Your Voice: Responsible redevelopment in Kowloon City; comparing education in Hong Kong and Canada (long letters)

  • One reader shares what local students and business owners think of the government’s urban renewal plan for Kai Tak Road and Sa Po Road
  • Another discusses the differences between studying in Hong Kong and Canada through interviews with a few pupils
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Hong Kong’s Urban Renewal Authority has plans to redevelop parts of Kowloon City. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

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Responsible development in Kowloon City

Rex Law Chun-hin; STFA Seaward Woo College

I am writing to voice my opinion about the redevelopment project in Kowloon City.

The Kai Tak Road and Sa Po Road development scheme proposed by the Urban Renewal Authority (URA) in 2019 aims to connect the old Kowloon City district with the new Kai Tak Development Area.

The plan hopes to improve the walkability of the area by constructing public facilities, such as pedestrian tunnels, public vehicle parking spaces and a shopping street. It will also improve places for buses to queue on Sa Po Road. The target date for completing the project is 2030 or 2031.

As part of a project at school, I went on a cultural tour of Kowloon City in May. My classmates and I also collected the opinions of Form Four students on the redevelopment plan.

Geography and English teachers at STFA Seaward Woo College held a cultural tour in Kowloon City. Photo: Handout

When students were asked whether they would like to see Sa Po Road and Kai Tak Road redeveloped, most of them were in favour of the project. They claimed that the improved living environment and access to public spaces would eventually benefit residents and shop owners in the area.

Some students also stated that the project would bring new visitors and customers from other parts of Hong Kong to support local businesses.

However, there are still concerns among tenants and shop owners regarding the renewal plan. We interviewed some tenants on Kai Tak Road, and they pointed out that the renewal plan would require about 10 years to complete.

This timeline would cause shop owners to lose all of their regular customers, and since no amount of government compensation could make up for this, it would force small businesses into a tough spot.

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Another concern people had was that the rent for flats and shops on these new roads would inevitably increase because of the redevelopment.

However, if the URA could set aside some space for old shops, the owners would be able to return their businesses to their former glory. Another solution is that the URA could recommend a cap on rent increases, allowing these business owners to continue their work.

As an area known for its historical and cultural significance, from the Kowloon Walled City to the Thai community, urban renewal faces many challenges in Kowloon City, and officials should keep these things in mind as they plan the next steps.

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Differences between Canadian and Hong Kong education

Emmy Mirabella Woo, Crofton House School (Canada)

As a Canadian student, I was curious about how the Hong Kong education system compares to my experience. How is failure perceived by students in these two places? How are pupils evaluated? What is the attitude towards physical education?

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Collaboration and competition

According to Janice Mook, a student at Diocesan Girls’ School, the education system in Hong Kong fosters a competitive environment “causing students to be unwilling to help others who have attained similar grades as them”. It is quite common for students to compare themselves with each other.

In Canada, Emily Louis, who is entering her final year at a private school, found that collaboration “increases the overall quality of projects because it incorporates everyone’s unique strengths, different ideas and perspectives”.

She added that “while collaboration does help to build meaningful and long-lasting relationships”, there would still be moments of competition.

“Especially when students begin applying for postsecondary institutions, I think people become more sensitive about their academic performance.”

A student in Canada, Emily Louis, says her school encourages adopting a growth mindset when facing failure. Photo: Shutterstock

An opportunity to learn or a shameful defeat?

Emily said her school encouraged students to adopt a growth mindset, which allowed them to embrace failure and figure out how to improve.

This is evident in the standards-based grading system some schools have adopted in the Canadian city of Vancouver. Under this system, students are marked based on standards of proficiency that highlight the learning process rather than being defined by a number.

“Failure really depends on how the party views it,” Janice said. “Depression is a common consequence, as [students] might become closed off and feel the need to withdraw from their peers.” On the other hand, she pointed out that some students use the pressure to motivate themselves to improve.

A Hong Kong student, Janice Mook, discusses the impact of the city’s competitive education system. Photo: May Tse

Athletics and sports

“PE is one of the least focused subjects in [Hong Kong] secondary schools,” said Clarisse Poon, a student at St Paul’s Co-educational College. “While schools encourage 60 minutes of exercise every day, they have yet to implement programmes to ensure this.” At Clarisse’s school, for example, students take part in physical education lessons for 45 minutes each week.

In Canada, many students exercise for at least an hour every other day.

My school offers many athletic facilities and sports. For students who are not on official teams, my school has drop-ins and intramural sports where they can casually take part in physical activity.

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Strength lies in differences

Canadian and Hong Kong schools may have different approaches to education, and these short interviews are only a small sample of individual experiences. Nevertheless, discussing these differences fosters connection, bonding and growth. At the end of the day, we should cherish our ability to access one of life’s greatest gifts – education.

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