Legislators from the administration and pan-democratic camps slammed Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim after he unveiled a HK$5 million budget for schools to address the recent spate of student suicides.
Attending a special panel meeting on education at the Legislative Council Monday night, Ng said every government-backed primary and secondary school will be entitled to HK$5,000 under the Home-School Cooperation Grants, which can be used by parent-teacher associations to organize seminars and activities to support the students’ mental health development, Apple Daily reported.
Lawmakers voiced doubts if the grant would be of any help to the alarming increase in the number of student suicides.
Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said schools could hardly do anything with such a small budget.
Kenneth Chan Ka-lok of the Civic Party said the measure would only add to the burden of frontline teachers, who are already overworked, as they would have to take care of organizing such activities on the campus.
Michael Tien Puk-sun, deputy chairman of the New People’s Party, said the education bureau should instead review the education system to see how the pressures on students could be eased, especially with regard to the amount of homework they are given daily.
Tien said students spend an average of 10 hours in school, and then complete seven to 10 assignments at home every day.
The situation gets worse during holidays, when they are supposed to take a rest but are actually given more homework, he said, adding that he knew of a case in which a student was asked to do a record 23 assignments during the period.
Ng replied the problem of oveloading students with assignments should have been eradicated since the bureau had been asking schools to focus on resolving the issue.
He asked Tien to cite concrete instances so the bureau could follow up on the cases.
Gary Fan Kwok-wai of the Neo-Democrats said the small financial offering only shows how much the government regards the welfare of Hong Kong students, adding that it is nowhere near the HK$1 billion “One Belt, One Road” scholarship fund.
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