Relieve Hong Kong children from the stress of studying
All stakeholders must work harder to prevent suicides and any easing of pressure in the current learning environment is to be welcomed
New Zealand marked World Suicide Prevention Day in a solemn and heart-wrenching way on Sunday, with 606 pairs of empty shoes lining the front lawn of Parliament in memory of each of those who took their lives in the country over the past year. In Hong Kong, a similar campaign also made front page news.
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Far fewer shoes were on display at Mong Kok than in Wellington, the final stop of the YesWeCare rally, which had travelled thousands of kilometres across the country with the footwear, but our image was no less powerful a reminder of the problem in the city.
Our suicide rate remains disturbingly high, standing at 8.9 per 100,000 last year, and it included 69 people aged 24 or below. The circumstances of each young case may vary, but research has long highlighted typical causes, such as family pressures arising from studying and parents’ expectations. While there is no lack of advice for officials, educators and parents on how to prevent suicides, the recurrence of tragedies underlines the need for all stakeholders to work harder.
The suggestion of a cap on studying hours to curb the problemsounds intriguing. According to a survey of parents and pupils by the Civil Alliance for Student Suicide Prevention, there is majority support for a daily seven-hour cap on studying. The idea, if accepted and promoted as guidelines by the Education Bureau, would effectively spare all pupils from doing any homework after school.
That our children have to cope with a pressure-cooker learning environment is nothing new. But it says something when the survey shows so-called standard study hours are backed by most parents, whose parenting approach and expectations are often blamed for adding to the burden of their children. It would be good news if parents are genuinely ready for change.
The study cap may or may not work, but the spirit is to relieve our children of the stress as much as possible. This cannot be done without all stakeholders asking themselves whether they have done their best to address the problem. They owe it to society and those who have lost their loved ones to do better.