Listen to #Hashtag Hong Kong every Sunday morning at 8.15
Focussing on issues affecting civil society, we'll hear from representatives of NGOs, associations, statutory bodies, and non-profit groups.
(Sundays 8.15am - 8.25am)
Education inequity is a persistent issue many places face worldwide, and Hong Kong is no exception. Many assume that with 12 years of free basic education provided to Hong Kong students, education inequity is no longer a major problem. However, the challenges underprivileged students face remain severe, and these problems are less visible beneath the surface of well-developed infrastructure.
According to a survey last year, 83% of low-income families cannot support their children to access extra learning resources, such as tutoring and extracurricular activities. Also, parents are unable to support their children academically and non-academically, because they have long working hours and are unable to spend quality time with their children. It leads to a lack of adequate guidance and advice on their children’s studies and personal growth, especially on soft skills like emotional management and self-management, as well as communication and social awareness. Even worse, research also reveals that lower-income parents tend to hold lower academic expectations of their children.
Underprivileged students are disadvantaged with low learning motivation, which is due to little exposure, low self-esteem, poor sense of belonging to their communities, and a narrow sense of possibility. Many seldom go out of their neighborhood to connect to the broader society and understand the job variety available outside their neighborhood. They tend to confine themselves to the mindset that they can never aspire for more and lack the initiative to explore more. It is quite common that they have limited exposure and awareness of different further education and career pathways. With limited life and career imagination, underprivileged students struggle to connect school learning to the real world and are demotivated to learn.
On the other hand, schools that admit large numbers of underprivileged students are challenged to provide the necessary support for narrowing such gaps. Teachers at high-need schools carry an especially heavier workload, compared to their peers, not to mention their non-teaching responsibilities such as school promotion, student admission, disciplinary issues, special educational needs, etc. The current school funding model for government-funded schools, references the number of classes or enrolments, making it fail to address the needs of individual underprivileged students. The heavier the non-teaching burden on teachers, the less time they can nurture their students' lives and soft skills, then more student issues come up. It becomes a vicious cycle for many schools with a majority of underprivileged students.
Cross-sector connections and understanding of other professions are not valued enough in many schools. Conventional teacher training programs, such as Bachelor of Education programs and Postgraduate Diploma in Education programs, focus solely on pedagogical theories and methods. The under-exposure to other non-education industries via coursework and internships constrains teachers’ ability to provide underprivileged students with the much-needed life and career exposure, which students would hardly receive at home. Hence, many teachers seldom leverage external connections and collaborations to meet students’ individual needs.
In fact, a recent study led by Professor Chiu Wing Kai, has shown that less privileged or non-Chinese speaking students in Hong Kong are 2.7 times less likely to get into universities compared to their counterparts.
Therefore, it is very important to take students out of this fixed mindset, where they believe their intelligence, personalities, and talents are born with, and cannot grow. On the other hand, to introduce the growth mindset to empower them and make them believe their talents and abilities can be developed. To facilitate that, we need young leaders who combine their cross-sector network and knowledge with their frontline teaching experiences to bring innovative teaching strategies and extracurricular exposures. With a more engaging, encouraging, and value-adding learning experience, students tend to have more interest and curiosity in their learning, and thus, stronger learning motivation.
Promoting diverse education pathways and career fields is also crucial. Teachers play a vital role in guiding students and providing comprehensive information about various choices available to them, encompassing both educational and career prospects. By doing so, students can expand their horizons, engage with external opportunities, and connect with different social groups. This broader exposure fosters self-awareness and nurtures a sense of limitless possibilities.
Systemic problems require systemic solutions. That’s why we need young and passionate talents who have a cross-sector mindset and exposure, to bring in new resources and lead changes in the existing school system. They can supply their expertise and experience to current teachers who are heavily burdened and less exposed to cross-sector settings.
Undeniably, achieving education equity is still a long way to go. It requires so much foresight and innovation, thus a vibrant community of young leaders is the key. With their unique frontline experiences and empathy for students, they will advocate and drive systemic change for education equity. Thus, we hope that social resources should not be invested only in enhancing hardware, but also in endeavors to nurture a community of young leaders, who are passionate and forward-looking in shaping Hong Kong’s education so that all children have equal opportunity to learn, grow, and realize their potential.