Same world, different fortunes

Depending on where you come from, helping children help themselves can mean very different things.

For Hong Kong, it may mean teaching a Primary Six child to tie his shoelaces.

This is a case quoted in by a clinical psychologist during a district event yesterday. The post-90s children in Hong Kong are described by several speakers in the event as being spoiled by their doting parents or maids and unable to adapt to life outside their homes. These 'mommy's children' are characterised by 'three lows' - low emotional intelligence, low resilience and low ability to fend for themselves.

So, incredible as it may sound, helping those spoiled Upper Primary children to help themselves is a matter of teaching them to tie their shoelaces, wear their own ties or take a shower themselves.

Elsewhere, helping children help themselves is a different story altogether. Take the 'Hole in the Wall' project which was derived from an experiment in India over ten years ago, for example. In 1999, some Indian slump children who 'barely went to school, ...didn't know any English, ...had never seen a computer before and ... didn't know what the Internet was' were given access to a computer in the wall. These children quickly taught themsleves how to use the computer and gather information with little supervision. The experiment has since been repeated at many places in India as well as Cambodia and several African countries. It has led to related ventures to study how to help such deprived children learn in unsupervised environments. It has also inspired the writing of the novel Q and A on which the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire was based.

It is hard to believe that we are talking about children in the same world.

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