Face Off: Do Hong Kong schools place too much importance on academics?

Face Off: Do Hong Kong schools place too much importance on academics?

Joyee Au Yeung, 18, University of Pennsylvania, United States

Yes, I believe so. Under Hong Kong’s exam-oriented curriculum, students’ interests are mostly ignored. Especially in public schools, academic excellence is the priority, which means spoon-feeding students and turning them into exam machines without letting them develop other interests.

Having studied at a local school, I know that test scores are still the most important measurement of a student’s achievements, which in turn downplays their “natural” skills. Teachers would say things like, “You are a student, meaning studying is your most important responsibility”.

Hong Kong schools are also often ranked by how their students perform at public exams such as the HKDSE or IB. Therefore, schools will continue to focus on academics to gain a higher ranking.

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Some local students even memorise essays so that they can get higher marks. Under this system, students do not really understand what they are taught, which affects their creativity and analytical skills.

Schools also rarely encourage students to take up music, arts, or sports as a career, because those jobs have a “lower status” in society. Even talented musicians and athletes cannot pursue their passions because teacher expect them to maintain high academic standards. My classmates could only skip a certain number of lessons for competitions, which greatly limited their ability to fully participate in non-academic hobbies.

In conclusion, I believe most Hong Kong schools definitely place too much importance on academics. It is important for schools to seek a balance between test results and developing extracurricular activities.

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Helen Slater, 17, St Stephen’s Girls’ College

Let’s get this straight. Hong Kong’s education system is one of the best in the world. Our students score highly in reading, language, maths and science when compared to other students from around the world. You don’t earn that reputation by spoon-feeding students or emphasising the importance of rote-learning in school.

The Hong Kong government has introduced education reforms, with more emphasis on students’ all-round development. Apart from taking core academic subjects such as Chinese, English, maths and liberal studies, local students attend music, art and physical education lessons that allow them to develop other interests and stimulate their minds.

Although the city is known for its “tiger mums” and “helicopter parents”, academic achievement is not the sole focus of its education system. Students are often encouraged to take part in a wide range of activities after school and at weekends to gain more knowledge as well as develop values and skills essential for their personal growth.

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Even Hong Kong’s exam-oriented culture has changed to cope with the challenges of a globalised, knowledge-based economy. The HKDSE exam has introduced school-based assessments and the New Senior Secondary curriculum requires students to try out different activities, including voluntary work and field trips, to enhance their whole-person development.

Also, university admissions do not solely depend on your exam results. All-round students have a good chance of being selected for their first-choice course.

Education systems hope to guide students to develop long-lasting skills so that they can have happy, successful lives. Hong Kong’s schools fulfil that aim.

Edited by M. J. Premaratne

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