Chris Davis, a British freelance writer who has been in Hong Kong for three decades, believes in the importance of critical thinking, but also of learning the local language.
His daughter Ocean, now aged 15, has been educated at Chinese-language local schools from kindergarten through to secondary school. She attended the Lok-Yuk Kindergarten in Sai Kung, spending an extra year to improve her Cantonese, before going to the nearby Lee Siu Yam Memorial Primary School. She is now in her third year at the Yuen Yuen Institute No. 3 Secondary School in Tseung Kwan O.
“When we decided to send our daughter to a local kindergarten, our friends thought we were mad,” says Davis, whose wife Leonar works for the English School Foundation. “But now they all envy my daughter’s ability to speak, write, and read perfectly in Cantonese.
“That also means she can communicate with most people in Hong Kong, she understands different cultures, and is able to share experiences with her classmates. She sings in a local band, talks to everyone in the community, and has top scores in liberal studies, because she understands the pulse of Hong Kong.”
Not only the school, parents also play an important role in kids' development.
As for local schools not teaching students to think independently, Davis says parents also have a clear responsibility.
“Farming out responsibility to the schools, and blaming them for the things your children do or don’t do, is not fair,” he says. “Equally, the schools should not be so keen on parental involvement that they almost want you to give up your day job.”
He dismisses the perception that local schools are all work and no play. His daughter has taken part in an extensive list of extra-curricular activities. The main thing is to choose the right school at the outset, talk to the teachers, and think carefully about the issue of language.
“You need to decide at the kindergarten admission stage,” Davis says. “If you send a six-year-old who speaks no Cantonese to a local primary school, it will be tough going. You must decide what you want for your child and not just follow what your friends are doing.”