Letters to the Editor, February 18, 2018
Our education system churns out robots
I refer to your article on how a teacher-student duo in Hong Kong is turning centuries-old Chinese texts into catchy Canto-pop tunes, to serve as study guides (“An unlikely duo teams up to help pupils tame HKDSE’s ‘paper of death’”, February 13).
Being a Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) candidate myself, I welcome this initiative to make it easier for students sitting this year’s DSE Chinese exam, where they will be tested on 12 classical Chinese texts. It is common knowledge that DSE students are under tremendous pressure, and the reason for this is undoubtedly the education system we encounter.
In fact, the DSE curriculum is only churning out cohorts of robots year after year. The culture of spoon-feeding emphasises students’ skills in reciting the syllabus, which passes for learning.
Students, in an attempt to achieve good results to leap towards promising futures, have no choice but to abide by the rules of the game. The only skill most of them tend to master is memorising contexts from textbooks and useful sentence structures. Such rote-learning is ironic, when our society always emphasises that knowledge should be applicable in our daily lives.
I know very well that only if I gain entry to a renowned university can I hope for a secure future. But the cruel fact is, many of us will probably fail to do so, given the intense competition for a university place in Hong Kong. Along with expectations from parents and teachers, the situation can and does leave many of us deeply depressed.
A prosperous metropolis has to be sustained with elites. Sadly, the major pillars of our future community are just robots. I believe what our society needs most of all is educational reform.
Tiffany Chan, Tsing Lung Tau
British warship evokes memory of opium defeat
Britain will send a warship through the South China Sea next month to assert freedom of navigation rights, only the second country after the US to do so (“Britain to sail submarine-hunting warship through disputed South China Sea,” February 13).
For British Prime Minister Theresa May to send a warship in what the Chinese leaders will surely view as a provocation is historically insensitive and foolish.
This is likely to also revive unpleasant memories of Britain’s defeat of China in the opium wars.
This action is also unwise and tactless, coming so soon after Prime Minister May’s three-day visit to China, the primary aim of which was to drum up trade ties.
The visit, which took place just over two weeks ago, saw £9 billion (HK$98.7 billion) of deals signed between Beijing and London.
But this naval act is likely to result in China cooling its trade and investment relationship with Britain. With the UK finalising the details of its exit from the European Union, May wants, and needs, to expand London’s trade links with non-European countries. So why is she shooting herself in the foot by sending a warship into disputed waters?
I am not an apologist for the Chinese government, and I believe it is right for British leaders to take China to task on human rights and speak up on the behalf of Hong Kong, a former British colony.
But sending a British warship through the South China Sea is only a reminder of the British Empire’s historical human rights violation, of forcing China to buy British narcotics through the force of arms.
Toh Han Shih, Happy Valley
Online classes better than none at all
I refer to the letter from Emily Leung about online classes in rural China (“Less gifted children may be left behind”, February 4).
Even though the country has made great strides toward prosperity, poverty is still a big problem in many parts of rural China, where education may not be top priority. Also, students in remote areas not only have to travel far to learn, but also suffer from the lack of teachers, as many are unwilling to serve in far-flung locations.
This leaves many pupils without a window to the world.
Such youngsters will benefit if a video screen is set up at school for lessons delivered by an off-site teacher. They will then not fall behind because of a shortage of teachers in that subject.
Of course, this is not a perfect solution. Nothing can take the place of a teacher actually being in class and guiding pupils through their lessons. There is less opportunity for interaction, which is vital to the learning process. Communication is a necessary skill, and such one-way teaching will not let pupils engage in it.
Meihing Lee, Po Lam
Eat out less often to avoid salt overload
I am alarmed at reports of extremely unhealthy levels of salt and sugar in popular Hong Kong snacks and soups. The latest Consumer Council report found “three days’ intake of salt in one sample of Asian soup noodles” (February 14), with 76 out of 100 samples tested exceeding the WHO’s suggested daily limit.
We already know about the high sugar content in many of our popular snacks and drinks, including red bean ice drink, egg tarts, steamed egg custard buns and sesame sweet soup.
Many savoury items can also surprisingly be high in sugar, such as sweet and sour pork and deep-fried meat dumplings.
These reports highlight how much unhealthy sodium and sugar is ingested by time-poor Hongkongers eating out and reaching for a snack ever so often. Long-term, this can lead to serious lifestyle diseases and obesity.
I think people should consider eating out less often, and not buy too many of their favourite drinks. Restaurants also have a responsibility to reduce salt and sugar levels in their dishes.
Dennis Fan, Tseung Kwan O