R.I.P – Hong Kong’s Education System

Two of my high school teachers, Mr. Fisher and Mr. Mak, couldn’t escape the 2003 omen and passed away in December.

Cause of Death? Does it matter?

Ex-students, friends, a bunch of my ex-classmates went to their memorial services yesterday (5th Jan, 2004) at the DBS Hall. My brother was there. He bumped into many DBS old boys, and like all other weddings/funerals, it was a chance for a lot of people to catch up.

They had an assembly, and a couple of old boys paid tribute to the teachers. Bun Lo was one of them, and I was told that he put up a really good show.

Yes, a Show. No, they won’t be turning in their graves yet. Hear me out first.

Mr. Fisher was my English Teacher from Form 1 to Form 4. He was the nicest and most apathetic teacher you could ever find on planet earth. Mr. Fisher’s lessons were the best, because we didn’t need to do jackshit in his classes, and we always knew what to expect. Everyday he would come in, acknowledge the class, and then pull out the “Study English” textbook, and read it out loud. I bet even if Cindy Crawford came in and stripped naked, he would have probably continued reading his book, out loud. No matter what we did, no matter how loud we were, no matter what we were chucking around, be it pieces of chalk or bags of condom (thanks Paul), he would stick to his “Study English”, and read it out loud. He went on like this for 4 darn years. Heck, he had been like this forever, I was told. I always wonder what he was like back when he was the head boy. Maybe he was fond of routines, and yelling “STAND” in front of the whole school thrice a week was just another cool little routine that he was so accustomed to.

Mr. Mak was my geography teacher from Form 4 to Form 6. He was what I would call a true hk teacher. I don’t have much memory of him and the only thing I remember was the stinging pain in my right palm after the rigorous notes copying during class. He could be enlightening, he could be entertaining, but these were rarities, because these were not on the syllabus. Oh, he was also the Deputy Headmaster of the school I think. So in a way, he was the teacher with authority, and yes he knew how to smooch with the kids.

And Bun Lo put up a good show. Yes, like it or not, I call it a show. Because no matter how you look at it, they were bad teachers. No, they were good teachers in a bad education system. They hardly inspired anyone, they hardly taught us anything. Maybe Mr. Mak helped a lot of us to get through HKCEE and HKAL. But they weren’t good teachers. Period.

Why were they bad? Because they didn’t really have a choice to be good. I my classmates our parents other teachers the headmaster would have complained and bitched if Mr. Mak were to bring us out to a 3 day field trip to look at all the rock formations in Hong Kong. They would have reacted the same if Mr. Fisher were to organize an Oscar Wilde Week for us to act some of his plays, to discuss some of his works, or whatever. Because these would mean that we would have to sacrifice precious lesson time of getting ourselves ready for the filtering and screenings. Plus, they were out of the syllabus. Plus, they would be so interesting and fun that we students would start demanding the same from other teachers, and DBS would become a Band 3 school. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Mak were exactly what the HK education system needed. First, they helped maintained the system by keeping us on track, they didn’t deviate from the system. Second, they represented a manufactured variety in this fucked up system. They represented the choices, the goods and the bads, in the system. If every teacher was like either one of them, we would have wondered, we would have asked “what’s the matrix”. But the two of them, when put together under a macro microscope, constrained us in the system, and guided us to believe that those were the choices. Mr. Fisher, the bad teacher, and Mr. Mak, the good teacher.

And Bun Lo put up a good show. But I am going to kick his ass. His show, reinforced the system, the scam. He should have known better. Bun Lo turned out to be a great person, but of all people, he should be the person to know about the scam. But yet again, maybe he turned out great because all along, he understood the system, and he knew how to beat it. And I have a feeling that my undiplomatic and un-conforming behaviors are going to drive a lot of connections and friends and respects (the reasons why I went to a “branded” school) away from me …

Mr. Fisher, I have got to be fair. You sucked, you didn’t teach us shit (just read my writings). But that wasn’t because you weren’t teaching. I flipped through some of the comments you gave me on some of the compositions I wrote back then. You actually made an effort and corrected my writings, and gave me surprisingly good comments. I believed you tried to be a good teacher. You tried to teach, but you failed miserably. The reasons why you failed were partly because of your lack of determination and your complacency, and partly because of your failure in understanding and beating the system. No, the latter was not supposed to be easy. In fact, it is probably close to impossible. Of course, you pretty much gave up and milked from the system. Mr. Fisher, you were a good target to be labelled as the bad teacher, because you fitted into that role, and because you just didn’t give a shit. You, were THE bad teacher.

Mr. Mak, you knew how the system worked. You were more HK-ish. You knew what delivered the money and the stability. You knew what made us students happy, what made our parents feel comfortable, what made your colleagues feel secure, and what kept the system going. And no you didn’t teach us shit. Yes you helped us get through the multiple choices, but you didn’t teach me shit. You, were THE good teacher.

Rest in peace, Mr. Fisher, Mr. Mak and the HK education system.

D Siu