Why Secondary Schools Should Start Later in Hong Kong

These days, secondary students especially in Hong Kong face a myriad of challenges. One of the most common, serious and influential challenges must undoubtedly be sleep deprivation. At the age of adolescence, teenagers should have 8-10 hours sleep for better health and brain development as well as supporting daily performance. (National Sleep Foundation, 2000) However, research found that average sleep time among secondary school students in Hong Kong was only around 7 hours. (Chung & Cheung, 2008). This can be on account of the hectic and fast-paced lifestyles, or even societal demands in Hong Kong like early school time.

In view of this situation, this essay claims that postponing school start time of secondary schools in Hong Kong for a few hours should be implemented to improve students’ learning effectiveness.

First, postponing school start time can improve the mental ability of students. Without enough sleep time, students’ concentration and learning performance are likely to be affected. According to a research, students are at considerable risk for adverse repercussions associated with inadequate sleep, including “impairments in mood, attention, memory, and quality of life.

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” (Owens, 2010) As a result, we can notice that inadequate sleep can limit students’ ability to learn, listen and concentrate, so it will reduce their academic performance. On the other hand, with a later school start time, students' sleep habits, and psychological functioning can be enhanced. In order to increase the sleeping hours of students, an experiment of delaying school start time by 15 minutes was conducted by CUHK research team in a secondary school in Hong Kong.

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It ameliorated the students’ sleep quality and quantity. 37.7% of the participants agreed that they had sufficient sleep and they were less likely to be tired in the day time (CUHK, 2014) As a result, longer sleep time reduce the chance of falling asleep in class. Hence, they can be more focused on learning and so the absorbing ability of learning will be enhanced. Eventually, students’ learning capacity will be improved.

Other than that, delaying school start time can also enhance students’ physical health. A research claimed that insufficient sleep will significantly heighten the levels of stress hormones and lowered attention and working memory. (Neurol. 2012) Therefore, it can be realized that having poor memory and concentration so it is less often to focus and perform well in class. Besides, chronic inadequate sleep is associated with poor academic performance including “executive function impairments and behavioral issues, as well as adverse health outcomes such as an increased risk of obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.”(Barnes, MA, Manchini, Ruffin, Simpson & Casazza, 2016) It can show that insufficient sleep will lead to numerous irremediable effects on health so they may need to see a doctor frequently or even stay at hospital for a long time which will procrastinate their learning progress. In light of this, later school start time can literally enable students to sleep more to prevent getting sick easily so they can attend classes more and have a better performance in learning.

Apart from improving both mental and physical health, delaying school time can improve interpersonal relationship of teenagers in Hong Kong which can lead to a better performance in learning. Sleep deprivation has a significant effect on people’s mood. University of Pennsylvania’s researchers pointed out that people who were finite to inadequate sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad and irritable as well as being short-tempered, and vulnerable to stress. (Harvard Medical School, 2008) Consequently, the improper handling of stress and mood may lead to aggressive or inappropriate behavior such as throwing a temper tantrum with their friends or being impatient with their family members. (National Sleep Foundation, 2000) This will easily destroy teenagers’ interpersonal relationships. While if the school commencement time can be postponed, students can be able to have more rest time. More importantly, it can greatly prevent the problems of being emotional and conflicts made by teenagers with others. Thereupon, students will not feel regretful and dwell on the damage they made to their interpersonal relationship, which may cause a reduction of concentration in class and so it leads to a worse learning performance.

Some people may criticize that delaying school start will not help due to the fact that the later start time, the corresponding later release time as well as after-school activities will reduce the time available for practices such as tutorial lessons and interest classes. At the end, they still cannot sleep early. It cannot be denied that all the times will be delayed as most of the schools are not willing to retard the teaching progress. Yet, delaying sleep time is actually beneficial to students’ quality of learning and learning effectiveness. In these days, students sleep late at night to finish their homework but wake up is very hard in the early morning; it will be detrimentally harmful to their health. This is because teenagers usually have a later body clock than adults by 1-2 hours (Deshpande, 2019), so their wake-up time is then delayed. As a result, despite the later sleep time, if students can wake up late in the next day, it can definitely enhance their health and their academic results. According to a study conducted by University of Minnesota, “schools that start at 8:30 AM or later allow for more than 60% of students to obtain at least 8 hours of sleep per school night”. More importantly, those who wake up later have significant improvement on academic performance as well as attendance rates and reduced tardiness. (Kyla, 2014) Therefore, a later school start time is actually nothing but favorable to students.

Having discussed the above points, it is believed that delaying the school start time is a suitable way to relieve the issue of sleep deprivation which directly diminishes students’ learning effectiveness in Hong Kong. It is more beneficial to current Hong Kong’s education system which emphasizes highly on students’ performance and productivity. In such a way, when schools in Hong Kong can postpone their school commencement time, students will be likely to have more sleep time than before and so not only can students’ health and interpersonal relationship be improved, Hong Kong can also enjoy the brilliant result on education. Thus, it is essential that the school start time should be delayed by the secondary schools in Hong Kong.


  1. CUHK (14 March 2014) CUHK Survey Reveals Majority of School Teens Have Insufficient Sleep Sleep Education and Intervention at Schools Help: CUHK Communications and Public Relations Office Retrieved From https://www.cpr.cuhk.edu.hk/en/press_detail.php?id=1771&t=cuhk-survey-reveals-majority-of-school-teens-have-insufficient-sleep-sleep-education-and-intervention-at-schools-help
  2. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School (15 December, 2008) Sleep and Mood | Need Sleep Retrieved From http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/mood
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  8. Margaux B., Krista D., Mackenzie M.,Jasmine R., Tina S. & Krista C, (01 June, 2016) Setting Adolescents Up for Success: Promoting a Policy to Delay High School Start Times Retrieved From https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/josh.12405
  9. National Sleep Foundation (n.d.) Sleep for Teenagers Retrieved From https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep
  10. National Sleep Foundation (n.d.) Later School Start Times: Benefits & Cons. Retrieved From https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/backgrounder-later-school-start-times
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Updated: Jan 24, 2024
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Why Secondary Schools Should Start Later in Hong Kong. (2024, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/why-secondary-schools-should-start-later-in-hong-kong-essay

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