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Suicides in Hong Kong

All stakeholders must take a step back to reflect on how best to take the pressure off our children

Hong Kong’s education system is not without flaws, yet the answer lies not in finger-pointing but rather in rational debate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 1:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 1:12am

If education becomes an issue that gets people hot under the collar, there is every reason for stakeholders to take a step back and reflect. Much has been said about the pressure arising from examinations and the rising number of suicides among our young, but there appears to be more finger-pointing than soul-searching.

Understandably, education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim bears the brunt of criticism. During a public function, he became emotional and lamented that there was a tendency to blame the education system whenever problems emerged. Such a view did not do justice to schools and teachers, he said. To attribute every problem to education is too simplistic. Ng is right to speak up for educators, whose professionalism and dedication are shaping the development of our youngsters and ultimately, the city’s future.

But that is not to say that the current system is without flaws. Our schooling is notoriously rigid, with tiers of highly competitive exams to screen out poor performers. The opposition against the test for Primary Three pupils is a response to our pressure-cooker learning environment. It is incumbent upon the education minister to address the grievances.

Parents, too, can help relieve children of the pressure. Keen competition for schools has prompted parents to build up impressive portfolios for children by filling their daily and weekend schedules with lessons of various sorts. Some families go to such extremes as to enrol their children in two kindergartens, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

A global study found that prisoners got more time for outdoor exercise than our students. With schools scheduling only two 35-minute sessions of physical education a week, it is no wonder that prisoners get more time outdoors than our children do.

The city’s future hinges on the well-being of our children. There is much room for reflection and cooperation among all stakeholders, including officials, parents and educators. The ongoing tension does not help rational discussion on how best to reform our education system.