School reforms

Maths test petition

This was a letter I sent to the Head of Maths, when our substitute teacher messed up our Term Test, which was a very important test contributing largely to our grades. The letter was a petition, signed by almost everyone in our maths class. The Head of Maths then got our regular teacher to remark the tests and decreased the weight of the marks we got.

Dear (head of maths), (year 8 coordinators)

We feel that the way our Maths term test was run was unfair and resulted in a very large number of students failing. Nearly half the class only got half the test. The teacher in charge, (substitute maths teacher), discovered this more than halfway through the test. She then re-distributed the tests to the students who got the wrong copy.

The students who only got half the test to start with had less than half the time to do the missing half. It was also very stressful to find out that we had to do several hard word problems that we hadn’t seen at the beginning of the test. 

Even the students who got the whole test were disrupted by the re-distribution. We understand that students are not usually able to resit term tests, but given what happened, we would like you to consider allowing us to resit this one, or making us another test that will allow us to show what we’ve learnt.

(Substitute maths teacher) also did not schedule a resit on our last AST. We would like to be able to resit this test, as we are allowed to do, as soon as possible.

(Substitute maths teacher) has also not given us specific help when we’ve asked her to explain things in class when we didn’t understand, or where we missed class and didn’t understand the textbook. She has suggested that we ask (Maths teacher) when she comes back, but she has been away for 2 weeks and we don’t know when she will come back.

We would be happy to talk about this if you need more explanation.

Yours sincerely, 


School reforms

Homework in Hong Kong

When my family moved to Hong Kong for three years, and I had to go to school there, there was too much homework, so I wrote a letter to the school principal asking for it to be optional. Afterwards, the principal made a homework committee and the new homework was much better. For example, instead of doing math sums, you had to make dinner, or smile at 10 people.

Letter to school co-principal, Hong Kong, 10 September 2016

Dear (principal)

I am writing to ask you if you could make homework optional.

I understand if you think homework is good for us, but to work late we must sleep late. Studies have shown that when children sleep late, they tend to do badly at school.

Homework also makes us stressed. Some students in university had such a bad experience with homework that they killed themselves. In my own experience, on days when I have ballet, I get home after 6 o’clock. To get my homework done, I have to rush through dinner and shower, and as my mother insists on washing my hair, I have even less time. The same applies to orchestra.

Moreover, our school hours are long. At my old school in Canberra, school days were only 6 hours long. Here they are 7½ hours long. In Canberra, it only took 10 minutes to get to school. Here it takes 40 minutes. I think that school hours are too long to have homework, especially with extra-curricular activities.

Finally, homework wastes family time. I don’t get any time to play with my sister. My mother usually gets home late, so she doesn’t usually spend much time with me.

If you make homework optional, I will:

  1. Finish all my schoolwork at school if I have a reasonable amount of time;
  2. When I don’t understand a question, instantly ask a teacher to help me;
  3. Learn my part of a performance at home;
  4. Prepare for projects like the Egg Drop and the Boat Race at home;
  5. Read English and Chinese books every night.

In conclusion, I think you should greatly consider making homework optional.

Yours sincerely

Zari (Year 6)

Dear Zari,

Thank you so much for your letter dated 10th September regarding your concerns over homework. I would like to congratulate you on such a well-constructed argument and the presentation of your letter. You obviously took a great deal of time and effort to share your thoughts and concerns with myself and (co-principal) so I feel that it is only right and proper that I take the time to respond to you.

Your letter was indeed very timely, as I had just experienced a difficulty with my own children’s homework so I could empathize with your situation.

I have subsequently had a chance to look at the school policy relating to homework. The amount and range of homework is set out by the school’s policy and is designed as a compromise between Eastern and Western expectations. Some of our Eastern parents believe we do not give enough homework and our Western parents think we give too much!

As a result of your letter I have, today, asked our Senior Leadership Team to form a review group to look at our homework policy and how we may be able to change this, in the future, so that it does not cause hardship or distress to any child or family. I would also like the policy to support our belief that children need quality time with their families and that they should also have a suitable bedtime so they do not come to school the next day being over-tired and not ready for learning.

I hope that my response reassures you that I take your concerns seriously enough to initiate a schoolwide review and I hope to be able to share the results at some time in the near future.

Yours sincerely



11 September 2016