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Hong Kong schools

School bullies are a problem, but harsh penalties aren’t the answer

  • Turning already overworked teachers into schoolyard police won’t make Hong Kong’s children behave better
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2018, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 November, 2018, 5:02pm

I refer to the article “Guangdong clamps down on school bullies with tougher penalties” (November 13) and the letter from Juno Wong (“Bullying can cause serious harm, Hong Kong laws should reflect this”, November 26). Under new rules in the southern Chinese province, schools will face penalties if they fail to handle bullying cases within 10 days. While harsher punishments seem promising in putting a stop to the alarming prevalence of bullying, such a policy should not be introduced in Hong Kong schools.

The prime reason is that this would only add to the heavy workload of teachers. Recent years have seen not only students but also teachers overwhelmed by public exams and the preparations leading up to them. Teachers are responsible for marking homework, setting mock exam questions and providing supplementary lessons, just to name a few duties. Requiring teachers to police the schoolyards would add to their burdens and give them less time for things such as preparing lesson plans.

Depression rife among teachers and pupils, studies find

Moreover, such a policy of stiff punishments is only corrective, but not preventive. Bullies can be brought to book after the deed, but not before. Given the reckless nature of adolescents, whether their behaviour will improve even after receiving harsh penalties remains a moot point. Counselling, on the other hand, can inculcate positive moral values in students, and therefore prevent them from becoming harassers.

Marco Au Yong, Sha Tin