If the purpose of standard working hours is to protect workers’ rights and enable them to achieve work-life balance, then the purpose of standard learning hours would be to protect students’ life and facilitate their school-life balance.
According to results of a survey on standard learning hours conducted by a teen suicides concern group of social workers released in October last year, over 90 percent of the respondents saw the need to establish “standard learning hours”, and over half of them agreed that “standard learning hours” should be set at seven hours a day.
When Plato founded the School of Athens more than 2,000 years ago, he had only one agenda in mind: to teach his students how to live a good life and die a good death.
Unfortunately, today’s educational institutions have given up on this aspiration. If students want to live a good life these days, their schools would probably refer them to the Scheme on School Drug Testing or simply to the police.
The purpose of education is, without question, to stimulate learning. However, schoolwork, which is supposed to be only a tool in facilitating learning, has completely stolen the show in our schools and become the end itself rather than the means.
Under our educational system, learning has taken a backseat to excessive schoolwork and endless drilling for exams so much so that these “tools” have become the tail that wags the dog.
As a result, the unbearable amount of schoolwork and the haunting stress of exams are not only pushing our students to the breaking point and killing their interest in learning, but are also killing the initial aspiration of education as well.
In today’s Hong Kong, a “well-behaved” student often refers to, by our definition, a student who keeps taking notes in class, memorizing the contents of a textbook, doing schoolwork at home around the clock, and preparing for the school lessons the following day.
But while spending most of their time memorizing the answers and information, it seems our students hardly have any time to find out the true meaning and origins of these answers. In other words, they may have done a lot of work, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have actually undergone the process of learning.
Against all the odds, the Legislative Council Panel on Education passed a motion I proposed on Jan. 5, urging the Education Bureau to review its existing guidelines on the amount of schoolwork and to proactively consider: 1. establishing maximum schoolwork hours; 2. demanding that schools give the same amount of schoolwork to students on Friday as any other day of the week, and 3. allocating at least one long vacation for students that is schoolwork-free.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan 12
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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