It’s no secret that when it comes to education, Hong Kong students really feel the heat. They face stiff competition from their peers and intense pressure from their teachers and parents to get the best grades possible. With all this demand for excellence, it’s common for a lot of parents to enlist the help of a private tutor for their child.
For some students, this helps to relieve their burden. For others, it only adds to it. But what do parents themselves think of it all? After all, they’re the ones forking out for the tuition fees. And according to HSBC’s Higher and higher report published in June, they fork out a lot.
From HSBC’s The Value of Education series, the report presented the results of a survey of more than 8,400 parents in 15 cities and countries about their children’s education, including how much money they spent on it.
It found that Hong Kong parents spent the most – approximately HK$1 million over the course of their child’s education. These costs include school or university tuition fees, educational books, transport and accommodation.
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This figure is vastly higher than the global average of HK$350,000. Parents in the United Arab Emirates were the next biggest spenders after Hong Kong with an average cost of almost HK$780,000, followed by Singaporean parents, who spend around HK$550,000 on their child’s education.
In addition, Eighty-eight per cent of parents in Hong Kong are currently paying for private tuition or have done so in the past, putting them in joint third place among the 15 places surveyed.
Paul Tong, a father of two children, thinks parents should think twice before rushing to private tutors.
“I think parents have the responsibility to find out the reason why their child is underachieving before instantly finding a tutor. Perhaps it’s due to concentration problems or the child not used to a way of teaching,” Tong told Young Post.
Wong Tung-hung, a mother of one, agrees. “I would let my child decide if he or she needs tutoring or not depending on their academic ability. If they are really struggling with their studies then I’ll let them seek tutoring,” explained Wong.
Although it might be best not to be overreliant on tutors, they can nevertheless offer useful not found on the curriculum.
“Tutors are important to parents, because they are able to provide advice to students concerning university entrance exams and specific exam skills that are not normally taught at school. With Hong Kong getting more competitive with other Asian cities, giving your children better education is increasingly important,” added Wong.
Mark Bray, an expert in Private Supplementary Tutoring at the University of Hong Kong believes that the threat of competition from the mainland and overseas, more intense studying and increased spending is mounting stress upon parents and children alike.
“Locally, across the border in Shenzhen, there are 1.3 billion people who might take jobs away in Hong Kong. Globally, migrants to other countries create a high-level competition. Parents are aware they live in a competitive world and always like to keep ahead with private tutors and extra-curricular activities for their children,” explained Bray.
However, he added that education shouldn’t some with such a hefty price tag, as it makes it only accessible to those who can afford it.
“In Hong Kong, this is a social class problem too. For rich families, spending on their children’s education is not a problem. But for lower classes, seeing other families around them, become nervous and forced into spending on their children to compete in the job market. This, in turn, forces their children in the DSE system to become very stressed out working much longer than other students in the world. This can quite often lead to suicide,” said Bray.
Bray believes changes need to be made both the Hong Kong’ education system and parents’ mentality towards it . He suggests parents consider their child’s specific needs before resorting to a private tutor.
“Parents must discuss with their children and in some schools, with teachers about the best solution going forward. I understand students need to study, but they also play and enjoy their lives,” says Bray.
Tong agrees that too much emphasis is placed upon academic excellence. She believes that parents should be nurturing of all their child’s talents and interests.
With both parents and experts in agreement with students about the pressures of school, perhaps it’s time to study, and spend, less.