Why don't Hong Kong primary schools have more cooking classes?

Many schools lack kitchen facilities. However, cooking sessions for primary-age children, such as learning to make pizza, can be organised as a school excursion

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:16am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:16am

My daughter did cookery at her primary school this week and came home excited and wanting to do more. She loves practical subjects, but her school is more focused on academic pursuits. Why is this not encouraged more in primary schools?

Traditionally, cookery was considered a girls' subject. Thankfully, such sexist and meaningless divisions have been ditched. However, it is rarely included as a regular subject for study in primary schools.

At the secondary level, studying the science of food was often perceived as lacking rigour. But this is no longer the case. Food technology, as it is now called, is much more theoretical with a strong emphasis on scientific knowledge and practical skills.

There are a few possible reasons why your daughter's school doesn't attempt cookery on a frequent basis. Many schools lack kitchen facilities. Also, health and safety rules have become very tight and her school may lack the staff necessary to adequately supervise small groups of children. However, cooking sessions for primary-age children, such as learning to make pizza, can be organised as a school excursion and are run by several restaurants around Hong Kong.

Children generally love cooking as they can get their hands messy and taste the results at the end. The practical side of it certainly appeals to kinaesthetic learners as they can literally get stuck in. Cooking is also an excellent cross-curricula subject. It is particularly good for practising maths topics such as: ratios, fractions, measurement (capacity and weight), conversions, working out the cost of ingredients and more. Language skills of reading and following instructions are necessary to successfully follow a recipe. Other important personal skills developed by students include the ability to organise time and materials, and using their initiative and common sense.

Another strong argument for cookery to be in the primary curriculum is that children are far more likely to be interested in healthy eating and learning about the scientific effects of food on the body if they actively learn about different ingredients and how they are combined to make different foods.

Some parents get frustrated with their offspring's eating habits. Perhaps their child will only eat a narrow range of food or is averse to healthy food such as fruit and vegetables. However, if children become involved in the process of cooking they tend to become more open-minded and may be willing to try a wider range of food.

International schools are ideal places for encouraging children to make and experiment with types of food from around the world.

At home, cooking can be a great bonding experience for parents and children. Even if your daughter just helps out with a meal it can give her a sense of independence and achievement. Get her involved in choosing recipes and buying ingredients. Perhaps buy her a child-friendly cookery book - there are many available.

The art of cooking seems to be waning due to busy lifestyles and long working hours. This is reflected in the decreasing number of families that eat together, or in many cases, even own a dining room table. When we live in a society that buys convenience food and frozen meals, it's particularly important that our children learn this art.

Hopefully, your daughter will have the opportunity to choose food technology as an option at secondary school, where they often have more facilities. Julie McGuire teaches at a local primary school