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Poverty

How Hong Kong primary schools lay the poverty trap

  • Poor, working-class parents (many of whom do not read English) have to scramble to hire tutors at the cost of other essential expenses
  • Sadly, a modern curriculum that allows an average child to thrive without tutors sounds too radical for Hong Kong
PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 11:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 11:02am

I refer to your editorial on poverty issues (“New thinking needed to level playing field for those living in poverty”, December 9). It is ironic that the 17.5 per cent of the city’s children living in poverty have been locked into the situation by the very education system that is supposed to help them.

Early education is vitally important for these children, yet the government virtually condemns them to failure. As the burden of children’s education increasingly falls on parents, poor families are disproportionately harmed.

In Hong Kong, homework for primary students is designed to require adult supervision. Requiring poor, often unsupervised, children to complete the same homework is borderline cruelty.

What is a six-year-old supposed to do, faced with homework instructions they cannot read? Flip through any Primary One exercise book in English, Chinese or maths, and judge if a child can do their homework on their own.

The 229,600 children who are too poor to play with their friends

Over the years, our primary school curriculum has been revised to become increasingly difficult, and increasingly reliant on the support of parents and tutors. The curriculum has got harder, but not smarter. It is easy for the government to add to the burden of students, teachers and parents, but much harder to design a modern curriculum that allows an average child to thrive without tutors. Sadly, this also sounds too radical for Hong Kong.

It is well known that there are successful educational systems around the world that do not require homework of young children.

Yet, in Hong Kong, poor, working-class parents (many of whom do not read English) have to scramble to hire tutors for their children, for which they must sacrifice other essential expenses.

The government claims education is the key to upward mobility. If so, it should seriously re-evaluate the education system, which is now a poverty trap.

M.W.K. Wong, Wong Chuk Hang