We don’t talk anymore – A documentary on dialects

by Hilda Lo, Candice Tang and Sharon Tang

In the past century, many people came from the Guangdong province to Hong Kong for business. They each speak their own dialect. But as times change, many of these are slowly being replaced by Cantonese as one major language. This documentary follows several native dialect speakers as well as how academics react to this trend.

Advertisements

History education in Hong Kong – are students educated enough?

 

Hong Kong students are notoriously busy – 8-10 hours of school everyday, plus extra tutorial classes after school and even on weekends. In such a tight schedule, teachers could only squeeze what is most important and exam-related into the curriculum. Many subjects are often ignored.

Chinese History is one of them. Despite being an elective subject in the New Senior Secondary Education Curriculum, very few are willing to opt for it. And as for history education in junior secondary curriculum, the class time designated is even fewer.

2016-04-19_edited

This is what the typical timetable of a junior secondary student is like. Only 70 minutes is spent every week on history education, among a total of 1,505 minutes (or 25 hours).

2016-04-19 (1)

The situation for senior secondary students are worse because they have to focus on their core and elective subjects for the public exam. Very few focus is put on history subjects.

What’s more, the Education Bureau has not set a compulsory class guide for Chinese history junior secondary subjects. Some schools have set an individual subject for Chinese history; some incorporate it with geography and other humanities subjects; some add a special component in Chinese language class; and for some schools, none.

The lack of history or humanities-related subject in students’ education directly leads to students’ lack of knowledge in Hong Kong and China’s history. Although there are indeed students who are very passionate about this area, they are a minority.

In view of this, a survey was conducted and 20 secondary students were asked, both junior and senior, about facts of the Cultural Revolution. The results were not surprising – most of them could identify the incident and recall important names, but when asked about specific details they could not get it right.

2016-04-19 (2)

With further investigation, it can be concluded that the fewer class hours that students take, the less they know about history.

Jeremy Wang, a secondary one student, admits that he does not know much about Chinese history. “I may be able to recall all the dynasties, but that’s all. Don’t even bother asking me to map emperors with their dynasties because I know nothing.” joked the 13-year-old.

Jeremy studies at a local school and has 2 classes of Chinese history (equivalent of 50 minutes) every week. He says that although they have to do homework and take quizzes, the subject itself is not set for a final exam.

“We have to buy a textbook and a workbook for the subject. We do about one chapter every week, and some quizzes in between. But no, no finals for Chinese history.” he said.

He admits that this is one of the reasons that he does not take this subject seriously. “If that subject has no exam you pay less attention in class. I guess it is the norm. Some of us sleep and some of us use the class time to do other subjects’ assignments.” he said.

Jeremy is not the only one. Many secondary school students are paying less attention to history subjects because very few consider it as an option for further studies.

Sarah Chan is seventeen and will be taking her Diploma of Secondary Education exam (HKDSE) next year. She says that her school is one of the few in Hong Kong who offers Chinese History as an elective subject, but nobody in her year chose that.

“Most of us chose science or economics. Some of us who are talented at art and music chose those subjects. But no one chose history subjects at all.” she said.

She says it might be the large amount of memorization and writing essays that scares off students. “No one likes to memorize a bunch of information, especially when you cannot apply it in daily life. I’d rather do calculations.” she said.

Like Sarah, many other students in Hong Kong think that history is all about memorizing a lot of irrelevant information. That could explain why students are reluctant to study history.

2016-04-19 (3)

Both Chinese History and History are offered as an elective subject under the HKDSE exam, but very few would opt for that.

But if you ask history fans, they will give you a completely different answer.

“When I was small I lived with my grandparents. They used to tell me these history stories and myths which would fascinate me. I also liked reading a lot. That’s why I chose to study history in university.” said Amanda Sin, a year two student majoring in history.

She admits that very few people are interested in the subject, but she says there are actually a lot of interesting aspects.

“You know what people did in the past and you evaluate if that is right or not. And then you compare it with political leaders nowadays and you will know, after all these years people have not changed much.” she said.

“Take the Cultural Revolution for example. You will think that people worshipped Mao because they were uneducated and ignorant, but actually there is a psychology in people that they would tend to listen to those who seemed authoritative.” she said. “There are a lot of people, especially the older generation, who behaves just like the red guards did. They support the government no matter what, and does not believe in the idea of opening up and democracy.” she added.

Even if schools would like to educate their students about the past, it is difficult to find an unbiased textbook, she said. “Some textbook tend to hide the fact that China did something wrong in the past. Some even did not mention important events like June-fourth, Cultural Revolution, or the Great Leap Forward. Even if students pay full attention in class, they still won’t be able to know what happened.” said Amanda.

Hong Kong’s history textbooks are relatively not as subjective as those published in Mainland China, but the wording used to describe certain person or events remains questionable. Important historical events like the Nanjing Massacre, Cultural Revolution, were slightly mentioned, some textbooks even skipped the number of deaths.

