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If Hong Kong children are unhappy, look no further than the high-pressure education system

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 5:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 August, 2018, 9:57am

I am writing to respond to the article “Hong Kong nine-year-olds are getting less happy: study” (August 16), which highlighted a drop of nearly 5 per cent year on year among pupils in Primary Four in the Hong Kong Children Happiness Index for 2017-18.

It is apparent that as kids grow older, they are feeling more stressed out. Their anxiousness has been attributed to their parents, studies and extracurricular activities.

Hong Kong parents tend to put a great deal of pressure on their children, urging them to get the top grades in their class at school and comparing them to other kids. Regardless of their children’s interests and desires, parents enrol them in extracurricular activities.

However, the unhappiness of our city’s children cannot only be blamed on these factors. The result-oriented education system must share some of the responsibility. Most parents want their children to go to university, but university places in Hong Kong are limited. Attending university is a step towards joining the ranks of the elite, but this often comes at the cost of children losing their innocence. The result is a cohort of anxious nine-year-olds.

Watch: How stressed are Hong Kong’s students?

Other countries have a more relaxed approach to primary schooling. Many early primary schools in Iceland have lessons for only six hours a day and the subjects tends to be very practical. These countries focus not so much on academic achievement, especially in the early years, but on all-round development. They do not put pressure on young children by forcing them to do lots of homework, unlike in Hong Kong.

A survey by the Hong Kong Parents League for Education Renovation found that 60 per cent of children spent more than 1½ hours on assignments after class and some 23 per cent said their children spent more than 2½ hours on homework.

No wonder children in Iceland seem to love going to school. Could we say the same of Hong Kong?

I believe the main reason children in Hong Kong are less joyful is their school life. I hope the government will use the education system in foreign countries as a reference to create a happy and relaxed environment for kids in Hong Kong.

Eunis Au, Tseung Kwan O