WHAT we go through during enrollment here is nothing compared to what parents go through in Hong Kong. No kidding dearies.

In Hong Kong, you need to apply a year in advance to get a slot -- even in nursery school! It is common to see hundreds of parents lining up outside schools just to get application forms. And because each school has a limited number of students, you need to stand in line and apply in different schools, just in case you don’t get accepted in the school of your choice. It will also be like this when their kids have to undertake primary and secondary education. Needless to say, there is no such thing as “latecomer” students in Hong Kong.

The good thing about educating a kid in Hong Kong is that the Hong Kong government subsidizes a part of the tuition expense for permanent residents so they pay only about HKD 700. This becomes around HKD 3,000 for nonpermanent residents. Books and other school related expenses are not subsidized though.

Yet despite the difficulties she had to go through just to secure a precious slot for her daughter and having to spend for books and other school related expenses, Gladys Baluyos still thinks that it is good for her Alexi to study in Hong Kong. The government subsidy is a great help in saving up for Alexi’s college and she feels confident about the safety of her daughter inside the school.

Hong Kong schools have video cameras and they do a “school lock up,” or they close the school gates when students are already inside. Outsiders could not enter its premises and students could not also go out and cut classes. In fact, even parents are not allowed to get inside the schools. They are only allowed a day to observe what their kids will be doing inside the classroom. After that, they can only drop their child at the school’s gate. And this policy is strictly imposed even for nursery kids. Quite a huge difference when compared to some of our local schools where parents are allowed inside the kid’s classroom if they start bawling and crying for their mama.

Yes dearies, independence is a big thing in Hong Kong. Kids start trooping to schools at two years old, when they start nursery. At this young age, they already go to field trips with teachers, and of course, without their parents trailing behind. Gladys shared that a nursery class is divided into two teams with about nine kids each. Each team will rotate on the day’s lesson plan. Example, the first team will be engaged in storytelling while the other team will do activities. When done, they will swap activities. Bathroom breaks are done in between rotations. Their classroom has its own toilet and each child is trained and expected to be able to go to the bathroom independently.

This kind of early training extends even to their home. Although Alexi has a yaya, she studies by herself and does most things on her own.

Gladys admits that one big factor that pushes Alexi to independently learn is that Gladys herself could not read Chinese writing. Alexi has to learn from her teachers and tutors and do her homework on her own. Alexi also had to learn Cantonese because it is the language used by her teachers. But the little one has the edge of being fluent in English, something that makes her feel a little bit more superior to her Chinese classmates who are only just learning to speak the language.

It came as a shock to me when Gladys started talking about the way school kids in Hong are trained to be independent at such an early age. That is something we could emulate with our nursery kids here. And perhaps we need to rethink our common belief that kids that start learning at an early age end up being burned out or unhappy.

That’s it dearies. I hope you have been having happy episodes of the first day of school of your little ones. Cheers to learning!

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