Letters to the Editor, July 19, 2015
Reading paper this year was unrealistic
I refer to the letter by Henry Wong ("Students must raise their own standards", July 8), which replied to the letter by Kendra Ip ("Students have been let down by local exam that is far too difficult", July 1).
As a candidate this year, I hope to provide an insight from a student's perspective into the reading paper of the Diploma of Secondary Education exam.
All correspondents writing about this have agreed that the reading paper is very difficult. The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) should set a paper that can cater for students on all levels, including students of average ability.
The reading paper took students by surprise. When we prepare for our exams, we practise using previous papers. As a student from a band one English as medium-of-instruction school, I have never seen a paper half as difficult as the one I received on examination day and I do not think this is fair.
The paper was also unrealistic, especially the passage ("Young Minds in Critical Condition", Michael S. Roth, The New York Times). If it was meant to assess students' abilities it should have covered topics that were accessible, that they could related to. This passage was about philosophy, something most students have never read about. Even candidates who excel in English may have performed badly.
Mr Wong claimed that if students read more, no passage should pose any great difficulties.
I do not believe this to be the case. In real life, we read passages to understand the main ideas, but in the exams, we need to look into and explain every detail, including the writer's purpose for writing a specific sentence.
Mr Wong also said it is important to raise the bar for the reading paper. If so, why not raise it gradually? It is ridiculous to set a surprisingly difficult paper do this out of the blue.
The HKEAA should address the controversies caused by the reading paper. I would also like to thank teachers like Ms Ip for speaking up in our behalf.
David Lai, Tai Wai
Short showers, devices in taps can save water
We can all adopt simple measures to save precious water resources in Hong Kong.
One of them is to finish our morning shower a minute or two earlier than we normally would. Households could also install water-saving devices such as specially designed taps.
This could also be done in shopping malls and restaurants. In these places, customers do not think about how much water they are using and do not care about wasting it because they are not in their own homes.
Installing these special taps would lead to more economical use of water.
Yan Tsz-yung, Tseung Kwan O
Political issue only delayed, not shut down
The pan-democrats were in a celebratory mood following the defeat of the government's political reform package in the Legislative Council on June 18.
They believed they had delivered a clear message to Beijing and to the pro-establishment and pro-Beijing politicians about the delay of progress towards democracy and a lack of compromise.
However, I believe there were other factors that were overlooked.
Many lawmakers no longer wanted to continue this debate. They wanted to move on to other, more important issues such as the economy, education, infrastructure projects and housing, that need to be addressed by the government. Of course, they are not as sexy politically as dramatic walkouts, filibusters and other kinds of protests.
Democratic Party chairperson Emily Lau Wai-hing has pledged that the pan-democrats will focus on all the problems Hong Kong faces, not just the political ones. But once lawmakers on both sides move on from this debate, the momentum will be lost.
The only real power player here is Beijing. Any reform in Hong Kong will happen only through a plan approved by the central government. Any kind of upheaval or revolution in Hong Kong will not be tolerated, and public sentiment against Beijing isn't enough to cause a radical change.
However, Beijing is a difficult beast to understand and predict. Hong Kong is a special administrative region under "one country, two systems" ensuring autonomy from China until 2047. We don't have a precedent to see how Beijing will deal with Hong Kong.
Also, it's impossible to predict how Chinese demographics and government will change in the next 30 years. Will they become more aggressive or liberal and Westernised? Will it internally be more repressive? Will it stick to the pseudo-democracy plan with no concessions? Will it eventually grant Hong Kong true democracy?
The debate on the future of Hong Kong, the definition of a democracy and Beijing's behaviour are issues that won't go away. Whatever happens, the world's eyes will be on Hong Kong in the coming decade.
Pradyumn Dayal, Pok Fu Lam
Long shifts bad for doctors and patients
Junior doctors work long hours in public hospitals because of staff shortages.
During their extremely long shifts, they have to see a large number of patients so they can spend only a limited amount of time on each one.
This is not a good and effective way to serve the Hong Kong public.
Because they are severely overworked, there will inevitably be times when the quality of their patient care and professional judgments are adversely affected.
If they are required to work a particularly busy shift without a reasonable break, it means they continue to work even when they are exhausted.
It is therefore hardly surprising when you read from time to time about medical blunders being made in a public hospital.
Obviously in a public hospital, any doctor's performance is going to be influenced by being in a state of physical and mental exhaustion.
When they are faced with such a heavy workload, I do not see how these medics can have any spare time to relax with their friends and families.
These doctors in our public health service have devoted so much of their time and energy to serving the people of Hong Kong. They deserve our gratitude and respect.
However, we have to ask why a modern and prosperous city like Hong Kong even has such shortages in medical staff.
It all comes down to supply and demand. We need to increase the supply of doctors in Hong Kong, including providing more places at our medical schools and accepting more suitably qualified doctors from overseas.
Natalie Chan, Kowloon Tong
Students' tie to teacher suffers with e-books
An electronic learning pilot scheme was introduced in some Hong Kong schools a few years back.
I admit there are some advantages to the use of e-books. A notebook is 30 per cent cheaper than buying all the traditional textbooks a student needs. Besides, it can reduce the weight of students' rucksacks.
While using e-books can increase students' motivation to learn, I still prefer traditional books because I think e-books reduce the teacher-student relationship. Schools should only use e-books as a supplemental source for teaching.
Tse Ka-wing, Yau Yat Chuen