Secondary school students and recent secondary school graduates have a low satisfaction level when it comes to Hong Kong’s education system. While they believe a comprehensive review is necessary, less than 20 per cent think their opinions would matter, according to a survey published by The Alliance for Children Development Rights and Youth Policy Advocators.
Student respondents rated the education system two out of five on average. More than 70 per cent think the most serious problem with the existing system is “an overemphasis on academic studies and performance”, followed by “spoon-fed education” (64.9 per cent), “over-competitive academic atmosphere” (57.3 per cent), “lack of choices in how students are assessed” (54.2 per cent), and “overemphasis on elitism” (47.5 per cent).
Almost all respondents (97 per cent) said the government should carry out a comprehensive review of the education system, while more than 80 per cent thought their opinions were “incapable” or “highly incapable” of affecting the existing system.
The Alliance for Children Development Rights, a community organisation that works for youth rights, and NGO Youth Policy Advocators conducted the survey from November last year to February this year to gauge teenagers’ views on the city’s education system.
A total of 461 responses were collected from current secondary school students and those who graduated from secondary school in the past three years; 61.4 per cent (283) of respondents were senior secondary school students, and 8.9 per cent (41) were junior secondary school students.
According to the survey, half of the respondents thought student suicides were directly related to the problematic education system, with the other half considering the two indirectly related.
The survey also revealed that students’ major sources of stress include “overemphasis on academic studies and performance” (81.8 per cent), “over-competitive academic atmosphere” (68.3 per cent), and “too many school assignments” (60.5 per cent).
Nearly all of the participants said they had never read the suicide-prevention guide “Help a Friend” published in June 2016 by the Education Bureau’s Committee on Prevention of Student Suicide, a result which suggests the government may not have done enough to ensure their message has been delivered to their target audience.
At a press conference sharing the survey results, Legco member Shiu Ka-chun said the government might be allocating more financial resources to support students’ mental health this year. “There were rumours about more budgets given to schools so that two [instead of one] social workers would be available in each school,” he said.
The survey also revealed that more than 90 per cent of the interviewees thought the current student assessment criteria for undergraduate admission lacked diversity. In addition to taking students’ public exam results into account, students thought tertiary institutions should also take other aspects into account, such as practical skills (including coding and handicraft) (67.5 per cent), as well as social engagement (community and voluntary service) (59.7 per cent).
Participants were also asked to rate the city’s vocational education. The average score was 2.6 (out of five), with nearly half of the respondents commenting that its recognition is not, or very much not, sufficient.
The concern groups also called for government action to develop a dual secondary education system that provides both academic studies and vocational training, and to promote vocational education.
They said the government should also team up with employers and vocational training schools in the planning and development of the curriculum to increase the practicality and legitimacy of the courses.
“The government should also increase higher education institutions’ recognition of the Category B Applied Learning Subjects of the New Senior Secondary (NSS) curriculum. For instance, they should match the scoring system with that of the Senior Secondary Subjects in Category A,” said Naomi Ho Sze-wai, the youth organiser of the alliance of groups.