Gang murder leads to calls for moral guidance in learning;Briefing;International

12th February 1999 at 00:00
A judge has urged the education department in Hong Kong, along with publishers and other authorities, to rethink the school curriculum following the horrific gang murder of a secondary-school boy.

Six teenagers were jailed for life last week for murdering Luk Chi-wai, 15. A total of 13 boys and girls, some as young as 14 at the time of the murder in 1997, were found guilty of involvement in events leading to his death.

The Court of First Instance had heard how Luk was tortured for three hours; he was beaten with water pipes, broom sticks, wooden poles, a belt and a stool, and forced to eat cigarette butts.

In sentencing the youths, Mr Justice Michael Wong said that the case revealed hidden problems in Hong Kong society.

"The comic books and violence on screen may be a minor problem, but lack of supervision at home and lack of - or insufficient - moral education and teaching of traditional values is more important."

Luk was attacked after he had advised a mentally-handicapped man to report the gang to the police for beating and bullying him.

The case has increased concern that the exam-driven education system fails to provide young people with a wider education for life and with moral guidance. A survey conducted by the Hong Kong Junior Chamber highlighted the power of peer pressure among students.

"Compared with teenagers from other countries, local young people lack independent thinking and too easily succumb to pressure," said the chamber's spokesman, Spencer Li.

Parents and teachers should teach children to think more critically, he said.

The survey found that the opinions of friends were more important to teenagers than issues of law, justice and honesty.

English teacher Pauline Bunce, who teaches in the school that the murdered boy had attended, along with some of the gang members, lays some of the blame on the "cruel and negative school system".

Pupils who do least well in the equivalent of the former 11-plus exam are relegated to schools such as her own in the lowest of five bands. She describes these as mere "holding pens for tomorrow's unemployed and training grounds for criminal behaviour".

Police were called in on most days, she said. Little learning went on. Like all teachers in the school, she had become resigned to teaching while at least half the class slept at their desks.

Katherine Forestier

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