26 October 2016
Education Secretary Eddie Ng speaks to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with school representatives and experts to discuss the issue of student suicides in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ
Education Secretary Eddie Ng speaks to reporters after holding an emergency meeting with school representatives and experts to discuss the issue of student suicides in Hong Kong. Photo: HKEJ

EDB slammed for not doing enough to tackle student suicides

The Education Bureau (EDB) has been accused of failing to address the core issues related to the spate of student suicides, even as it announced some measures Thursday to tackle the problem.

Legislative Councilor Ip Kin-yuen, who represents the education functional constituency, said he was very disappointed with EDB’s solutions, describing the measures as being supplementary in nature at best.

The EDB has failed to touch on the core issues with regard to relieving the pressure on students as well as teachers, he said, according to Apple Daily.

Students have been facing greater pressure due to things such as the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), the Pre-S1 examination for students entering secondary school, an increasingly academic-heavy curriculum and the keen competition for university places, Ip said.

Teachers have found it difficult to devote enough time to interact with students, given their heavy work load in teaching and administrative tasks, the lawmaker pointed out.

Alarmed at a spurt in student suicides in the city, the EDB announced Thursday some measures after holding an emergency meeting with government officials, experts and school representatives. 

The initiatives included the establishment of a special task force to analyze the reasons behind the recent tragedies in the student community. 

The committee will have six months to finish its study and make some recommendations on ways to resolving the problem. 

Among other steps, educational psychologists will conduct seminars and hold counseling sessions in schools and also provide guidance to teachers, Education Secretary Eddie Ng said after the meeting.

The EDB will also enhance on-campus support and promotional efforts, Ng said, according to Apple Daily.

Hosted by Ng, Thursday’s meeting was joined by representatives from the Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, Hong Kong Subsidized Secondary Schools Council, and Hong Kong Association of Careers Masters and Guidance Masters.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam were also present at the discussion.

Ng said he was saddened by the news of another university student taking his own life on Wednesday.

He called on all members of the society to cooperate and pay attention to students’ emotions.

Ng, who is meeting with representatives from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and other tertiary institutions afterwards, said it is important that students understand that there are always solutions to problems and that there is hope.

Cheung Man-wai, principal of Shatin Tsung Tsin Secondary School, said he hopes that the EDB’s recommendations would include hiring more teachers as it will help ease schools’ burden.

If there is a budget problem, the EDB should spend the HK$1 billion set aside for “One Road One Belt” scholarships, Chung said, suggesting that hiring of teachers and educational psychologists is more important.

The Social Welfare Department (SWD) is said to be considering therapy sessions for parents to provide counseling and emotional support to families with suicide-prone children.

The SWD’s chief clinical psychologist, Lau Ka-cho, said he hopes the therapy facility can be established as soon as August.

The CUHK, which has lost five of its students to suicide since September last year, has set up a special committee recently to look after the emotional health of students and offer counseling help.

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