The new school year has begun. With the introduction of the renewed senior secondary curriculum by the Education Bureau, schools are expected to have lesson time released after optimising the four core senior secondary subjects. Students are encouraged to use this time to participate in other learning experiences and life-wide learning activities or engage in other personal pursuits according to their different interests, abilities and aspirations.

Youth Ideas, a research centre under the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, recently conducted a survey titled “Preparing for the Changes in the Senior Secondary Curriculum”. According to the survey, many students preferred spending the extra school hours on enriching their personal experiences and interests (45.4 per cent), experiential learning (34.4 per cent) or taking part in academic-related life-wide learning activities (32.8 per cent).

These findings, however, are not in line with most schools’ plan to allocate the released class time to boosting students’ academic performance by engaging them in more detailed subject study. What is clear is the disconnect between the emphasis that schools, parents and future employers place on academic achievement and what students themselves would prefer. In view of this expectation discrepancy, what can be done?

The survey put forward two proposals. First, greater promotion of the importance of other learning experiences is imperative. Everyone, especially parents, needs to acknowledge the importance of letting students have exposure to different areas at an early stage to identify their strengths and weaknesses so that they might be able to develop clearer career goals and be able to reach their full potential.

A discussion with critical stakeholders, such as secondary schools and universities, is necessary so that everyone has the same shared understanding when offering diversified options to students under the curriculum. Only then will other learning experiences as well as life-wide or applied learning be recognised and given due merit in university admissions.

Second, with the abundant resources available, schools should be provided with guidelines. This would better direct them as to how to use grants to best facilitate students’ whole-person development while also expanding the capacity of other learning experiences, life planning and career education, all the while making the entire arrangement flexible.

In particular, job-shadowing opportunities could also be made available, especially to secondary school students. This would go a long way towards enabling them to acquire essential skills and gain valuable hands-on work experience.

Kelly Cheng Hui-kiu, member, HKFYG Youth Ideas (Education Group)

Why Chinese parents should welcome tutoring crackdown

I am writing to express my views on the report, “Chinese parents say they will keep pushing children to succeed despite crackdown on private tuition” (September 12).

Recently, the central government has taken steps to reduce the pressure on children in the education system – a “double reduction” policy, with the aim of reducing homework and after-school tutoring.

In July, the State Council issued new regulations banning the private education industry from making profits by teaching school curriculum subjects and from accepting foreign investment. Teaching at the weekends or during public holidays and school holidays was also prohibited. This has left many parents worried about their children falling behind.

However, this policy can give children more time to play and relax instead of being shuttled to extracurricular activities or cram schools after regular school. Enrolling their children in these activities is driven by parents’ competitive mentality.

Students should be able to clear their doubts on academic subjects with the teachers at school. Their parents could also help them with homework. There should be no need for such a large number of children to attend private tuition classes.

Finally, this policy could also reduce the burden on families. Some online courses cost more than 1,000 yuan (US$150) while the average monthly salary in most first-tier cities in mainland China is only 7,000 to 8,000 yuan. Despite the burden this puts on families, some parents stretch themselves to pay for extra classes.

Liang Siu Kwan, Tseung Kwan O

English classes fail to meet students’ needs

I refer to the report, “Two-thirds of Hong Kong secondary school students say English classes left them unprepared for future” (September 22). I agree that the English classes we have nowadays have left us unprepared for the future for two reasons.

First, many professional courses for jobs and classes at university are conducted in English in Hong Kong. However, most of the English words and sentences we learn in our lessons are not advanced. This makes it difficult for us when we enrol in these courses after we graduate from school.

Second, English is an international language and many Hongkongers like to travel. If our English level is not good enough, this creates difficulties in communication.

I hope the English classes at Hong Kong schools can be improved to better prepare us for our future lives and careers.

Alice Chan, Kwai Chung