Saturday, 12 March 2016

Failing Our Next Generation

Hong Kong's education system seems to be about learning to pass exams
Since the beginning of the academic year, there have been 22 Hong Kong students who have committed suicide, including four in five days. One was an 11 year old. This compares to 23 suicides per year from 2010 to 2014.

The Hong Kong government is alarmed enough that Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim has announced a team of psychologists will work with schools to provide better counseling. However he did not clarify how many were in the team.

Currently almost every school has a social worker, but there are hardly enough psychologists to go around in the city, let alone for schools.

Eddie Ng pledged to find prevention against student suicides
Nevertheless, people were quick to blame the highly stressful school system, where the constant focus on grades since early age makes it difficult not only on the students, but the parents as well.

There is also the scheduling of children's days from morning to evening, seven days a week so that they have no downtime or even a few hours to play with friends. Does a three-year-old really need a CV as thick as a magazine?

Many believe the education system really needs to be completely revamped, with a focus more on actual learning than learning how to pass exams. Currently students seem to just go through the motions and don't find school fun at all.

When kids aren't interested in learning then how will the city be able to innovate at all? Curiosity is what inspires people to find out new ways of doing things, or new things, period.

But education chief Ng didn't mention anything about examining the pitfalls of the current education system and instead said it would set up a committee to look into the problem and recommend preventative solutions within six months.

What a pathetic bureaucratic response.

Children don't have enough time to play and decompress
How about reaching out to the shocked and bereaved parents, fellow students and teachers, asking them if they saw any signs of trouble, and find out what what support they need?

There are also concerns that parents aren't spending enough time with their children, as both mother and father work these days to pay the rent/mortgage/school fees/put food on the table, etc.

The other extreme of parents sheltering their children is not good either, as young people are less able to cope with setbacks and failure, as encountering these kinds of incidents can be good for character building.

Another factor is that children today are more antisocial and would rather text than talk face-to-face with friends and adults.

"This generation grew up with the internet. Although they are more connected, they also tend to look only at things they like. They might not understand complicated or different views on an issue. For anyone who sees things not fitting their taste, they could simply 'unfriend' them," says Dr Lee Sing, a professor of psychiatry at Chinese University.

This results in young people seriously lacking in interpersonal skills and the inability to cope with stress.

What needs to be done is to discuss the issue so that people -- not just young ones -- will be encouraged to speak up. With the fast-paced world we are living in, people do not have time to reflect on their lives or think about what they want to.

With 22 suicides already this academic year, it's time to stop and ask what is going on and figure out how we have failed the next generation.

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