2016-04-19 (4)

Textbooks in Hong Kong are relatively objective, but still various facts are missing from important incidents.

Mr Sam Tseng teaches history in secondary school and thinks that schools has to bear the responsibility as well. He noticed that the syllabus was not comprehensive enough, he tried to voice it to his teaching panel but was told to follow the syllabus and teaching according to schedule.

“Honestly I feel frustrated.” he said. “I always wanted to share a bit more than the class content with my students, but the class time does not allow me to do so. We have very little time, and we have to complete the syllabus so that students can take the exam. It is rather exam-oriented, not learning-oriented.” said Mr Tseng.

History is not merely a subject of memorization; if it is studied in the right way, it helps students analyze what is going on nowadays, and develop their critical thinking on controversial social issues. The sad fact is that schools do not see history as an important subject and limited time and effort is spent. Students are the ones who suffer because they will not be able to know, in detail, what happened with their home country.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution. The incident caused such a social uproar because Mao Zedong was trying to change the country and its people. At that time, those who were educated was being targeted and harmed; those who weren’t blindly followed Mao’s ideology.

We are lucky to be born into a developed, open-minded society. Young people nowadays are a lot less likely to blindly follow their leaders, instead, they have many opinion for the government and many ways to speak out. This is of course an improvement from past times, but if we want to move on further and lead Hong Kong into a truly democratic place, we must learn from the past, and studying history should be the fundamental step.

1 in 3 children experience anxiety, says study

Hong Kong’s primary school children are feeling less anxiety when it comes to their studies, but still one in three experience feelings of stress, according to a recent study.

The study, conducted by Baptist Oi Kwan Social Services surveyed the anxiety levels of primary school aged children.

The Territory-wide System Assessment and pressure from parents to perform well in exams were cited as the main sources of anxiety in children.

The study stated that many students who suffered from anxiety seeked professional help.

Although the number of students suffering anxiety fell from 29 percent this year, the number of children and teenagers seeking mental health services rose 30 percent according to Hospital Authority figures.

Clinical psychologist Dr Clement Lee believes that the rise in those seeking professional help is not the result of an increase in the number of anxiety suffers but is just an increase in the number of sufferers seeking help.

Dr Lee, who has researched child teaching and learning methods said that children must learn the way to confront and overcome their anxiety in order to move on.

“If the stress is still present in the environment, the problem still exists.”

“If they do not know how to relieve their stress, the problem will not be solved. The stress still exists even when they mature,” he said.

Hong Kong drops in English proficiency rankings

Hong Kong’s English proficiency has dropped for the second consecutive year in global rankings.

The city now ranks 33rd among 70 countries and territories in a report released on Monday by EF English First, a Swedish-owned international English training institution.

In Asia, Hong Kong is now 9th out of 16th regions .

Hong Kong ranked 12th among 44 regions in 2011, and has been falling in the rankings ever since, except in 2013, when the SAR rose from 24th to 22th place.

Critics believe the mother-tongue teaching policy established after the handover in 1997 is to blame for Hong Kong’s poor language proficiency ranking.

Lawmaker Ms. Claudia MO Man-Ching said in an interview with South China Morning Post that the rote learning and drilling method of teaching English at local schools have made students reject English.

Jennifer Lui, a local school student, said the lessons in local schools are often boring and only focus on exam skills. She believes that these lessons do not help much when it comes to real life situations, such as in workplace environments.

International school student, Miss Fion Hui thinks she and her classmates are offered a relaxed and causal learning environment.

“Even in EMI [English as Medium of Instruction] school, they don’t really push students to use English outside classrooms or even during lessons, ” Hui added.

LegCo member Mr. IP Kin-yuen doubts whether the study by English first is scientific.

English First would not comment on the credibility of the test sampling method.

According to the online test provided by EF, the test samples are not randomly distributed and the test can be completed by anyone who has the website link.

The test does not include any spoken or written component.

Past Paper Solution Apps Could Infringe Copyright

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) publishes past paper booklets every year after the public exams are held in March to May. Recently,  mobile phone apps that provide answers as well as explanations to these papers have been  developed and are available for free download.

In August, university students Mr. Joseph Chan and his friends created “ME Solution” give solutions to past public exam papers, written by the app developers. They said on their Facebook page that they want to better equip local students for their public exams.

“I came up with the idea because the exams in Hong Kong are very hectic. Every student has to do past papers [to prepare for their exams], but they get frustrated when they finish the paper and cannot find any solutions,” said Mr. Chan, who is studying industrial engineering at HKU.

Secondary school student, Miss Gladys Lam welcomes this idea as well. “I don’t usually check answers [after I finish the papers], because it is expensive to buy all the answer books,” she said.

“DSE Wiki”, another app that provides detailed explanation as well as statistics to exam answers , has more than 5000 downloads within a month of its launch. Its developer Mr. Jacky Tsang said there is a need for these apps.

