8 August 2016

Survey Findings on Views on “Winning at the Starting Line” in Hong Kong
Released by Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies at CUHK



A telephone survey was conducted from 20 to 25 June 2016 by the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong to gauge public views on “winning at the starting line” in Hong Kong. 751 respondents aged 18 or above were successfully interviewed, with a response rate of 37.9%.  The sampling error is + or – 3.58 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 

Major findings are summarized as follows: 

The respondents were first asked about their views on “winning at the starting line” in Hong Kong. Nearly six-tenth (59.0%) of the respondents disapproved this argument while around one-third (34.8%) approved it. Among the respondents who disapproved this argument, the main reasons given for the disapproval were “we should not let children participate in competition too early” (47.2%) and “too much pressure would more likely make children lose their interest” (35.0%). Among those who approved this argument, more than half (54%) said it would help “discover and develop the children’s interests as early as possible”. Other main reasons given for the approval included “younger children absorb knowledge quickly and learn better” (24.1%) and “do not want to let children fall behind their peers” (15.3%). In the meantime, on different ways to nurture the children, the survey also found that more than three-fourth (77.1%) of the respondents were inclined to support “to provide space for children to develop freely”. Only 13.8% of the respondent was inclined to “try to make plan for the children as much as possible”. 

In addition, more than nine-tenth (91.6%) of the respondents felt that the current stress from studying faced by Hong Kong children was very high or quite high, while only 3.6% of the respondents said the stress was quite low or no stress at all for the children. Around three-fourth (77.0%) of the respondents agreed that there was not enough free time for children to play, while 17.4% of them disagreed with this statement. More than one-fifth (22.2%) of the respondents believed that there should not be any homework for primary school students. More than half (56.3%) deemed the time spending on homework for primary students should be less than one hour. When asked about their views on the most important aspect of development for children at the primary school stage, almost half of the respondents (46.3%) said it was “character”, with “health and wellness” (26.9%) and “self-care skills” (16.9%) being the second and third choice. Merely 4.5% of the respondents said it was “academic achievement”. 

Although majority of the respondents disagreed that children should be “winning at the starting line”, felt that children had high study stress and did not have enough time to play, and believed that the most important thing for primary school children’s development was nurturing their character, when they were asked about whether the mentality of “winning at the starting line” was common in Hong Kong, almost nine-tenth (89.1%) believed it was very common or quite common, only 5.8% said it was uncommon or quite uncommon. At the same time, more than half (54.0%) of the respondents agreed that children would not review their coursework if there were no tests. Among the respondents who currently had children in primary schools or kindergartens (16.2% of the total respondents), only 17.2% said that they did not enroll their children into any extracurricular learning activities (such as tutoring class, violin class, drawing class, swimming class etc.) during school time. The proportions of those parents who enrolled their children into one to four extracurricular learning activities during school time were 21.3%, 28.7%, 16.4% and 7.4% respectively. And 8.2% said they enrolled their children into more than five classes. In other words, more than three-fifth (60.7%) of those respondents enrolled their children into at least two classes during school time. This reflected the ambivalence of the respondents: on the one hand, they wished children could be happy, joyful and develop freely. On the other hand, it was hard for them to deny that in reality such an ideal situation did not exist.