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LCQ9: Students' ability to face up to adversity

    Following is a question by the Hon Abraham Shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (February 27):


    Last month, a nine-year-old girl who was well behaved and excelled academically committed suicide allegedly due to a slight decline in her recent academic performance.  The incident has aroused public concern whether children have adequate ability to face up to adversity.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of children aged 12 or below who attempted to commit suicide and who died of suicide in each of the past three years, broken down by their grade in school;

(b) whether the authorities have measures in place to enhance children's ability to face up to adversity; if so, of the details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it has put in place new measures and methods over the past three years to assist teachers and parents in early identification of suicide-prone children; if so, of the details and effectiveness of such measures and methods?



(a) According to the information collected by the Education Bureau (EDB) over the past three years (2004/05 to 2006/07 school year), among the students aged 12 or below, unfortunately three children attempted to commit suicide including a primary 6 student aged 11 in the 2004/05 school year, a primary 6 student aged 11 in the 2005/06 school year and a secondary 1 student aged 12 in the 2006/07 school year.  Besides, one primary 5 student aged 10 died of suicide in the 2005/06 school year.

(b) All along, EDB attaches great importance to enhancing studentsˇ¦ ability to cope with adversity and respect for life.  The content of life education, such as "understand life", "cherish life", "respect life" and "explore life", has already been incorporated into different learning themes under the school curricula.  For example, topics on "respect and value life" are included in General Studies at primary level and Integrated Humanities at secondary level.  Under the new academic structure for Senior Secondary Education to be implemented in the 2009/10 school year, the core subject of Liberal Studies will train students on acceptance and appreciation of personal strengths and weaknesses, stress and frustration management, and skills to hold out against pressure and challenges for a positive and meaningful life.

    To assist the implementation of life education in schools, EDB has developed various on-line resources on facing up to adversity, to provide life events teaching exemplars based on students' daily life experiences, for use by schools to teach students how to face adversity and create a better life.  For example, "Attending a Funeral" will help students think about the value of life;  "Reading a Suicide Report in the Newspaper" will teach students how to cope with frustrations and difficulties, etc.  EDB also launches designated websites on current social issues from time to time, such as "Stephen W. Hawking's Wisdom for Students", to underline the message of cherishing life and surviving adversity.

    In parallel, providing students with ample opportunities to develop their competences can induce them to establish life goals and develop an optimistic and positive attitude.  EDB has been encouraging schools to provide students with life-wide and diversified learning opportunities to promote their whole-person development.  To this end, the Understanding Adolescent Project has been rolled out in primary schools since the 2004/05 school year.  It aims to enhance students' resilience by instilling into them a sense of competence, belonging and optimism.  Relevant activities have also been organised in collaboration with other government departments and non-governmental organisations from time to time, including the Enhanced Smart Teen Project collaborated with six disciplinary forces and the "P.A.T.H.S. to Adulthood: A Jockey Club Youth Enhancement Scheme" funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in collaboration with EDB and the Social Welfare Department.

    With the full implementation of the "One School Social Worker for each Secondary School" policy for secondary schools and the provision of full-time student guidance service in the majority of primary schools, schools can render timely counselling to needy students and implement a variety of preventive and developmental programmes to promote positive life values.

    Looking ahead, we are actively considering a priority theme under the Quality Education Fund to encourage schools to seek funding support for school-based projects on youth development.  Starting from the 2008-09 financial year, the Government will provide about 1 000 programme workers for three years to assist social workers in secondary schools to implement activities that can help secondary students develop their potential and promote their wellness.  In addition, EDB is actively seeking to enhance the school-based educational psychology service with a view to assisting schools in meeting the diverse needs of students through the school system, teacher support and student support levels. 

(c) EDB has been implementing a number of measures to facilitate teachers and parents in early identification of suicide-prone students, including the provision of guidelines, exemplars and resource package.  In 2007, relevant information on early identification of students showing suicidal signs has been updated and uploaded to EDB's website for reference of teachers, parents and the public so that timely counselling services can be provided.  Besides, training programmes, seminars, workshops and experience-sharing sessions in various forms are organised for teachers from time to time to enhance their skills in handling student problems. 

    EDB all along advocates home-school cooperation.  Teachers and parents are encouraged to join hands to help students develop a positive and optimistic attitude towards life.  These efforts include organising various forms of seminars, workshops and experience-sharing sessions for parents and making use of radio programmes and website information to reinforce the value of life and self-assurance.  The objective is to enhance parents' awareness of the emotional changes of youngsters. 

    We treasure the life of each and every student and will continue to work in concerted efforts with schools, parents and different sectors of society on the prevention of student suicide. 

Ends/Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:40


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