How Hong Kong children can read their way into excellence in a globalised world
I am writing to address the lack of interest in literary appreciation among Hong Kong students, which may fail to prepare them for the future demands of our globalised world.
Hong Kong students see the languages as examination subjects instead of a platform for exploration. In class, they hone their writing skills and grammar with structured writing and drills. Out of class, students do not like to read books.
In the 2016 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), Hong Kong ranked 33rd in reading enjoyment among the 50 countries tracked.
Furthermore, few secondary school students choose to study literature. For instance, in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education of 2017, only 304 candidates sat the Literature in English paper, compared to the 56,291 who sat the mandatory English Language paper.
Literary appreciation, especially in English, is important for many reasons. First, it exposes us to a wide variety of English phrases and sentence structures, improving our language skills. Possessing a better handling of the language opens up more financial or educational opportunities around the world.
Second, literary appreciation allows us to become more empathetic human beings. Reading stories allows us to understand other beliefs and cultures. Such skills are vital to a 21st century adult in a globalised world. With more empathy, we would be able to think critically about global conditions and be more willing to solve them through negotiation with different stakeholders.
Efforts to promote reading among Hong Kong youth have shown limited progress, mainly because of the clear distinction between reading and schooling.
The Education Bureau should make full use of the recent reading subsidy given by the government by requiring that reading activities be made a part of the syllabus.
Wong Lok Lam, Pok Fu Lam