Student does homework outside as performance art piece against city’s cram culture

With all the homework Hong Kong students get, it is hard to find a time and place to do it all.

But if you’re among stressed out students struggling to find a free desk in the library to cram for that chemistry test, this one student has a solution: try doing it outside.

Secondary six student Wong Ho-pang posted 19 photos online of himself at a desk doing homework outdoors.

Under the caption “who says studying has to take place in the classroom”, the photos show Wong — in school uniform, sometimes in deep concentration, other times with his head resting on his hand and looking slightly annoyed — doing his homework at an MTR station, a bus stop, outside a supermarket, in an alleyway, and even inside a phone booth.

The photos were posted on Facebook in December, but were picked up by local media this week.

According to The News Lens, Wong is a secondary six student studying at the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity in Kowloon City, and the photos are part of a performance art piece for his DSE in visual arts.

Wong told the website that the project, called “No Walls”, is also a response to the city’s education system, which puts more emphasis on cramming for exams instead of encouraging students to be more creative.

He said he hopes that Hongkongers will one day be more open to alternative education routes instead of heading down the purely academic path.

For the performance art piece, Wong said that he wanted to explore the concept of “walls” in education, literal and metaphorical.

He said: “There are actually two meanings. The first one is more obvious, that is learning does not have to take place in the classroom; the second one is that although schools promote outdoor learning experiences, that may not necessarily be a good thing because most teachers decide on the location and students can’t choose.”

Cheung added that the metaphorical walls concept was also partly inspired by a school trip he went on where a teacher took the class to visit some cultural monuments, with students then asked to reflect on some political themes.

He said: “I felt the teacher already had a fixed stance, and then instilled that in the whole class, but I wonder if what the  teacher said was actually true or not.”

When asked about the project, he said: “I wanted to explore the space for art, I wanted it to be more daring and more fresh.”

“I picked normal every day places so that everyone in the general public can see and take time to think about what I am doing.”

But picking normal everyday places did raise some eyebrows, said Wong, who said that in public places like malls he would be followed or chased out by confused security staff who weren’t quite on board with the concept of “performance art”.

Wong said that the project was completed in two weeks, and that he began working on the concept in November after seeing a viral photo of a child doing his homework on the MTR on a fold-up table as his dad watched on.

The photo prompted some netizens to criticize the dad for being a “tiger father”, while others used the opportunity to remark that kids in Hong Kong are just getting way too much homework.

Earlier this week, hk01 reported that an NGO called the St Stephen’s Society have installed desks on a private light bus that allows students traveling long distances to and from school to do their homework.

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