Half of Hong Kong students and teachers show signs of depression due to stress of school workload

Half of Hong Kong students and teachers show signs of depression due to stress of school workload

Two separate studies indicate both adults and young people showed showed symptoms, such as hopelessness and sleep disorder

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Public exams are responsible for 21.5 % of 'huge school stress', according to one study.
Photo: Dickson Lee/SCMP

Two studies released yesterday reveal that about half of teachers and secondary school pupils in Hong Kong show signs of depression. 

Both parties have complained about suffering heavy stress from the school workload, with close to a third of teachers putting in more than 60 hours a week, and secondary school students spending an average of 11 hours a day in class and studying.

The results of two separate polls were released on the night before the new school year began.

Lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education sector, warned the “depressed campus” problem could not be taken lightly and urged schools and parents to work together to ease stress for teachers and students.

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A Hong Kong Psychological Society study, commissioned by the Professional Teachers’ Union and conducted from late April to mid-May, found 52.2 per cent of 1,836 teachers interviewed showed symptoms of moderate or serious depression, including feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and sleep disorder.

Some 23 per cent of those polled rated their work stress as “extremely huge”, while another 58.2 per cent rated it as “very huge”.

The top three sources of stress were “teaching work” (64.9 per cent), “school’s appraisal” (56.6 per cent) and “non-teaching-related administrative work” (52.8 per cent), according to the study.

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Union president Fung Wai-wah blamed non-teaching work for taking up too much of teachers’ time.

In extreme cases, 10.6 per cent, or 195 of the teachers polled, worked more than 70 hours a week.

“Work such as overseeing students’ applications for government allowances or monitoring [maintenance] projects should not be the duty of teachers,” said Fung, who urged schools to hire administrative officers to handle such tasks.

“Teachers should be allowed time to focus on teaching and taking care of students.” 

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A separate study by Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service from last October to June this year, meanwhile, showed 51.5 per cent of the 7,500 pupils polled from 21 secondary schools had developed signs of depression. Some 4.1 per cent should receive medical treatment, according to the welfare group’s study.

Given there were about 331,000 secondary students in Hong Kong, the group projected that as many as 13,500 of them had a serious mood disorder.

The study also blamed “huge school stress” for being a major cause of the problem, with the top three sources being “public examinations” (21.5 per cent), “academic performance” (18.5 per cent) and “prospects” (13.4 per cent).

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Ip said: “It seems we have got trapped in a vicious circle. Parents sometimes pay too much attention to children’s academic achievements. School-based assessments also exert much pressure on students. And students with emotional problems will in turn give stress to teachers.

“I hate to blame any one party for all the problems. But perhaps our parents and schools should work together to help ease the pressure for our children and their teachers.”

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