Chinese University of Hong Kong introduces two new courses to help youngsters overcome adversity in wake of recent student deaths
Classes on positive psychology and challenges of today’s world aim to address issues that many students face when moving from secondary to tertiary education
Chinese University is launching two classes this school year to help youngsters build resilience and broaden their knowledge of the world, as many students find the transition from secondary to tertiary education daunting.
The classes titled “Live to Flourish: The Science and Practice of Positive Psychology” and “Grand Challenges for Global Citizens in the 21st Century” – which looks at issues such as pollution and income disparity – were conceptualised by CUHK president and vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan Sung-chi, who took the top position at the university in January this year.
Tuan said the courses, each with about 40 places, were aimed at helping youngsters realise it was possible to “overcome adversities and proactively find solutions to difficulties”.
“Because the world is changing too quickly and society is very complicated, it is very important for everyone to know how to adapt to these developments and have positive, proactive and analytical thinking,” the internationally renowned biomedical scientist said.
He was quick to add that positive psychology was not the same as positive thinking – instead of focusing on thinking that everything is OK, the former seeks to understand what is happening and how one can handle challenges.
Tuan said it was important for universities to have good support systems to help students, referring to the spate of suicides at CUHK in recent years. A total of 71 student suicides occurred between the 2013/14 and 2015/16 school years at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.
The university in Sha Tin saw a particularly high number of suicides or suspected suicides – more than 10 – from the 2015/16 to 2017/18 academic years. The most recent one was a Year Four student who took his own life in May.
“As students move from secondary to university level, it is a big challenge. Those who enter university have good results and are maybe even the first in their schools, but they realise at university, others also have good results,” he said.
Tuan added that what students learned at university was also different, which could be mentally challenging.
About 3,000 new students will start at CUHK on Monday. Asked if he was concerned about pro-independence advocacy on campus, Tuan once again stressed that the university was a place for academic discussions but was not a political battleground.
CUHK was a site of separatist advocacy when classes resumed last September, leading to a showdown between school management and students, as well as between students with differing political views.
“Academic freedom and freedom of speech have to be done in a peaceful, rational and mutually respectful manner,” he said, adding that discussions should not become inciteful.
Tuan also said he did not think the school was attacking students last year.
A banner and posters advocating independence appeared on campus last year, including the university’s democracy wall, which is managed by the student union and intended for students to express their views.
School management took down some of the material and told the union to remove the remainder, while local and mainland students faced off, competing for space to put up posters and taking opposing ideological stands on freedom of speech.
If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, help is available. For Hong Kong, dial +852 2896 0000 for The Samaritans or +852 2382 0000 for Suicide Prevention Services. In the US, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on +1 800 273 8255. For a list of other nations’ helplines, see this page.