28 October 2016
A scene from Tiger Mom, a mainland TV drama series. Is pushing your children to achieve high grades in school the best way to realize their potentials? Photo: Internet
A scene from Tiger Mom, a mainland TV drama series. Is pushing your children to achieve high grades in school the best way to realize their potentials? Photo: Internet

Does your kid need a 13-page curriculum vitae?

“It took us four years entirely, from pre-kindergarten to kindergarten 3. We first moved to an elite primary school NET. On top of attending the kindergarten, my son took part in eight activities every week, earning himself a full curriculum vitae of 13 pages. It’s depressing that we can’t manage to get into our dream primary school. Now we have completed 10 applications, and we will do our best to fight for the remaining seats from these schools…”

That’s a soliloquy of despair and hope from a tiger mom whose poor son has failed to gain a place in the school of her choice based on the Central Allocation in Primary One Admission.

We can empathize with her and understand how determined she is in giving only the best for her child. Nonetheless, let’s consider if it’s a wise move to submit over 10 applications.

Let’s say her son is granted an admission to one of the 10 schools. Is it absolutely necessary to apply in 10 schools? Or is she just pushing her child to another bottomless pit of eternal competitions?

Being the life coach to their sons and daughters, parents should first understand their personalities and abilities, and aim to develop their potentials so that children can grow happily and learn eagerly.

This is a simple principle that few parents would argue against. However, when it comes to its application, most parents just yield to their own desires instead of catering for the genuine needs of their children.

Living in a society with a stagnant upward mobility, middle-class people are often pressured to meet all kinds of targets and standards to assure themselves that they are doing everything for their kids, and they feel a sense of pride in exceeding their targets.

Unfortunately, child rearing is seen as one of the many items that sustain their middle-class status. Education is considered the key to securing a well-paid job and moving up the social ladder.

“Good parenting” is now defined as maximizing children’s learning experiences by meeting the most number of targets within the shortest period of time possible.

If the children lag behind, the tiger moms and dads will feel ashamed, panic, and decide to spend even more money to sign up their already burned-out kids to more classes and activities.

The current phenomenon shows that Hong Kong parents are near-sighted and lacking an independent mind. They would rather let their herd mentality lead them to wherever the trend goes.

Hong Kong’s education, on the surface, caters for the learners’ different needs, training them to develop an independent mind and celebrating their individuality.

As a matter of fact, it works no different from a factory. It provides a restrictive 12-year primary and secondary education which aims to limit, or worse, speed up the growth of students. It leaves no room for the different learning paces and modes of students.

Hence, success depends on the choice of school, subject streams, students’ ability to rote learning and performance in school exams.

A student’s socio-economic background and sex actually determine much of their success. “Obedient” learners are naturally devoted to learning and achieve success. Meanwhile, “slow” learners and latecomers are forced to participate in a race where they are designated to lose.

Schoolchildren who fail to live up to their parents’ expectations suffer more hellish trainings. They endure enormous pressure. And once they get admitted to the dream school chosen by their parents, they face even more impossible missions. As a result, nothing except their frustrations will grow.

Hong Kong parents, it’s time to ask yourselves the following questions:

1. Do your children have the abilities to fulfill your assignments?

2. Will the repetitive trainings and interviews create a sense of failure in your children?

3. Can your children develop an independent mind through a stressful and hectic learning process?

4. Are we, as members of the old generation, capable of having a full picture of the future society?

5. Let’s recall our experiences. Our parents, who did not necessarily have a high educational background, also worried about our future prospects. However, why is it that society made progress? Wasn’t our success the result of our parents letting us go and allowing us to strive on our own?

6. Last but not least, do you consider yourself a responsible life coach? Can you encourage your children to learn eagerly and develop their personalities?

Here’s hoping Hong Kong parents will stop following the herd blindly and think of the genuine needs of their children.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on August 1.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version中文版]

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is the lecturer from Department of Business Administration, Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education.

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