About 65 percent of Hong Kong’s 510 primary schools keep students on campus longer than the seven-hour limit recommended by the Education Bureau.
Of the 333 schools that go beyond the threshold, at least 70 schools keep students for more than seven and a half hours while three schools exceed eight hours, Ming Pao Daily reported on Monday, citing data from the latest Primary School Profiles published by the government’s Committee on Home-School Cooperation.
Lunch break in at least 64 schools is less than 30 minutes, the report said.
A mother of a primary one student, surnamed Chan, said her son, who studies at the Hong Kong Chinese Christian Churches Union Logos Academy, a direct subsidy school, often looks tired after school.
A typical school day lasts eight hours and five minutes. It starts at 8:10 a.m. and ends at 4:15 p.m., covering nine academic lessons.
There are also extra-curricular activities that require her son to stay longer in school, such as his music class which takes up two hours twice a week.
Chan said she sometimes assist her son in doing his homework. One time, her son told her in despair that he would rather be “demoted” to a kindergarten than face the long hours and heavy work load for primary one.
Chan said a full-day schedule is probably meant to discourage children from gallivanting about after classes, but schools are actually overburdening them with long hours of school lessons and homework.
She also said that in order not to put too much stress on students, schools should arrange less demanding lessons, such as music and sports activities, in the afternoon.
Parents also complain that some schools require their children to attend remedial classes during lunchtime to prepare for the Territory-wide System Assessment, said Kam Yee-ning, convenor of a concern group advocating for TSA’s abolition.
There were instances where schools asked students to come in 30 minutes earlier to do TSA exercises.
Cheung Yung-pong, principal of S.K.H. St. James’ Primary School and a consultant for the Subsidized Primary Schools Council, said it’s too much to ask students to stay in school for eight hours.
However, Cheung said the situation varies depending on the individual schools and some parents actually want longer school hours for their children so they don’t have to look after them while working.
Legislator Ip Kin-yuen said the schedule of primary school students is approximating that of secondary school students — there are no sufficient breaks between lessons, and academic lessons continue after lunch.
He said some schools try to raise their academic standings but increasing the academic lessons and cutting down on extra-curricular activities, which goes against the original intention of launching a full-day schedule for primary students.
Lawmaker James Tien agreed that the situation has gone out of hand, with students spending a lot of time doing their assignments.
Tien voiced fears that such a punishing schedule could deprive schoolchildren of the time to cultivate their creativity.
A spokesperson for the education bureau said full-day primary schools must ensure that students attend 190 days or 887 hours of school for each academic year.
The bureau said schools should exercise flexibility in allocating time slots for different purposes in accordance with the students’ needs, while letting parents understand the school policy.
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