The government on Wednesday put a rise in the number of Hong Kong schoolchildren taking their own lives down to challenges they have faced since the end of the pandemic, as a lawmaker warned that the dozens of deaths this year are causing grave concerns about the mental health of the city's young people.
Education Secretary Christine Choi told Legco that the first 11 months of 2023 saw 31 suspected suicides involving primary and secondary school children, compared with between 14 and 25 for each full year between 2018 and 2022.
"It is believed that the upward trend may be affected by the epidemic and the greater challenges students faced after the resumption to normalcy," she said in a written reply to questions raised by lawmaker Elizabeth Quat.
Choi didn't elaborate on what the increased challenges for students entail.
She noted that the government has launched a three-tier school-based emergency system aimed at preventing suicides among secondary school pupils.
The minister also said there were three complaints from parents relating to academic pressure in the past three years, and schools had been told to investigate.
She said schools should review their assessment and assignment policies to avoid "excessive, meaningless and mechanical drilling and copying tasks", as well as reduce the frequency of dictations and tests, or even scrap term examinations for certain grades.
"This will enable students to have sufficient time for rest, play, entertainment and personal growth, develop their personal interests and build up healthy lifestyles," she said.