Face Off: Should Hong Kong keep its boarding schools?

YP ReporterSnehaa Senthamilselvan EaswariVeronica Lin

Each week, our two teenagers will debate a hot topic. This week:

YP ReporterSnehaa Senthamilselvan EaswariVeronica Lin |

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Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 16, South Island School

Pop culture usually conveys a negative view of boarding schools. After seeing boarding school life portrayed in films, TV shows and books, many people are left wondering why would anyone want to go to a boarding school.

But students can get a lot of benefits from attending boarding school, including independence, which might be the greatest gift parents can give to their children. In the 21st century – especially in a place like Hong Kong where many parents want to be involved in every aspect of their child’s life – boarding school can be the perfect choice for children.

At boarding school, children are required to do their own chores, like cleaning up their room and laundry. Parents aren’t there to do it for them.

Boarding schools offer controlled freedom, and help students learn life skills which are very important in the real world.

What’s more, setting up boarding schools in Hong Kong would create an influx of international students and raise the city’s education profile. They will form a small community, which will enhance harmony among students who live on the same campus. They will learn to cooperate and care for each other. Such values will be very useful when they grow up.

Hong Kong, which is an international city with as modern transport network and a lot of academic institutions, is one of the best places to set up boarding schools. They offer many opportunities for students to develop their independence and social skills rather than just focus on their academics.

Veronica Lin, 17, Hong Kong International School

Most parents send their kids to boarding school to focus on their academics in an “isolated environment” free from the distractions of the outside world, as well as become more independent and self-disciplined as they enter adulthood. However, if parents think boarding schools will give their children what they need, they are wrong.

Both students and parents have to understand that shielding youngsters from life’s temptations won’t make them go away – they’ll have to face them sooner or later. Hence, rather than hiding important issues from their children and avoiding quarrels with them, parents need to be communicating with them on a daily basis – this is impossible when students are at boarding school.

Moreover, going to a boarding school for the sake of academic achievement can harm a child’s emotional health. The teachers simply cannot offer the same kind of care and support for all of their students that two loving parents can.

For instance, my friend, a student at Harrow International School in Hong Kong, said that it took more than six months for her to adjust to a boarding school environment. Even then, she still felt lonely and restricted by the tight schedule.

“I couldn’t hang out with my friends anymore, because my time has all been planned out for me,” she said. She also felt that it was increasingly difficult to communicate with her parents.

Admittedly, kids who attend boarding schools tend to be more capable of taking care of themselves. But don’t forget, teenage years are also the time when world views are formed, and the environment will make a huge impact on a person’s personality. Countless examples have shown that the earlier kids get sent off to boarding schools, the more likely they are to feel insecure and have low self-esteem as adults. Take the children from elite families as an example. Many members of royal families send their children off to boarding school when they are as young as five or six years old. However, Princess Diana recognised the negative impact it has on children, and insisted that Princes William and Harry should attend a school near their palace.

There’s a thing that makes boarding schools in Hong Kong seem very strange. Most of the students actually have their families here, yet still can’t sleep in their own beds at night.