Beware! Education monsters do exist

We have all read about Hong Kong’s monster parents and overbearing tiger mums. But there are also far too many monster teachers and principals – cynical, uncaring, dictatorial, dogmatic, self-righteous, nasty, and downright corrupt

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 1:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 October, 2017, 2:28am

Hong Kong parents have a bad reputation. We have all read about monster parents and overbearing tiger mums.

But one of the most widely discussed Facebook posts in the past week has been a most humane reply by an aunt to a teacher who gave her six-year-old niece a zero grade in an English dictation test, publicly reprimanded her and made her copy the English text multiple times. It was originally posted in a parenting forum but was leaked and subsequently went viral.

“Please allow our child to mature gradually. Reprimanding her has no positive effect,” wrote the aunt, who is herself a mother.

“Please appreciate that she wrote out the dictated text as diligently as she could … She would not have gotten zero if, instead of deducting marks for mistakes, you added marks for getting things right.”

I don’t even know where to start. Why would any sane teacher give a zero grade to a Primary One student? What purpose would it serve other than to humiliate and shame?

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In my own experience, I have met far more parents who are more like that aunt than monster ones. This does not mean they don’t drill their children with heavy homework, after-school exercises and private tutorials. That may give the impression that they are some sort of tiger parents. But when you are in the system, you have to play the game. Otherwise, your children will be left behind and discriminated against.

However, I have met too many “monster” teachers and principals – cynical, uncaring, dictatorial, dogmatic, self-righteous, nasty, and downright corrupt in the dictionary sense of the word. A favourite method of taking bribes undetected: keep several Octopus cards and make parents keep filling them up to the HK$1,000 limit. I won’t even get into the incestuous relationships between some schools, and their textbook publishers and school uniform providers.

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You are more likely to come across such teachers not at government schools or other aided ones that cater to lower-income or middle-class families, but at the more “prestigious” schools with their “black box” operations.

That was, in fact, the main reason I switched my own children to an international school – to get away from monsters.

I am sure – I hope – the vast majority of our teachers are dedicated, forward-looking and enlightened. But monsters do exist, and they are usually not parents.