Can Hong Kong let children be children, and learn through play?
Pre-primary education is the most vital time for a child and creates a foundation for the future. However, does Hong Kong’s preschool education system measure up?
Many parents in the city strive to help their child get an educational head start, because of Hong Kong’s competitive culture. For example, they enrol their child in different classes and playgroups from when they are just a year old, to ensure a place in a renowned kindergarten.
Meanwhile, in a bid to provide that head start, kindergartens have introduced STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) into the curriculum, but do toddlers really understand such complicated information?
Adults place a lot of pressure on young children as they want them to excel later. However, most parents and educators may not be aware of the effects of this. According to social workers, more young children in Hong Kong today suffer from emotional and mental problems.
Research has shown that learning through play is the best choice for children. Play helps children develop skills they will need later in life. Activities such as running, dancing and climbing help with muscle development and fine motor skills needed later, such as for writing. Yet, the element of fun seems to have been left out of the curriculum of most local kindergartens.
Interest classes, where children can study or learn new things after school, have become a multimillion-dollar business in Hong Kong. But is it really necessary to join several weekly classes?
When parents take pride in their child’s achievement in music, sports or the languages, do they ever think about whether the child actually enjoys them? If young children are forced to engage in “interest” classes they are not really interested in, their drive for long-term learning may be dampened.
If parents and educators want the best for children, they must let them fully develop their strengths. The adults must understand that everyone is good at something, even if they may have some weaknesses. Instead of forcing children to learn something they have no flair for or are not interested in, they should help the youngsters identify their own talents and fuel their passion for lifelong learning.
Anson Wang, Tiu Keng Leng