Since Amy Chua published her “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, it has dominated school-gate conversation in Hong Kong, with parents soul-searching over how much they demand of their children. The American mother’s account of her Chinese-influenced, high-pressure parenting sounded more than a little familiar in the fiercely competitive city, where parents say they are also pushed to perform.
Jachinson Chan’s daughters, aged 11 and 13, are ferried to an extracurricular activity every day of the week — from Spanish to guitar, tennis and extra mathematics. “People think we’re crazy,” he said — but not because his children are too busy. “We’re a joke among our friends because we don’t have that many activities.” And not just any activity is good enough. “Piano is no longer considered a big deal,” said Chan. “If your kid is in primary school and he or she can play the piano really well, the schools will yawn. “You need trombone, for example — something that not many people want to play. Parents are encouraging their kids to play the oboe.”
OECD rankings generally place Hong Kong above the international average in education standards, and often near the top worldwide, but local universities only take 18 percent of school students. So as parents climb the ladder in one of the world’s most competitive economies, they and their children must also contend with the academic equivalent.