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Hong Kong schools

About half of teachers and pupils in Hong Kong show signs of depression, separate studies find

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen warns ‘depressed campus’ problem cannot be taken lightly as results of polls released ahead of new school year

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 September, 2018, 8:24pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 September, 2018, 10:55pm

About half of teachers and secondary school pupils in Hong Kong are showing signs of depression, separate studies have found.

Both parties have complained about suffering heavy stress from the school workload, with close to a third of teachers putting in more than 60 hours a week, and a secondary student on average spending 11 hours a day on taking classes and studying.

The results of two separate polls were released on Sunday, the eve of the new school year.

Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector, warned the “depressed campus” problem could not be taken lightly and urged schools and parents to work together to ease stress for teachers and students.

A Hong Kong Psychological Society study, commissioned by the Professional Teachers’ Union and conducted from late April to mid-May, found 52.2 per cent of 1,836 teachers interviewed showed symptoms of moderate or serious depression, including feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and sleep disorder.

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Some 23 per cent of those polled rated their work stress as “extremely huge”, while another 58.2 per cent rated it as “very huge”.

The top three sources of stress were “teaching work” (64.9 per cent), “school’s appraisal” (56.6 per cent) and “non-teaching-related administrative work” (52.8 per cent), according to the study.

Union president Fung Wai-wah blamed non-teaching work for taking up too much of teachers’ time.

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In extreme cases, 10.6 per cent, or 195 of the teachers polled, worked more than 70 hours a week.

“Work such as overseeing students’ applications for government allowances or monitoring [maintenance] projects should not be the duty of teachers,” said Fung, who urged schools to hire administrative officers to handle such tasks.

“Teachers should be allowed time to focus on teaching and taking care of students.”

A separate study by Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service from last October to June this year, meanwhile, showed 51.5 per cent of the 7,500 pupils polled from 21 secondary schools had developed signs of depression. Some 4.1 per cent should receive medical treatment, according to the welfare group’s study.

Given there were about 331,000 secondary students in Hong Kong, the group projected that as many as 13,500 of them had a serious mood disorder.

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The study also blamed “huge school stress” for being a major cause of the problem, with the top three sources being “public examinations” (21.5 per cent), “academic performance” (18.5 per cent) and “prospects” (13.4 per cent).

Ip said: “It seems we have got trapped in a vicious circle. Parents sometimes pay too much attention to children’s academic achievements. School-based assessments also exert much pressure on students. And students with emotional problems will in turn give stress to teachers.

“I hate to blame any one party for all the problems. But perhaps our parents and schools should work together to help ease the pressure for our children and their teachers.”