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Over half cross border students and families concern about Inequality and Difficulty in Online Learning over class suspension arrangement, survey reveals

With class suspension, closed borders and 14-day quarantine on all travelers from mainland China in place, starting the school term together with their classmates who live in Hong Kong may have become a mission impossible for cross border students, ie. pupils who commute daily between their homes in mainland China and schools in Hong Kong.

Maintaining three service centres catered for the needs of cross border students in Shenzhen, International Social Service Hong Kong Branch (ISS-HK) conducted a survey in forms of questionnaire and online groups and talked to cross border families in Shenzhen from 7th to 12th February 2020. 3,000 sets of questionnaires were received, in which interviewees answered questions addressing their concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, their thoughts if cross border students are still stranded in the mainland when class resumes in Hong Kong, and their opinions on the effectiveness of online teaching.

A summary of the survey is as follows:

  1. Cross border families are very worried about the coronavirus outbreak
    • Over 70% of those interviewed are very concerned of the outbreak (choosing 4 and 5 out of a scale of 5 - with 5 being the highest) like families in Hong Kong. Parents are particularly worried that their children may be infected in their long daily trips to schools and when they are inside schools.
  2. Cross border families hope class will resume for all students in a fair and efficient way. Mixed feedback if school will be resumed while cross border students have to stay in the Mainland due to quarantine measures.
    • Over 40% (44%) think that it is reasonable for schools to resume without cross border students, as the measure “will help halt the spread of the disease”, “gatherings should be avoided during the virus outbreak” etc.
    • Over 50% (56%) think that it is not reasonable for class to resume without cross border students, as they will unavoidably lag behind other students in terms of learning progress even with online teaching. Teachers in Hong Kong often use Google Class and YouTube as their online teaching tools, but these platforms cannot be used in the Mainland, deriving cross borders students from receiving their fair learning opportunity. Among those who consider it unfair for school to start without cross border students, 64% worry about discrimination by other students when they eventually go back to school.
  1. Strong demand for online teaching support
    • Over 75% interviewees would like to use ISS-HK’s online service, among which 74% thinks it is needed for the students’ learning. Parents wish that the Education Bureau and schools can conduct effective online teaching in a stable system available for use in the Mainland.
  1. Other needs
    • Cross border families are in urgent need of supplies like families in Hong Kong, among which 71% said they are in great demand for face masks, while there is also a shortage of hand santilizers, alcohol and bleach.

“Cross border families hope that the Education Bureau will allow enough time for cross border students to prepare for class resumption, as students may need to cross the border and stay in Hong Kong early to be quarantined. Parents would love their kids to start the new school term together with other students in Hong Kong, but if school must start first for other students, they hope that negative impact be minimized and that their children can have classes online in a feasible and effective manner,” said Iris Liu, Programme Director of Cross Boundary and Inter-country service serving cross border students. “Our service centres have been offering online learning support since the virus outbreak and have served over 2,000 users so far. Our social workers are also working on some guidelines on producing online learning materials that can be accessed in mainland, which teachers and other professionals can take reference of. They are welcome to approach us if interested. As many people spend more time at home during the virus outbreak, social workers encourage service users to strengthen communication among family members and spend more time together,” added Iris.