Letters to the Editor, January 21, 2017

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 12:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 21 January, 2017, 12:15am

TSA at primary level should not come back

I am writing to express my views on the now controversial issue of reviving the TSA at primary level.

Frankly, most people believe that the Territory-wide System Assessment test should not be revived for primary students, as it negatively affects not only the children, but also their parents and teachers.

Indeed, cancelling TSA at the primary level can relieve the academic pressure for these children. The difficulty level of TSA exam papers has risen to unreasonable heights. The test also causes many students to face ­intense drilling in addition to their regular homework. Homework, past primary-level TSA papers and related tutorial ­classes keep students up past midnight sometimes. Eventually, their physical and mental health may be harmed by the lack of sleep and leisure time.

Moreover, cancelling primary-level TSA may benefit parents as well. When students stay up to do TSA exercises, parents may keep them company, and when students are stressed out with the harsh drilling, it affects their parents as well. Also, given ­today’s “drilling culture”, some parents may even have to spend a lot on TSA exercise papers. All this creates a burden for parents that is physical, mental as well as financial.

Also, a valid question is whether parents’ drilling and expectations are likely to hurt the parent-child relationship.

As for primary teachers, cancelling TSA would undeniably relieve their workload. Usually, they have to finish the intense drilling within regular class hours, which creates additional pressure for them. Some teachers may even take supplementary classes during weekends. In the absence of all these activities and extra workload, teachers may be able to devise more meaningful learning activities.

Some believe that the primary-level TSA is a tool to assess student performance. However, TSA’s drilling culture seems to have made primary students well-versed in the skill of ­answering exam questions. This just proves the effectiveness of intense drilling and is not a true measure of performance.

Priscilla Ko Ka-ying, Tseung Kwan O

School system must teach the value of love

I refer to the article by Paul Yip on student suicides (“Put an end to stereotypes for students’ sake”, January 12).

It is true that all the causes for such tragedies must be weighed thoroughly However, I still ­believe academic pressure is the main cause of student suicides.

Actually, it is hard not to blame academic pressure as the main motivation for a student who commits suicide. For ­students, schools are where they spend the longest time, besides their homes.

They are young and have few life experiences. It is difficult for them to judge the value of life. But why do they take that ­extreme step? There must be something wrong with our “exam-oriented” system.

And it is not enough to just educate youngsters on the value of life. Actions speak louder than words. What they really need is a kind of connection, namely, love. According to the Harvard Grant Study: Happiness (in life) is love.

Unfortunately, under our exam-oriented education ­system, the lessons students get and are most impressed by are all about homework, examinations, report cards, and other emotionless words. How then could they be expected to feel love, or to love themselves and others, and respect and treasure their lives?

Carrie Chong Ka-ni, Kwai Chung

Closer study needed of rare cockatoos

I refer to your report on yellow-crested cockatoos (“Hong Kong a sanctuary for cockatoos driven to brink of extinction in native lands”, January 4).

Introduced in the last century, the birds in the city now represent one of the world’s largest naturalised populations, while they have been depleted in their native habitats of Indonesia and East Timor due to their capture as pets and illegal trade.

However,as University of Hong Kong biologist Luke Gibson put it, this is still an invasive species that could affect native bird species and ecosystems.

They are also nearly indistinguishable from birds such as the sulphur-crested cockatoo, which is not endangered and can fetch up to HK$20,000.

I think the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department could monitor bird markets to track down the source of the cockatoos. Then, it can stop any illegal trading and let experts handle the cockatoos for better study of the species.

Amy Leung Fung-yan, Kwai Chung

Climate change triggers go much deeper

Noted economist Paul Ferraro recently wrote that markets too take the view that climate change is man-made: “There’s reason to think the evidence for human-caused climate change is prevailing in the economic marketplace.”

However, other drivers – more important than planet-warming carbon dioxide from fossil fuels – are also involved.

Climate change attributed directly or indirectly to human activity cannot be clearly separated from natural variability.

The sun is the first order ­driver of the earth’s climate. A much underestimated second order driver that can contribute significantly to natural climatic variations is tectonic activity, ­including volcanism.

Last September’s issue of National Geographic said the heat wave caused by a giant patch of warm water appearing in late 2013 in the northern ­Pacific Ocean, referred to as the blob, resulted in at least two ­abnormally hot years, with catastrophic ecological impacts and abnormal weather conditions along the Pacific coastal regions.

At its peak, the warm water covered over 9 million sq km from Mexico to Alaska, an area larger than the contiguous United States.

The cause of the heat wave was a mystery and puzzled ­scientists until recently.

The best explanation for the blob was the eruption of the Nishinoshima volcano, 970km south of Tokyo.

This initially submarine eruption must have started ­before November 2013, heating up seawater through lava flows at about 1,000 degrees Celsius, and continued episodically until August 2015.

In driving the earth’s climate, the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide emissions cannot rank higher than fourth order after third order clouds and water ­vapour.

Its reduction is not only an ineffective solution to reducing man-made climate change which will waste billions but will also harm plant life, affecting food production.

The blob is an excellent reminder of a dynamic earth in spite of extreme overpopulation and resource usage.

Wyss Yim, Pok Fu Lam

City gives new meaning to buyer remorse

Why do I get nervous when I am about to pay for goods in most retail outlets in Hong Kong?

Well, the reason simply is that once I hand over the money or credit card, or sign the cheque, I know from bitter experience that if there is any ­problem with the goods – whether it is defective or fails to comply with manufacturers’ specifications – going back to the shop is going to be a rather unpleasant experience.

Not every time but far too ­often, I am hit by a torrent of ­excuses about why it’s not the problem of the shop, or their duty, to deal with this issue.

The sales team will try to find every possible loophole in the small print on the invoice and at best I will eventually get directed to some far-flung warehouse in a back street in Kwun Tong for a replacement product.

If there is a money-back guarantee, you stand little chance of ever winning that fight – once the money is in the hands of the retailers it’s as good as gone forever.

John Campbell, Discovery Bay