Letters to the Editor, January 21, 2018
Special needs pupils need more options
I applaud Shalini Mahtani’s article on the plight of parents with special needs children in Hong Kong (“Make schools more inclusive”, January 17).
Ms Mahtani highlights the dire situation for expat and local families who cannot obtain suitable school places for their special needs children. She asks that international schools admit children with mild to moderate special needs.
I would go a step further – the government should compel international schools to be more inclusive by making their operating licence and renewals contingent upon the number of places (on a percentage of student population basis), they offer to students with special needs.
Yes, it goes against free market mechanics to legislate that social services be provided by businesses. However most international schools are run as non-profit entities and so they operate outside this model already.
Furthermore their non-profit status allows them to benefit from a public good – government land sites they are granted at negligible or below market costs. Another benefit is the lost tax revenue – non-profit schools can legally transfer their sizeable tax-free profits to their management companies in the form of large management fees and salaries.
Inclusivity benefits everyone and for too long international schools have not been challenged on their exclusive admissions practices. School managers cite lack of resources when what they really lack is a desire or the compulsion to accept students who are different.
Catherine LaJeunesse, Sai Kung
Dating apps often used by criminals
With the expansion of the internet and growth of so many apps, including dating apps, scammers are making a lot of money conning people.
Especially when it comes to dating apps people have to be wary of the “new friend” they have met online.
Con artists will hide themselves behind this persona in the hope of making some money. This can lead to some people putting their trust in strangers who turn out to be criminals.
If people have legitimate concerns about a dating app they should just decide to stop using it.
Instead, they should get out more and hopefully meet someone socially.
We have come to depend too much on our smartphones and similar devices, but really there is no substitute for face-to-face communication for people who are still hoping to meet someone.
Wang Yam-yuk, Tseung Kwan O
Make sure subdivided flats are safe
There are now more subdivided flats and their number has increased rapidly. At the same time conditions have not improved and in some cases have got worse. One urban area where there has been high growth is in Kowloon City.
The growth in the number of these units is caused by skyrocketing rents in the private flat sector, so many people cannot afford proper flats and have no choice but to opt for a cubicle apartment. However, they are often unhygienic and dangerous.
It is clear that the government is failing to control the older buildings where most of these subdivided flats are located. Fire safety and other regulations are routinely ignored, putting tenants at risk.
It would be far better to redevelop these buildings and put in decent quality flats. At the very least, if these cubicle flats must continue, officials must monitor them to ensure landlords are meeting the most rudimentary safety requirements.
William Wan Wai-man, Clearwater Bay
Spoon-feeding dominant in local schools
It is difficult to find a local school where pupils do not have almost daily exercises, exams or tests. The spoon-feeding culture is still dominant.
I understand why so little has changed, because parents want their children to do well in exams and get into a university and eventually have a high-paying job. But this skewed focus means that the real purpose of education has been distorted.
I hope that eventually attitudes will change and we will come to realise that education is about more than getting good grades.
Chan Tsz-yan, Tsuen Wan
Starter homes scheme will aid young people
I think the proposal announced in the policy address to introduce a starter homes scheme could be very helpful to young people who want to own a flat.
At the moment most of them are unable to buy their own place because property prices are so high.
The starter homes scheme could be a big help for individuals and families who are not eligible for the Home Ownership Scheme.
I think this is a sign of officials actually listening to people and their pleas for initiatives that would make home ownership a reality for more citizens.
Academics have criticised the government in the past for its lack of public engagement. However, there appears to have been such an engagement when it comes to the starter homes project and I hope that it can be successful and ensure that more people from the middle class are able to own a flat.
Kiki Hon Sze-kei, Kowloon City