“Stress Caused by Unrealistic Expectations” by Lam Man Tsun

booksThe news reports of three young secondary school students committing suicide after the Lunar New Year holidays is alarming.

There have been a number of these tragedies over the past few years.

Some people put the blame on the education system in Hong Kong. As a teacher, I completely agree that students face too much stress in their studies. There are those who say this stress comes from the heavy workload and others who blame the fierce competition for an undergraduate place at one of our local universities, but I am not sure if they are right. Fewer students are now taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education and in recent years more university places have become available.

I think the real cause of the stress is that perceptions of education have changed and they have done so in a negative way.

We have high expectations of our children and, while there is nothing wrong with that, it comes a problem when these hopes are unrealistic.

Children may be encouraged to aim for the top tier academically when this is beyond their capabilities.

Many parents want their sons and daughters to become professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and accountants. But only about 18 per cent of these students annually enter university. And many undergraduate programmes do not train people to enter a profession.

Children are being told they must stand out, with the emphasis being placed on results.

We eradicate their individuality by telling them what they need in school are good grades. We still blindly believe that “getting good grades means getting good jobs means getting a promising future”, something which has not been proved.

When they face this sort of pressure some children cannot handle it.

When it comes to our kids, we need to ensure that we show more love and support. All stakeholders are responsible—schools, parents, the government and the friends of students suffering emotional problems.

[Editor’s note:
This was first published in South China Morning Post’s
“Letters to the Editor” on Sunday 19 February 2017.]

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TsunLam Man Tsun is a graduate of the Department of English and Department of Education (Class of 2016).  [Click here to read all entries by Tsun.]

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