To prevent teen suicide, cap number of hours Hong Kong pupils study, group urges
Its survey finds most support making ‘seven hours or fewer’ standard
In a bid to ease stress and prevent teen suicide, Hong Kong parents and pupils have called for capping the time children spend on their studies to no more than seven hours a day, effectively sparing them from academic work after school.
Allowing children more free time could improve relations with their parents, they also believed.
The calls came as a concern group on Sunday released initial findings of its survey to coincide with the 15th annual World Suicide Prevention Day.
Conducted since mid-July by the Civil Alliance for Student Suicide Prevention, the survey is ongoing but analyses of the 631 questionnaires collected so far showed about 90 per cent of the respondents, mainly comprising parents and pupils, wanted “standard study hours” to be implemented to help ease schoolchildren’s stress.
Of this number, about 70 per cent said the “standard” should be set at “seven hours or fewer” per day.
Alliance spokesman Lai Pak-yin said some students indicated they had spent 13 hours a day studying.
“Can you imagine a youngster having to bury himself in books for so long each day?” Lai asked. “Can you expect a youngster to develop good mental health under such stressful conditions? Without counting time for TV or computer games, they won’t even have time to speak to their parents.”
He added the group was not asking for a new law to govern academic study but hoped the Education Bureau would issue guidelines.
Annie Cheung Yim-shuen, a spokeswoman for Parents United of Hong Kong, another concern group, criticised Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. She accused Lam – who pledged to make education policy a top priority – of failing to come up with measures to tackle student suicides.
“It is academic to talk about nurturing future generations or investing in quality education if our students can’t get help to stay alive,” Cheung said.
Inspired by a project in New Zealand, about 10 alliance members placed empty shoes on a pavement in Mong Kok on Sunday and observed a minute of silence to commemorate young people who had committed suicide in Hong Kong.
More than half of Hong Kong secondary school pupils show symptoms of depression, quarter display signs of anxiety
A bureau spokesman said on Sunday the authority was not prepared to make immediate comments on the “standard study hour” suggestion.
In Hong Kong, the government encourages whole-day schooling, which officials believe is more effective in enhancing pupils’ learning and all-round development. Students spend on average seven hours a day at school.
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Public concerns intensified after a recent spate of student suicides. Last week, a 16-year-old Tuen Mun student who was said to have performed well academically jumped to his death. Two weeks ago, a 19-year-old Institute of Vocational Education student jumped to his death from his Lam Tin home. Last month, a Chinese University student killed herself by inhaling helium at her Ngau Tau Kok home.
In Hong Kong, 69 young people aged 24 or below committed suicide last year, up from 65 in 2015, according to figures compiled by the University of Hong Kong’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention.