The Value and Personal Cost of Education
If there are two things I learned in my tenure in Hong Kong that Chinese people value, those are luxury goods and education. And, for the latter, they are willing to make sacrifices that, for the Western eyes, they are felt like out of this world.
Hong Kong is a relatively small territory. You really feel you live in an island where access to the rest of the world is by air. There are only a couple of exceptions to that, being my favourite Shenzhen, a shopping paradise on the other side of the border with Mainland China. Shopping day trips to Shenzhen are a must do for locals and even tourists.
One of the things very often missed is that it is not only shoppers the one crossing such border on a daily basis. If you cross from China to Hong Kong around 8 am, or the other way around at 3 pm, you will see hoardes of little children, many of them as young as three years old, who every day do an up to 3 hour trip each way door to door from their home to school. This is tough for an adult but, for such young children, it must be an extremely hard burden.
Why do these children do this? Well, their Mainland phinese Parents value education greatly and specifically Hong Kong education to a very high degree. They send their children to a Hong Kong nursery so that they learn english, so that they can access Hong Kong primary schools so that they can access a secondary school in Hong Kong and thereafter leading Universities. The culture of sacrificing for education is so high in this part of the world that children spend a great part of their childhood doing school homework (3 hours of daily homework for 6 years old is quite common) and other educational activities.
Many people say that such an emphasis in education prevents children from socially developing adequately. It is probably true. But on the other side, I struggle to accept that the layback approach in education that you can see in some Western countries is much better. An example of it is in my own country, Spain. By comparison with other languages like e.g. English, spelling in Spanish is something very easy to master. Seeing, for example, the difficulty that nowadays many Spanish teenagers and young adults have to write without mispelling is something that makes me thing this is one of those things where virtue is in the middle point.