My Take

A lesson in how Hong Kong is driving its students up the wall

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 12:34am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 12:34am

An old family friend told us over lunch this week how well her daughter is doing in school. But our friend is distraught. Family relations have been extremely tense and the girl, now in Form Three at secondary school, is, in her mother's words, under tremendous stress all the time. Our friend doesn't interfere in the kid's studies. In fact, she can't ask about them or the girl could go berserk.

Most parents would think they have hit the jackpot if their children excel academically on their own without the need for supervision. In our friend's case, it sounds a bit like a nightmare.

The girl gets As in many of her subjects including English, Chinese, maths and science, but not in Chinese history, something I will return to shortly. She is in 11th place in English out of 130-plus students in her year at school. She is No 1 for the entire grade in liberal studies; previously she scored a D in the subject.

The whole family was in shock last year because of that. A private tutor was hired to rectify the poor performance in liberal studies, in addition to the tutor she already had. They are on top of the tutorial school the girl attends every day after school.

During exam weeks, she would get up at 6am every day to study an extra hour, after burning the midnight oil. Her mother tried to get her to sleep more but she just ignored her.

Actually, most of the time, she ignores her parents, who were originally from the mainland but she was born and raised in Hong Kong. She grew up speaking perfect Putonghua and Cantonese, but for a few years now, she has refused to speak Putonghua with her parents. She lies about her parents being mainlanders to classmates because she is ashamed of their background.

And she doesn't want to study Chinese history. She considers herself a nativist or a "pure" Hongkonger. No need to wonder where she gets that kind of idea. Her mother is more worried than proud of her and never discusses her academic achievements with anyone except close friends and relatives, just like parents of students who perform poorly. The girl also had suicidal thoughts.

Our friend is deeply unhappy. We think her family might be better off if they move out of Hong Kong, which may be driving their daughter crazy.