The end of a teenage rite of passage after 32 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2012, 12:00am


For 32 years, the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examinations (A-levels) were the bane of every school pupil's existence - determining their destiny and serving as the gatekeeper to university.

A-levels exams were taken by Form Seven pupils for the last time this year - ending a tradition that has become a rite of passage.

The number of A-level candidates has gone up from 12,164 when they started in 1980 to 41,572 this year.

And one adult who remembers the two years spent studying for the A-levels is 35-year-old Teresa Ng Sau-yin. The fashion merchandiser took the exam in 1995 and achieved grades within her expectations.

'What I remember most fondly from those two years was studying in the library with friends, trying to figure out the practice questions,' said Ng, cracking a smile.

But Ng, who went on to study fashion merchandising in Canada, recalls: 'We were told that if we obtained good grades, we would enjoy brighter prospects and get into a local university. And if we didn't, then we wouldn't be able to get as good a job ... I was quite worried for my future.'

A-levels replaced the University of Hong Kong's matriculation exam for pupils in English-medium schools. Pupils in Chinese-medium schools took the Higher Level Examination for entry to Chinese University.

Bachelor's degree places were only for the elite in 1980, with room for 2 per cent of secondary school leavers, against 18 per cent today.

In 1992, both English- and Chinese-medium schools standardised their curriculum from Form Six and all were required to take A-levels.

Ng urges today's A-levels candidates to keep their eye on the prize and not worry too much about the exams. 'Just know what direction you want to head towards, and there will be many ways to get there.'