“The marking scheme is just a reference for the teachers. Students may not be able to fully understand the information and the solution provided by the marking scheme.” he said.

But the Hong Kong Exams and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) says these apps may have infringed their copyright. In a statement, the HKEAA said that they own the copyright of examination papers, sample papers, practice papers, marking schemes and other materials created for various public examinations.

The Authority also said that they reserve all rights of action against any unauthorized dealings, and will seek legal advice for individual cases.

They say that teachers and students can access the question papers and marking schemes when they are released at late October to early November every year.

Start-up to provide space for Hong Kongers to create using new technologies

Inventor establishes MakerBay – Hong Kong’s first ‘maker space’ with 3D-printing and laser cutting machinery – with plans to rent it out to students, hobbyists and start-up companies.

Given the high cost of commercial space in Hong Kong, a new company, MakerBay, is now offering affordable rent to small businesses in the creative industry.

The company is based on the recent ‘maker culture’ movement, a technology based extension of traditional DIY hobbies such as wood and metal working.

Maker culture includes 3D printing, laser cutting, robotics, textiles and electronics.

MakerBay was founded by French-Japanese inventor, Cesar Harada in April.It is located in a recently refurbished 6,500 sq ft factory building in Yau Tong. Mr. Harada said he hopes to revive Hong Kong’s industrial past with a focus on innovation and sustainability.

Over the past few decades, the city has developed from a manufacturing-based economy to a global financial hub, most of the factories have moved to mainland cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou.

“[Recently] most of the industry [in Hong Kong] have been desk bound,” Mr. Harada said.

“We are not inventing so much something new but we are upgrading an industrial structure that’s started to become obsolete.

“We can learn from the old, traditional craft, the industrial capacity, and connect it with the new hardware value, more high tech version of what Hong Kong could be,” Mr. Harada said.

The SAR’s strategic position, free market, logistics system and close access to manufacturing cities on the mainland make it an attractive base for tech start-ups, according to Mr. Harada.

Fiona Ching, MakerBay general manager, said the space has attracted interest from university students seeking a place to practise their skills.

“I think younger generations are not satisfied with working in a big corporation.

“They [young people] are really looking for more innovative jobs,” Ms. Ching said.

With government industry support initiatives such as StartmeupHK, the number of new technology companies opening in Hong Kong will only increase in the coming years, Ching said.

The company will celebrate its official opening next month.

Interview screening app in tech startups competition final

New technology startups from all around the world pitched their company at the Hong Kong and Shenzhen regional Seedstars World startup competition at CoCoon HK on Friday.

Mr Max Armbruster won the local startup competition for his company’s interview-screening app project. He will be invited to Switzerland to represent his startup and Hong Kong at the global finals.

Using the app, employers can pre-record interview questions and the app will call the interviewees and record their response so that both employers and employee have the chance to listen to each other.

Nine finalists were chosen from more than 60 proposals and were given six minutes each to pitch their startups in front of a jury panel.

The contestants competed for promotions, connections and up to USD$1.5m investment from Seedstars World.

Seedstars World helps tech startups through the initial stages of growing their business.

The competition received over 3000 applicationS from 50 cities.

Ms Karen Mok, Asia regional manager of Seedstars World and one of the jury members, said the judges were impressed to see the scalability of the models outside Hong Kong and in nearby regions.

“The creativity really comes down to being able to solve problems and finding innovative ways around it,” she said. She  thought the passion was really there.

Mr. Leon Ho, founder of LifeHack and A member of the jury, believes the tech industry will consolidate in the next few years.

“In these few years, more startups are doing marketplace and that is a trend with rooms to grow.”

He also added that connecting offline to online would be the next thing in startups and the technology industry.

The competition will continue in Switzerland in March next year, where 50 local area winners will compete for the top prize.

Editorial : How Important are Students’ Opinions?

Editorial

HKU students and staff members gather to protest the university’s refusal to appoint Johannes Chan as pro-vice chancellor.

Thousands of students, alumni and staff members gathered at HKU to protest against the school’s refusal to appoint former Law Dean,  Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun as vice chancellor.

The school decided in September to reject Professor Chan’s appointment despite broad opposition from students. The university stated that it was for the greater good and detailed explanations are confidential. A series of student protest then broke out on campus.

HKU is not alone. Students at other tertiary education institutions say that they are also not consulted on major decisions. In May, students at Hong Kong Baptist University criticized the election process of the university’s president. Professor Roland Chin Tai-hong was the only candidate for the post and was only presented to students and staff on the morning of his appointment.

This September, students at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts also stages a protest over a lack of consultation on renovation work at the school – a new carpet there did not have the school’s traditional colours.

Students are a major part of any academic institution, and their opinion, no matter how small, should be considered by the management council. The student unions collect opinions and reflect them to the board of directors. When making major decisions concerning students’ welfare, their opinions should be highly valued and taken into consideration. This difference here reflects how much the school values student opinion.