My Take

Hong Kong's education race that never stops or slows down

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015, 3:30am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015, 9:43am

I don't blame a tutoring centre for offering classes to train toddlers how to handle admission interviews for kindergartens and primary schools.

But if you want to make an example of Amanda Tann, the boss at The Ever Learning centre, you should in all fairness go after the parents who pour millions into the tutorial industry and start training their children as early as possible for school.

And blame the schools and principals who, in order to maintain an extreme elitism for their school brands, insist on imposing absurdly high admission standards and tough tests, including exam-like personal interviews, to select pupils.

And hold the government and its Education Bureau officials responsible for perpetrating a twisted system that robs youngsters of their childhood, destroys innocence and victimises whole families.

Tann's centre charges HK$1,200 for a 12-week course.

I have no interest in defending her; she is just one of thousands of private teachers who reap the benefits of our insane tutorial-industrial complex, encouraged by our education system. But the tagline in the centre's controversial poster that outraged everyone is simply stating a basic truth about the state of our education system. "You don't like competition? But competition will find you!"

As a parent, you may not want your kid to be normal and have a happy - pressure-free - childhood. Maybe an average grade or A minus average is good enough for you and your partner or spouse.

But I tell you, it doesn't work that way in a highly competitive local school. When everyone is competing like crazy, getting a 75 per cent average puts your kid at the bottom of the class; the kid everyone makes fun of and the one the teachers hate and despise or, at best, ignore.

When everyone goes to one or more after-school tutorial centres to gain an edge, you have to do it too. It's not that they offer superior instructions, but the better ones get right the type of exam questions you are likely to face.

The truth is that once you have joined an arms race, you can't stop or slow down. That's why many parents are pulling their kids from the local system even if it means paying through the roof for private or international schools.