17 February 2019
Parents have a mistaken notion that the harder the curriculum, the better education their children receive, according to experts. Photo: HKEJ
Parents have a mistaken notion that the harder the curriculum, the better education their children receive, according to experts. Photo: HKEJ

HK students prone to anxiety with increasing study pressure

Pressure is building up again for students to outdo themselves as the new school year approaches.

Dr. Chan Kwan-lap of the Castle Peak Hospital child and adolescent psychiatric services said that each year, the pressure peaks on students during the beginning of the term or during exams, reports.

Chan said she has examined several cases of student’s mental health problems that are correlated with their academic results.

Some schools force their students to work hard by allowing them to move on to the next level only when they have reached the required grade in their exams.

A 16-year-old female student in a band-one secondary school was forced to repeat her grade for two years because of her math results.

The girl had always wanted to be a bartender but her parents wanted her to go to university and make a good living.

She suffered from emotional trauma and problems which made her take a lot of sick leave days from the school.

The longest was nearly two months, which made her teachers suspicious of the nature of her illness.

Chan said the girl felt no one cared about her, while others saw her as being “emotional and attention-seeking”.

Luckily, after therapy, she has improved and is finally willing to go to school again.

In another case, an 11-year-old boy was diagnosed with anxiety disorder due to pressure from school and his family. The school had dictations and tests every day, most of which forced students to copy the dictation article until they got it correctly.

Adding to the equation was the non-stop bickering of his mother which only made his symptoms worse. He refused to wake up or get out of bed, not wanting to go to school, even banging his head on the wall and demanding that his mother pick him up from school all the time.

He had also become transfixed on how germs are transmitted, constantly wiping his things with disinfectant wet tissues.

Now after therapy, the boy is able to do is homework willingly, sometimes even going to tutorial lessons.

Chan said that there are a lot of emotions that parents might need to handle during the period when schools start or when exams are near.

She suggested that parents keep a close eye on their children’s mental health and if they show symptoms of feeling down and losing interest in their usual hobbies, they should consider seeking professional help.

Parents should also avoid lecturing them immediately after each problem, but learn to listen to their problems first.

Li Ching-wai, a clinical psychiatrist from the student health services, said there has been a rise in cases where students are asking for help due to academics, Apple Daily reports.

One of the cases is where a primary two student has trouble adjusting to the difficult curriculum of the new elite class she was promoted to.

The curriculum requires primary two students to know about “the impact of the financial tsunami” and about factory owners in mainland China.

Li said the curriculum is too difficult and does not fit any of the ideals of a primary two student’s curriculum at all.

Parents who send their children to these schools, however, believe that the more difficult the curriculum, the more elite the education their child is receiving, making the students lose sleep over their homework and studies after school.

Another case is exactly the opposite where a primary four student doesn’t make it to the elite class and was pressured by the parents. She felt humiliated and anxious about being laughed at because she failed to make the cut.

Li said these two cases reflect how parents are transfixed on the idea of elite classes, misunderstanding how the schools would only allocate resources to these classes.

She said parents should realise that putting too much pressure and expectations on their children can only make their children more stressed.

Cheung Yung-bong, principal of SKH St. Jame’s Primary School, said the elite class system was only meant to allow students of different levels to learn at their own pace.

Baptist Rainbow Primary School, which does not implement elitism, said education should not include competitiveness. 

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