LCQ15: Measures to alleviate study pressure of primary students

Hong Kong (HKSAR) -      Following is a question by Dr the Hon Chiang Lai-wan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (February 28):
     According to the findings of Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, the scores of Hong Kong Primary Four students in "engagement in reading lessons" in 2016 ranked the lowest among the 50 participating countries and places around the globe. On the other hand, the reading attainment of students who did not attendtutorial classes after school was even better than that of the students who attended such classes. Some academics have pointed out that parents forcing their children excessively to learn is counterproductive in that it will make children lose interest in learning, and in the end they will only "win at the starting line but lose at the finishing line".

On alleviating the study pressure of primary students, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of requests for assistance or complaints received from parents of primary students regarding their children being unable to cope with study pressure and the follow-up actions taken, by the authorities in each of the past three years;
(2) as it has been reported that the Primary Six students of a primary school which adopted the teaching concept of "happy learning" achieved rather satisfactory results in the Secondary School Places Allocation exercise last year, whether the authorities will promote the teaching concept of happy learning in primary schools across the territory, as so to enhance students’ craving for knowledge and motivation to learn; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) whether the authorities studied, in the past three years, the implementation of a "zero homework" policy under which schools are required to designate some sessions as tutorial classes so that students can finish at school the exercises of all subjects under teachers' guidance; if so, of the outcome; if not, whether they will conduct such a study;
(4) whether the authorities will formulate guidelines on the maximum daily homework load; if so, of the implementation timetable; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) whether the authorities will provide additional resources to schools so that the parent-teacher associations of schools may organise more activities to enable parents to better deal with their children's emotional problems caused by study pressure; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     My reply to the question raised by Dr the Hon Chiang Lai-wan is as follows:
(1) In the 2014/15, 2015/16 and 2016/17 school year, the Education Bureau (EDB) received 1, 2 and 0 complaints about study pressure respectively. Upon receipt of the complaints, the EDB took follow-up actions in accordance with the established complaint handling mechanism. These complaints were about the school-based professional arrangements relating to curriculum, homework and assessment, etc.

In the contact with the schools concerned, the EDB sought to obtain more details about the school-based measures including communication with the stakeholders and the review mechanism. If deemed necessary, the EDB would provide professional advice and support to the schools that facilitated their continuous improvement and development. Besides, the school stakeholders (including parents) would contact EDB officers through different channels from time to time to enquire about various issues or seek assistance.

The EDB officers would render appropriate support to enquirers based on the nature and details of the cases. However, regarding such contacts, the EDB has not compiled the statistics on the number of cases.

(2) Since the implementation of the education reform starting from 2000, the EDB has all along emphasised the importance of whole-person development, enjoying learning and unleashing potentials. In the updated version of the "Basic Education Curriculum Guide - To Sustain, Deepen and Focus on Learning to Learn (Primary 1 - 6)" (2014), it is reiterated that schools should cater for students' learning diversity, adopt diversified learning and teaching materials and strategies, design interesting learning activities, meaningful and effective assessment tasks and homework based on students' abilities, learning styles and interests etc.

with the aims of developing and strengthening students' learning motivation, enriching their learning experiences, enabling them to learn and experience the meaning and enjoyment of learning. To facilitate students' learning as well as balanced physical and mental health development, schools should also make use of the lesson time flexibly to create a pleasant and harmonious environment.

(3) Homework is an important component in the learning and teaching in schools. It comes in different forms outside lesson time, enables students to consolidate their learning in class, stimulates thinking, enhances their understanding of lesson topics and helps them construct their knowledge.

We stress that it is the quality of homework rather than the quantity that matters. As quoted in the question above, parents pressing their children excessively to learn would result in their children's lack of interest in learning. Schools could design meaningful homework based on their specific contexts and cater for the diverse learning needs and abilities of students.

The factors behind whether a student would feel that there is pressure from homework are multifaceted and complicated. It is not desirable to require schools to implement "zero homework" policy as a single solution. We encourage whole-day primary schools with longer school days to allocate their lesson time flexibly by providing students with suitable homework support with regard to their school-based circumstances.

Schools could provide tutorial sessions or homework guidance periods to give students in need extra individual guidance or to allow them to complete part of their learning assignments at school with a view to helping them solve their problems in learning. To our understanding, many schools have already implemented related measures.
(4) There are diverse learning needs and abilities among students, and the factors affecting the amount of time required by a student to complete his/her homework are multifaceted. The expectations of parents on the quality and quantity of homework given to their children may be different even in the same school.

Setting a daily maximum amount of homework load or time on an across-the-board basis can neither cater for the needs of less able students nor develop the potential of gifted students. Such an arrangement is not conducive to catering for learner diversity and is disrespectful to the professionalism of the school management and teachers. Under the principles of school-based management, transparency and effective communication, parents may directly put forward their views and suggestions for improvements in respect of their children's homework and assessment matters to schools for refinements of their homework and assessment policy.

The EDB will gain an understanding of the implementation of schools' homework policy continuously through various means, including external school reviews, focus inspections, school visits and daily contacts, etc. If there are cases where schools are unable to formulate appropriate homework policies or there is still room for improvements in their homework policies, we will urge the schools to make improvements.
(5) Parents have a great impact on the psychological well-being of their children. In helping students manage their study pressure or emotional problems, parents and schools both play an important role.

All along, the EDB and the Committee on Home-School Co-operation (CHSC) have been promoting home-school co-operation and encouraging schools to establish Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) to promote parent-school communication and support students facing academic and social challenges. The CHSC takes an active role in organising parent activities and seminars to equip parents with the necessary knowledge about helping their children in respect of growth and development, as well as enhancing their parental skills.  Each year, the CHSC, Federations of Parent-Teacher Associations (FPTAs) and regional associations of school heads jointly invite psychiatrists to conduct parents talks, aiming at providing parents with information on students' physical and mental development, so that parents can learn to identify and support students with emotional problems and stress.
     Besides, the EDB has also provided subsidies to schools, PTAs, and FPTAs in various districts for organising home-school co-operation and parent education activities.

In the 2016/17 school year, PTAs and FPTAs organised about 3 400 activities of a great variety on home-school co-operation and parent education, covering such topics as supporting children in learning or growth, nurturing positive values and raising happy kids, with a total funding of about $26 million from the EDB.
     The EDB has also newly launched a parent education website called "Smart Parent Net" to enable parents with children from kindergarten to primary and secondary school levels to access easily useful information on supporting the physical and mental development of students, which includes parent-child relationship, character development, parenting skills and emotional management of parents, with a view to promoting parent education.
     In addition, the Government set up the Task Force on Home-School Co-operation and Parent Education under the Education Commission in December 2017 with a view to reviewing the existing approach in promoting parent education and home-school co-operation, formulating the direction and strategy in accordance with the review outcome to fostering home-school co-operation and promoting parent education, so as to enable parents to assist their children to learn effectively and grow up healthily and happily. We will also assess the existing provision of resources to PTAs and FPTAs, as well as exploring the ways to avoid excessive competition. The Government will continue to actively explore how to further strengthen home-school co-operation and parent education, and provide better support to students in accordance with their learning needs as well as physical and mental health development. 

Published on: 2018-02-28

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