Hong Kong Contemplates Reform

May 2, 2017

 

A recent article in The Economist charts the progress of education reform in Hong Kong, placing emphasis on the political hurdles that must be cleared before significant, necessary changes can commence.  

 

 

The student population of Hong Kong has been particularly restive of late. At the university level, students taking to the streets are consistently threaten to upend the reigning political orthodoxy in Hong kong. Meanwhile, the parents of their younger peers are not much calmer. 

 

 

 Hong Kong’s outgoing premier, Leung Chung-ying, has been plagued by mass student protests throughout his five-year tenure.  The city-state’s pupils had cause for complaint. By international standards, the expectations placed on students in Hong Kong are egregiously onerous and  Mr. Leung has been a long-standing (and peculiarly passionate) advocate for leaving the traditional system in place, unchanged.

 

 

After a series of high-profile student suicides dominated headlines throughout the metropolis, Mr. Leung responded to escalating public pressure by employing a favorite politician’s stalling tactic: he formed a commission, spent an outlandishly long period of time compiling a report, and then buried within its voluminous pages his recommendation that no alterations were necessary.  

 

Parents were not pleased and their chagrin reshaped the race to become Hong Kong's chief civil servant. 

 

It is a testament to the importance placed on the education system in Hong Kong that the woman tapped to become Leung’s successor, Carrie Lam, sees easing students’ burdens as a path to gaining popularity for her nascent administration. Ms. Lam has been positioning herself as Hong Kong’s most prominent voice for education reform for years. While Carrie Lam did gain notoriety for her public debates with student protesters in 2014, she has also made local journalists aware that, behind closed doors, she has been advocating for a sweeping reform agenda that will protect the rights of older students and tamp down angst among the rest.  

 

Hong Kong's  current chief, Mr. Leung, supported high-stakes testing at increasingly early ages and steadfastly resisted parental pressure for reform. Pupils were forced to withstand a battery of tests used not to assess student readiness but merely to rank primary schools.  As a result, teachers were forced to allot growing amounts of classroom time to repetition and memorization. When the outrage of families finally forced a governmental response, Mr. Leung and company waited a year before proposing a series of policies that appeared to be virtually identical to the previous system.

 

 

 Mrs. Lam has spent much of the past few months railing against Mr. Leung’s singular examination system and, when she takes the reigns later this year, vows to “reduce pressure” on the student population at large. She wants to strictly constrain the amount to time young children spend cramming for examinations. Lam also has been vocal about supporting free speech rights of students (within limits).  Most importantly, however, Carrie Lam has decried the fact that Hong Kong’s education spending levels fall well short of its peers and has dedicated her political future to ending that disparity in full.

 

Lam has promised to increase the education budget by a handsome HK5bn; a tidy sum which, if properly administered,  should be enough to hire more teachers, decrease class sizes and increase student satisfaction. Whether that will be enough to mollify the student population or just inspire them go back to protesting for increased autonomy from Beijing, remains to be seen. 

 

Read the article in full at:

 

 

A recent article in The Economist charts the progress of education reform in Hong Kong, placing emphasis on the political hurdles that must be cleared before significant, necessary changes can commence.  

 

 

The student population of Hong Kong has been particularly restive of late. At the university level, students taking to the streets are consistently threaten to upend the reigning political orthodoxy in Hong kong. Meanwhile, the parents of their younger peers are not much calmer. 

 

 

 Hong Kong’s outgoing premier, Leung Chung-ying, has been plagued by mass student protests throughout his five-year tenure.  The city-state’s pupils had cause for complaint. By international standards, the expectations placed on students in Hong Kong are egregiously onerous and  Mr. Leung has been a long-standing (and peculiarly passionate) advocate for leaving the traditional system in place, unchanged.

 

 

After a series of high-profile student suicides dominated headlines throughout the metropolis, Mr. Leung responded to escalating public pressure by employing a favorite politician’s stalling tactic: he formed a commission, spent an outlandishly long period of time compiling a report, and then buried within its voluminous pages his recommendation that no alterations were necessary.  

 

Parents were not pleased and their chagrin reshaped the race to become Hong Kong's chief civil servant. 

 

It is a testament to the importance placed on the education system in Hong Kong that the woman tapped to become Leung’s successor, Carrie Lam, sees easing students’ burdens as a path to gaining popularity for her nascent administration. Ms. Lam has been positioning herself as Hong Kong’s most prominent voice for education reform for years. While Carrie Lam did gain notoriety for her public debates with student protesters in 2014, she has also made local journalists aware that, behind closed doors,  she has been advocating for a sweeping reform agenda that will protect the rights of older students and tamp down angst among the rest.  

 

Hong Kong's chief civil servant, Mr. Leung, supported high-stakes testing at increasingly early ages and steadfastly resisted parental pressure for reform. Pupils were forced withstand a battery of tests used not to assess student readiness but merely to rank primary schools and teachers are forced to allot growing amounts of classroom time to repetition and memorization. When the outrage of families finally forced a governmental response, Mr. Leung and company waited a year before proposing a series of policies that appeared to be virtually identical to the previous system.

 

 

 Mrs Lam has spent much of the past few months railing against Mr. Leung’s singular examination system and when she takes the reigns later this year, vows to “reduce pressure” on the student population at large. She wants to strictly constrain the amount to time young children spend cramming for examinations. Lam also has been vocal about supporting free speech rights of students (within limits).  More importantly, however, Carrie Lam has decried the fact that Hong Kong’s education spending levels falls well short of its peers and has dedicated her political future to ending that disparity in full.

 

Lam has promised to increase the education budget by a handsome HK5bn; a tidy sum which, if properly administered,  should be enough to hire more teachers, decrease class sizes and increase student satisfaction. Whether that will be enough to mollify the student population or just inspire them go back to protesting for increased autonomy from, remains to be seen. 

 

Read the article in full at:

 

http://www.economist.com/news/china/21720593-will-it-make-her-more-popular-current-chief-executive-hong-kongs-next-leader-wants

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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