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Lawmakers demand cap on homework set for Hong Kong primary school pupils

Proposal would see a maximum number of hours for homework imposed and a restriction on the amount of homework set on Fridays

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 5:42pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 January, 2018, 10:42pm

Lawmakers in Hong Kong on Friday demanded a cap on the amount of homework set for primary school students, as children in the city are becoming increasingly stressed and overworked.

Eleven legislators on the Panel on Education called on the Education Bureau to consider imposing maximum hours of homework for primary school pupils, restricting homework assigned on Fridays to the same amount as other days, and making at least one school break homework-free.

The lawmakers also questioned the deputy education minister Christine Choi Yuk-lin over the lack of information on the average homework load among primary schools in Hong Kong.

“Many pupils have to work three hours to finish their homework after school,” said Ann Chiang Lai-wan, chairwoman of the panel. “It’s so inhumane.”

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Hong Kong started adopting whole-day primary schooling in 1993, and almost all public primary schools had switched to whole-day from half-day by 2015. Although the change was widely supported by families with two working parents, increasing amounts of homework have put a strain on many households.

A study carried out by charity Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service in November found that 13 per cent, or one in seven, of the 1,301 Primary Three to Primary Six pupils polled showed signs of depression.

Choi, the undersecretary of education, could not answer questions by lawmakers on the average time spent on homework by primary school students.

“Students’ health is our first principle,” said Choi. “We encourage schools to actively communicate with parents, and let students have a balanced life.”

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In a paper submitted to the panel, the Education Bureau said that setting a daily maximum amount of homework load is “definitely unprofessional,” given the different learning level of students.

But legislators grilled Choi on the lack of reference to other regions where limits on homework are imposed.

“For example, California has regulations on the maximum amount of homework for students in each grade. France and Taiwan also have similar rules,” said Ip Kin-yuen, a lawmaker for the education sector. “Are these countries ‘definitely unprofessional’?”

Lawmakers in the panel passed motions to call on the Education Bureau to further study overseas examples and reconsider capping the number of hours primary school students spend on their homework and the maximum amount of homework a student should be given.