Policy has a big part to play in problem of 'unruly' children

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 February, 2011, 12:00am

Many letters and articles ('Lessons for carers of unruly children', February 18) suggest that too many children in Hong Kong are naughty, lack discipline, and are troublesome for both parents and teachers. Naturally, chief responsibility is placed on parents. This view misses the role of policies affecting children and parents.

Many factors deeply contribute to the problem of 'unruly' children: the education system, poverty, lack of regulated affordable and humane childcare, and diet. The public education system is still very military and rote in style, teacher-centred rather than student-centred, and overly competitive. Thus children are wrongly expected to have the responses and self-discipline of adults, though it should be the teachers who adapt their teaching to the learning styles of children.

In addition, one-quarter of students in Hong Kong are living in households of poverty. Often the children cannot be attended by a parent - or have a healthy diet. A great deal of research shows that improved diets, especially a lower level of sugar, can greatly calm children's behaviour in school.

Middle-class children cared for by foreign domestic helpers are likely to be spoiled by excessive care, due to the worker's vulnerable position.

Finally, Hong Kong parents have among the longest working hours - in 2008, about 50 hours per week, and the government is reluctant to legislate maximum working hours. Parents are stressed and exhausted, yet forced to impose loads of heavy homework on their children. The policies all together are a disaster for families.

Instead of ramping up pressures and unrealistic demands on both parents and children, the government and schools should do far more to ensure the natural playfulness, curiosity and learning hunger of children are preserved and drawn out skilfully by teachers. We should also ensure that parents have sufficient time and resources to raise healthy children.

Doris Lee, Ma On Shan