competitions and that helped me further in the eyes of teachers. Then I discovered boys at the age of 13 and fell in love with one boy specifically. He lived in the same block as me and we'd play basketball together as it was the only way to get close to him. He was very patient and taught me everything about sport. I tried really hard to hook him but it never happened. In Form Three I had to take an exam to decide whether I could continue school. I didn't think I'd pass but I decided that if it was the last year of school, I'd knuckle down. The result was I passed, much to everyone's shock. The following year I turned my attention to speaking English properly. We were taught English in school, though it was done badly. Watching English-language television helped make it more interesting. I bought a little radio too, and would go to haunts such as soccer matches and bars, where I could listen to spoken English. I left school after Form Five and became a sales lady in a Chinese arts and crafts shop. It was easy and well paid, but I loathed feeling I was ripping off the customers and it didn't stretch my mind. So I became a kindergarten teacher and found the challenge I was looking for. I'd look at these kids and they'd be so afraid. There were 42 children from five countries in one class and my mission was to make them fall in love with me. One day a supervisor took me along to a dance class where we did aerobics, initially, and that physically toughened me up more. It led to me doing a jazz class and in turn studying dancing at the Academy for Performing Arts. I know exactly what I want now. I'm a single mother because I think marriage is such a big lie for many women in this city. I did have a father growing up but he wasn't really there, so I don't think I learned how to commit myself. It's very difficult here because we're pressured to be moneymaking machines, but we need to think of how we want to better our lives. I look at my own young daughter and know that I need to give her a life and not let her feel she'll fail. I want to let her enjoy being a human who enjoys being with other children. Hong Kong's education system doesn't understand that. You can't just show children things; they have to experience things for themselves. We should be taking a cue from our children because they know what they want to learn and who they want to learn it from. Ho Loy is an activist, former Legislative Council candidate and self-described life-form artist. She was talking to David Phair.