Letters to the Editor, April 15, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 3:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 15 April, 2016, 3:42pm

DSE does offer rich learning opportunities

I refer to the article by Perry Lam (“On Second Thought: Hong Kong is not the only place where standardised tests anger ­parents, students and teachers”, April 10).

While I agree that students in Hong Kong need a rich curriculum that provides a variety of learning opportunities and ­recognises the diverse needs of individuals, I also believe that ­public examinations are a vital part of the solutions for ­achieving such goals.

Take the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) English language this year, for example.

In paper two on writing skills, students are required to write a short speech as the president of a student union to welcome new students discussing the importance of following school rules and developing fulfilling interpersonal relationships.

In addition, a list of essay questions is provided for ­students to choose based on their personal interests and preferences. One question ­refers to the parents who install apps on their children’s mobile phones to ensure responsible use of the devices and asks the candidates to discuss three ­reasons why they agree or ­disagree with the parents’ ­decisions.

In paper one on reading skills, students are presented with a number of letters to the editor published in this paper on the controversy of food trucks.

As can be seen in these examples, DSE exam questions expect the candidates to work on tasks that are in authentic learning contexts, such as giving a speech as a student leader, and encourage students to think critically about the important social issues such as the responsible use of mobile phones and the ­allocation of public space (for food trucks).

Therefore, preparing for the DSE can be an integral part of a school curriculum that offers rich learning opportunities and recognises the students’ individuality. Instead of demonising public exams, parents, teachers and students need to embrace the DSE as a learning platform for developing skills that are ­important for further academic training and citizenship development.

Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong

Reading books far better than drilling in class

I refer to the letter by after-school tutor Charles Loy (“The way English is taught in class makes students lose ­interest”, April 11).

Local schools in Hong Kong are not teaching students ­English language, but English exam skills.

Schools become oriented ­towards public exams so that students can get good grades. So they start drilling with a lot of worksheets and past exam papers. It has to be asked if this is the right way to learn a foreign language.

In Hong Kong, many youngsters are keen to learn Korean, because they like Korean ­dramas and K-pop.

Because they are interested in the ­language, they are motivated to learn it and really make an effort.

If there are students studying English who do not relish ­learning the language, I do not think drilling will be effective.

Teachers need to cultivate the interest of students and, as a first step, encourage them to read a book in English.

Their purpose should be to try and nurture an enjoyment of reading. The more they read, the more they will learn and they can do so without any drilling.

Students in local schools have squandered enough time on these drilling exercises.

Rex Lee Tsz-chung, Tsueng Kwan O

Vocational training is a viable option

The alarming increase in the number of student suicides since the beginning of the school year has caused a great deal of public concern.

Students feel a lot of pressure because of the Hong Kong ­Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam.

Adults see it as a golden opportunity for youngsters to excel and pave the way for a glittering career in their chosen profession. Some youngsters look on it in a ­different way. They see the secondary school syllabus as being very harsh.

They face a very competitive culture and so have to study for hours after school in the hope of doing well in the DSE exam. Many feel that, if they do badly, their hopes of a good job have been dashed.

This is the wrong attitude to take.

The government needs to ­offer youngsters who do not get good DSE results a variety of ­vocational training options as a ­viable alternative to university.

They need to realise that it is not the end of the world getting bad academic results.

Other doors may open for them that could lead to interesting career opportunities even if they did badly in the DSE.

Michelle Leong, Shek Kip Mei

Trump sticks to insults and one-liners

Donald Trump and Bernie ­Sanders stir the cauldron of dissatisfaction with President ­Barack Obama’s America, with easy answers to complicated questions. They are the kinds of explanations which cannot withstand close scrutiny, but which rouse nativists.

Their appeal is testimony to just how restive our body politic has become.

Reducing serious discussion of issues and problems to a string of insults, one-liners and lectern histrionics, Trump has largely defeated a field once ­replete with serious rivals. This is a sure sign that easy answers, however improbable and even impossible in domestic and ­foreign policy arenas, have a firm hold this silly season.

As for Bernie Sanders, where could you find, outside of an elite faculty lounge or a meeting of Students for Everything Free, a man whose unified theory of the universe is that the wealthy control all?

Sanders is a self-described socialist and like too many of this ilk, he cannot help being negative. Thus, we are not responsible for our unhappiness, but can conveniently blame our lack of success on a rigged system, so much more palatable than focusing on our own failures.

He is as ignorant of global ­affairs as he is of what makes America tick.

The only saving grace is that neither one is likely to become president.

Paul Bloustein, Cincinnati, Ohio, US

Computers will never replace human race

A grandmaster of the board game Go was defeated by a computer recently, raising the issue once again about to what extent computers can take over from humans. I do not think this will ever happen.

I accept that there have been advances in computers and they can do a lot of things now, but the emotions felt by humans can never be imitated by machines.

A computer cannot replicate these feelings. Despite the fact that, over the next century, machines will be able to perform more complicated functions, they will never be able to entirely replace us.

Jessica So Yau-nga, Sham Shui Po

Taxi drivers’ tactics not just during Sevens

I refer to Mark Tibbenham’s ­letter (“Police did nothing to curb rogue cabbies”, April 12).

His observations are accurate; however, the problems he raises are unfortunately not ­limited to the week of the Sevens tournament.

The practice of taxis refusing to accept passengers who ­decline to pay an excessive fixed fare can be observed most busy nights on Wyndham Street and other spots where people have drinks or dinner later in the evening.

Frequently, these taxis place a placard over their dashboard light, and then negotiate with customers leaving the area.

In addition to the issues with excessive fares, these rogue taxis create serious disruption to the flow of traffic, sometimes ­causing very significant delays for those travelling through such areas.

These practices cause real problems for people trying to get home and for the customers and businesses in the affected areas. Further, the inability to use taxis to leave the area promptly can lead to other issues.

This practice would be easy to stop, without undue police ­effort. It should be addressed immediately.

Stephen Peepels, Central

Tight rules on mainland are long overdue

Many mainland parents have been coming here to have their children vaccinated and this is causing concern among Hong Kong citizens.

They are worried that we might not be able to cope with the demand from north of the border. The Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man has made it clear that local children will get priority at public clinics and that there is no shortage of vaccines.

However, the situation must be monitored, especially if there is a substantial increase in the number of mainland parents coming here and visiting public clinics for vaccines. This would not just raise concerns about having enough vaccines, but about the shortages of medical staff in the public health sector.

I feel sorry for these mainland parents who must be ­feeling frustrated with their government. With so many reports on the mainland of vaccines that have been improperly stored and managed, they are willing to spare no expense to ensure their children get a safe vaccine in Hong Kong.

What is happening now with vaccinations is similar to problems on the mainland with baby formula in 2013.

We have to ask if the central government has responded to previous tainted food product scandals with stricter regulations.

It should be making sure that citizens can buy products that are safe to use. Quality of life is an important issue.

Chloe Kwok, Yau Yat Chuen