Hong Kong schools

When five-year-olds hate school because of homework, something is wrong with Hong Kong’s education system

  • Heavy homework remains a chronic pain for children, parents and teachers alike, and has seen the local system lose many talented pupils to international schools
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 5:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 5:04pm

I am increasingly worried about my five-year-old son’s homework. One night, during his fourth week in a local primary school, he had three assignments for Chinese language, four pages for maths, and two pages for English. I returned from work at 7pm, we started on the homework at 7.30pm and didn’t finish until 9pm.

His school is reputed in Tai Po for offering a well-rounded curriculum and wide range of innovative learning activities. During the first few weeks, he told everyone that being a primary student was fun. But that night, it changed. “It is not fun at all,” he told me.

I know how tough the job is for teachers. In a class of 32 students, every piece of homework means 32 sets of work for them to mark. Teachers often have no time for this until children have left for the day. Their marking may also be scrutinised by more senior colleagues.

Perhaps I should appreciate that homework creates opportunities for parents to be involved in their children’s learning. There is strong research showing that parental involvement is beneficial for students’ engagement at school, learning motivation, confidence and self-control. But is this the right form and extent of our involvement? During the 1½ hours on the homework that night, I raised my voice three times, banged the table once, and wore an exasperated frown most of the time, hardly beneficial for a good parent-child relationship.

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Ours is not an exceptional case. Heavy homework seems to be as common as ever in Hong Kong, and a chronic pain for young children, parents and teachers. Because of this, the local school system has lost so many talented children to international schools.

I am really concerned that long, unwilling hours on homework will harm children’s intrinsic motivation for learning in the long term. Without intrinsic motivation, who can survive the lifelong race in a constantly changing world?

Lu Jiafang, Tai Po