Cheng’s daughter interviewed for seven primary schools including St. Paul Co-educational College Primary School, Diocesan Girls’ Primary School and Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School. Cheng says she has no particular preference for elite schools but applied for them due to family pressure.
To prepare for the interviews, Cheng read studies and papers on how to evaluate a child’s multiple intelligences. She took two months to formulate an evaluation questionnaire, which she then gave to the tutors of her daughter’s interest classes. After collecting the completed questionnaires, she wrote a summary of how the tutors evaluated her daughter. She hoped this would help school principals have a more complete assessment of her daughter apart from her academic results. “It was like writing a thesis,” says Cheng.
In the end, Cheng’s daughter was admitted by GT (Ellen Young) College, a private school for gifted children. Although everything went quite smoothly, Cheng still felt pressure during the process, which came mainly from comparisons among parents.
“When you go to the kindergarten, A tells you this and B tells you that. I once thought should I do the same thing for my daughter as well?” says Cheng. “However, you should be consistent and firm in your stance. Do the suitable things for your children and yourself.”
Some parents, who were pushed themselves as children, are keen to avoid piling the pressure on their own kids. Yennie Darkins, a 29-year-old housewife and blogger, attended traditional elite schools from kindergarten onwards and had a packed schedule when she was a student. Darkins attracted attention when she wrote an article online about how she would not put her children in a playgroup and how she could play with and teach them herself.
Darkins has three daughters, one of whom is in primary one, the other two are attending kindergarten. Her daughters do go to interest classes such as ballet, but to Darkins, these classes are just for fun. She does not let them take part in ballet exams although their tutor said they could not be promoted to a more advanced class unless they took tests. “I do not need certificates to prove my daughters’ abilities to dance. I think it is good enough if they can learn without pressure,” says Darkins.
Darkins’ eldest daughter is studying at St. Stephen’s College but she explains this is because of the school’s proximity to her home rather than because of its status. She says she did not prepare her daughter for the admission interview.
Darkins, a full-time mum, is more concerned about time spent bonding with her children than in enhancing their competitiveness. “The children will suffer if you deliberately add skills and knowledge which are beyond their standards,” says Darkins.
Darkins’ British husband, Piers Nicholas Darkins agrees parents should let their children explore the world and deal with problems on their own. “The most important thing for children is play. Social interaction – it teaches them to be a well-rounded person,” Piers Darkins says. This is best illustrated when another child stepped on his daughter’s hand but he did not walk to her immediately.
“That’s life, there’s always somebody will metaphorically step on you, but you have to take it,” he says.