Sonali Gidwani, 18, University of Warwick (Britain)
School mascots are a good way to make students feel pride in their schools. If a mascot is seen cheering students on at sporting and academic events, they feel as if their school genuinely cares about them and their achievements.
Having a pet dog or cat as a mascot would enhance this effect, as most students feel a strong connection to domesticated animals, as some of them may have pets at home. They will also associate the dog or cat with their school, particularly if it is seen at student events. If students are given opportunities to play and interact with the mascot, this will help foster a sense of responsibility that would not otherwise be learned at their age, especially if students don't have pets at home.
A mascot pet makes school feel more warm and homely. And, according to PetsInTheClassroom.org relationships with animals such as cats and dogs help strengthen social skills, giving students the potential to do better. What's more, it's beneficial not just for younger children; having a pet mascot can also help older secondary students relax during break time. My university has "doggy de-stress days" that students sign up for, so they can play with dogs and relieve exam pressure.
It is argued that pets also build self-esteem. Given how social media lowers self-esteem, this seems particularly important today. Helping to take care of and associate with a pet increases this sense of worth, especially if the animal is able to return the affection.
Dr Shari Young Kuchenbecker, research psychologist at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, US, says: "The child who cares for a pet knows that what he does matters, and so he'll want to do more of it. The more successfully he feeds, walks, or emotionally bonds with the pet, the more confident he'll feel."
Patricia Abundo, 18, Auckland University of Technology
Allowing a pet dog or cat to be made a school mascot can be viewed as unethical, so I don't believe Hong Kong schools should use live animals to represent them.
According to Peta, a well-established animal rights organisation, animals cannot perform mascot duties - for example, the ability to "lead cheers, react to the crowd, and pump up the team" - as humans can. Pet mascots will have to be thoroughly trained to adjust to a school environment, including constant crowds and high noise levels.
Some may argue that the pet's "cuteness factor" could greatly increase participation in school events. But this usually requires dressing the pet up in uncomfortable costumes and forcing them to perform. Unlike human mascots who voluntarily take on the position, pets can't vocally express their desires, so we are practically forcing them into the life of a public figure.
According to the CollegeSpun website, some institutions give their human mascots scholarships and other types of financial rewards. This is an obvious benefit for the students. But how would animals benefit from this position?
Others may say that dealing with live animals teaches students to value other lives. However, a pet is still an enormous responsibility, and small acts of carelessness can lead to very bad outcomes. One example is the death of Tech XX, the English bulldog mascot of Louisiana Tech University in the US. The dog was left out in the scorching heat and had a stroke. Other accidents may occur, possibly placing the students in physical danger, as well. Such accidents will also give the school bad publicity and cost a lot of money.
Lastly, "schools in Hong Kong" is a very broad category, ranging from kindergartens and special schools to universities. Students have varying levels of maturity and capabilities, and pet mascots cannot be equally suitable to all educational environments.