Can Hong Kong follow Singapore to ease the school pressure on students and teachers?
I am writing about the report, “About half of teachers and pupils in Hong Kong show signs of depression, separate studies find”, September 2.
A study by the Hong Kong Psychological Society found more than half of the students and teachers interviewed showed various symptoms of depression, hopelessness and insomnia. This proves that it is not just students who are suffering under the high-pressure school system, but also school workers.
Since the introduction of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, more students have reported being stressed by the burden of school work. The pressure has become so unbearable for some that they commit suicide. Most people blame the schools for the tragic loss of life, saying academic pressure drove the youngsters to take this extreme step. But the school is as much a victim of the high-pressure education system of Hong Kong.
The increase in student suicides has put even more pressure on schools and teachers. Society blames them, and parents want them to be more mindful of the mental balance of their children. Teachers already have a heavy workload; apart from school work such as preparing teaching materials, they also have administrative duties. And now they also need to play the role of social worker. To handle the psychological health of students, they need to train and study mental health issues.
The Hong Kong government should act decisively to prevent the situation from deteriorating. In Singapore, for instance, to alleviate high stress levels, the government has abolished the banding of secondary schools and cut the number of awards given to schools based on academic performance. Although Singapore does not have significant pressure issues, the government is still proactive. Can Hong Kong follow its example?
Kevin Wong, Tseung Kwan O