Picture this, you are 11 and the biggest aim in your life right now is getting into a decent secondary school. Under the influence of Hong Kong and Chinese culture, academic performance is the focal point of your life. Your parents stress the fact that if you don’t succeed in studying you won’t succeed in your life. The pressure is immense even for a 11-year-old kid.
Selecting post-primary education in Hong Kong is very competitive, as the Secondary School applicants are categorized into “Bands 1-3”. With Band 1 being the top tiered schools that almost guarantee entries to the city’s top tertiary institutions; and Band 3 schools having the reputation of mostly producing graduates that enter vocational studies. Parents in Hong Kong do not view vocational studies very highly, due to the fact that they are not associated with a stable professional job.
As a result there is a lot of pressure on kids to get into a Band 1-2 school so as to avoid shame from their families. To get in to these schools, kids have to first go through a grueling exams on Mathematics, Chinese and English to provide results for consideration by the secondary schools. The kids then have to go through two to three rounds of intensive group and individual interviews, in which school authorities question them from innocent topics like “If you could only bring 5 things into the jungle what would you bring and why?” to “What should the government do to deal with student protests?”.
There are also classic interview questions like introducing yourself, asking about your most/least favorite subject and challenges faced. And kids do in fact get very prepared to answer those questions. Some students may even hire private coaches to practice their english interview skills prior to the interviews. Most questions of this nature are more than sufficient to judge a child’s character and oral english skills.
Some schools, however, choose to subject the kids to questions with political elements:
• What do you think the Hong Kong government could improve on?
• What is the top agenda of the Hong Kong Government?
• What should the government do to deal with student protests?
These questions would invoke different responses in different students due to their family’s education background and political leanings. But still, it seems like students have learnt how to regurgitate a response taught by their parents, teachers and coaches in order to pass the interview rounds.
One student of mine from Private Coaching, Joshua S., whilst in an interview with him and his mother talking about schools interview questions on Hong Kong’s political events offered very worrying responses, “I don’t really feel like I understand the events that are happening and I’m only memorising a script because my mom is telling me to,” said Joshua.
To get a better perspective of the whole situation, a high school Liberal Studies teacher named Ms. Ngai offered a response to why these politically themed questions are included, “The decisions to include these questions is to expand the children’s local and international political awareness”.