Letters to the editor, April 29, 2016

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 April, 2016, 1:30pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 April, 2016, 1:37pm

School system needs to foster varying talents

I have seen many letters about student life, studies and exams in these columns. Many write in about the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam putting too much pressure on students, and how the school syllabus is not nurturing interest in the so-called Stem (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects.

In my view, the DSE’s biggest problem is not the pressure it brings, but its failure to give a healthy mix of youth of different talents and strengths the opportunity to receive a university education and then to become educated talents in the workforce to help enhance Hong Kong’s competitiveness in a wider range of areas. The outcome simply isn’t worth the pressure that the students have to go through.

DSE and our secondary school curriculum were designed with a very narrow and short-sighted view of Hong Kong as a commercial centre, with a focus on the services industry, and an over-aspiration of being an international financial centre. The focus on performance in the four core subjects – Chinese, English, maths, liberal studies – in university admission is designed to produce mainly generalists to become management trainees for corporations, join the service industry, or become public administrators. It is ideal if university graduates are all-rounded – good at Stem subjects or creativity and at the same time good at the two languages, and have good knowledge about social issues and politics. But, in reality, most people have different strengths and talents. The focus on the four core subjects will easily screen out youth who are talented in different ways, including those strong in Stem subjects and creative industries.

The current system allows more mediocre generalists than talents to proceed to universities, and creates a mismatch between students and their subject of study. The failure to recognise and accept the different strengths and talents of the youth may frustrate them, and they may then give up on themselves and society.

The government earlier pledged to develop creative industries, and now Stem, but the education system just isn’t catching up. Simply setting up some funds or new organisations won’t work, unless the education system and the DSE are revamped.

Joe Lee, Kwun Tong

Don’t blame Observatory on rain alert

I agree with Lee Kwok-lun that the Observatory was right in not issuing a red rainstorm warning on the morning of April 13 (“Red rainstorm warning was not necessary”, April 24)

The Observatory is not the one to decide whether school should be suspended; that is up to the Education Bureau. The Observatory can only be responsible for its observations of our environment. On April 13, since it recorded less than 50mm of rainfall in an hour, there was no grounds to raise the amber alert to red. This was the right decision based on facts.

Of course, with so many weather reports, the Observatory may sometimes make mistakes, but it still tries its best to make the most accurate weather predictions.

The heavy rain that day made travelling to school difficult for many students. By the time they got to school, many children – and teachers – already looked exhausted. So why didn’t the Education Bureau suspend classes that day?

Chloe Chow, Tseung Kwan O

Past events key to a healthier political future

The article, “Hong Kong theatre group dedicated to Tiananmen crackdown concerned by dwindling interest from schools” (April 17), raises fears that we in Hong Kong are downplaying the importance of history and political education.

Already, terms like “June 4”, “Tiananmen” and “tankman” are blocked by the internet censors in mainland China. For a long time now, the Chinese government has tried to limit mainland residents’ political knowledge. Its control seems to be ­extending to Hong Kong.

The theatre group Stage64, which is dedicated to the retelling of the June 4 crackdown, said it has received many cancellations this year. They are worried schools are under pressure to ­ignore this historical event.

Yet, a knowledge of history is invaluable for the growth of the community. To learn from the past, we must analyse the mistakes made and avoid them. Blocking information may enable society to maintain harmony in the short term, but the community as a whole will never improve.

A strong grounding in political education will foster diversity and critical thinking.

Christine Chow, Tseung Kwan O

Orange juice a valuable vitamin source

I write on behalf of the Florida Department of Citrus, in response to an article comparing orange juice to soda (“6 hidden truths about sugar, and how it’s making us ill”, published on April 25). As a health professional, I appreciate your efforts to inform readers about nutrition. However, I wish to clarify that, unlike soda, 100 per cent orange juice has no added sugar, only the natural sugars present when squeezed from the ­orange.

Equating a nutrient-dense beverage like orange juice with soda may create confusion among your readers who are trying to make healthy choices for themselves and their families.

Each glass of 100 per cent ­orange juice comes with a multitude of nutritional benefits that soda does not have: an 8oz glass of orange juice provides 100 per cent or more of the daily value for vitamin C and is also a good source of folate, thiamin and ­potassium.

Research also suggests that drinking 100 per cent orange juice does not have detrimental health effects sometimes associated with excess added sugars like increased plasma glucose/insulin, metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance.

Like all foods and beverages, 100 per cent fruit juices should be consumed in appropriate amounts that fit with an individual’s overall diet.

Gail C. Rampersaud, associate in nutrition research and education, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida

Tough task to explain rise of modern China

As a history teacher here in Hong Kong, I find myself lost trying to explain the lies that Beijing perpetuates with its empty rhetoric and hypocrisy to the innocent young minds that I teach. How do I explain the realities of modern China that has been built on the literal and figurative skeletons of the past?

It is common knowledge that many of the richest families and individuals are those who are somehow connected to the ­inner circle of the Chinese Communist Party. How do I explain how certain individuals have ­exploited a corrupt system for huge financial gain? How do I explain the magnitude of the corruption perpetrated by military generals?

I read in dismay that the leaders of China ignored the reporting of Wen Jiabao’s ( 溫家寶 ) family wealth, and the leaks from the Panama Papers. More shocking is the widespread censorship of these details in the mainland media and internet.

Also alarming is the recent trend of threatening the brave who voice their concerns. I can read between the lines: the communist academics who serve as the mouthpieces for the party are hinting that sedition is everywhere – on the internet, in schools, social networks and from foreign influences. When that word “sedition” becomes the word du jour in Hong Kong, I’d better hide.

Ryan Culliton, Tseung Kwan O