A Study from Chu Hai College of Higher Education
Finds HK Children’s Happiness Stable amid Rising Pressures in 2017/18
Professor Ho Lok Sang, Director of the Polling and Public Opinion Centre of Chu Hai College of Higher Education announced the results of a 2017/2018 Academic Year HK Children’s Happiness survey today. The happiness index of children this academic year, at 6.72, is not much different from the 6.75 in 2016/17, staying noticeably higher than the 6.5 of 2015/16.
The current study is sponsored by the Shih Wing Ching Foundation and HK.WeCARE of Wofoo Social Enterprises. A total of 19 primary and secondary schools excluding international schools and direct subsidy schools participated. We are grateful for all the support we received from our sponsors and the participating schools.
The current study is the sixth year in the series that started in 2012. It is also the second year in which we explore the implementation of life education in our schools. We started approaching schools in March this year, and collected the questionnaires through June. A total of 11 primary schools and 8 secondary schools participated. We collected 1744 questionnaires from the primary schools and 1767 questionnaires from secondary schools. 124 teachers also filled the Teachers’ Questionnaires.
Stable Happiness Indices Despite Rising Pressures May Be Attributed to Life Education
The survey revealed that pressures from studies and from extracurricular activity participation have both risen, and are both near historical highs. Still children’s happiness indices stayed near the recent high of 6.72, only a shade lower than last year’s 6.75. This is a surprise, but recent progress made in life education may be behind this relatively strong performance. This is the first year we invited secondary schools to include Form 4 and Form 5 students to participate. We found pressures rise rapidly as expected, and happiness also fell rapidly at Form 4. But the happiness index at Form 5 fell only slightly from 6.09 to 6.03. Interestingly, the percentages of both very happy (8 or above) and very unhappy (2 or below) students rise.
Sharp Decline in Happiness of Those at 9 Year Old or Younger
Typically children’s indices decline as they grow older, which is partly due to higher pressures in more senior classes and partly due to the influence of adolescence. However, we discover that in 2017/18 Primary 4 students experienced a sharp decline in happiness. In recent years there is a lot of talk about winning at the starting line, and pressures from studies for lower grades have accordingly intensified.
Neglect of Singing in Life Education
Our survey of the delivery of life education in schools shows that there has not been much emphasis on singing. Although the positive effects of singing is not indicated in our statistics, singing songs that send a positive message is known to be an effective way of building up a positive perspective on life and igniting a caring mind for others particularly one’s family. Of the five modes of delivery surveyed, only the positive effects of talks and visits stand out. This is not surprising as talks by people who are a living example of positive living, while visits may open up young people’s minds. It seems clear that the role of singing has not been recognized sufficiently.
Like last year, we discover that the indicators of mental capital, namely Love, Insight, Fortitude, and Engagement, all decline with the school grade. Regression analysis has shown that these aspects of mental capital are all positively associated with happiness. Nurturing these aspects of mental capital also constitutes the essence of life education. There is evidence that schools are pushing life education more than the last year. Moreover, we once again confirm that children in schools that promote LIFE education enjoy higher happiness. The result is statistically very significant.
While school life education plays an important role in children’s happiness, we find that family life education plays at least as important a role as school life education. We used “harmonious family life” as an indicator for Love-education at home; whether family encourages the development of one’s potential rather than comparing performance with peers as an indicator of Insight Education; whether family encourages fearlessly facing challenges as an indicator of Fortitude Education; and whether family encourages finding one’s interest and working for one’s dreams as Engagement Education. While pressures negatively impact happiness, parents sharing with children, respecting their viewpoints and privacy, can raise their happiness.
Happy Family Index
We constructed a happy family index from the relations between the parents and whether the family is in harmony. We discover that family happiness is significantly undermined by pressures, particularly pressures from extracurricular activities. Family happiness, however, is not nearly as important as school happiness in determining children’s happiness. This is probably because children spend a lot of time in school.
Leisure is Important; Space in Neighbourhood is Important
We discover that leisure is directly related to happiness and whether children find life worth living. This relationship is very significant, and appears to be stronger than last year. We also confirm last year’s finding that space in the neighbourhood may be even more important than space within the home in determining children’s happiness. Interestingly though perhaps not surprisingly, while we find children living in owned homes to be happier than those living in rented homes, we also find that children living in public rental housing are happier than children living in private rented housing.
Only a Small Percentage of Teachers Had Life Education Training
Only 32%, or 40 out of 124 teachers reported having had life education training. This ratio is lower than that last year, but may be due to the bigger sample of teachers this year. It is gratifying to see that those interested in life education jumped from 55% to 76%.
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