Students join scramble for Form 6 places
Gary Cheung and Cynthia Wan
Almost 45,000 Hong Kong students were yesterday scrambling for just 24,000 Form Six places as the economic downturn helped spur a stampede towards higher education.
A record number of students scored straight A's in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination results released yesterday, with at least 17 students receiving the top mark in all 10 subjects. Thirty more got nine A's.
The 44,643 students who scored at least eight points in their best six subjects - the minimum requirement for Form Six - were faced with just 24,300 government-subsidised places. Some students, especially those in the science stream, were turned away from their own schools because of the tough competition - some despite having scored 20 points or more.
Help-lines for students last night reported an increase in the number of callers compared to previous years. The director of one said the prospect of leaving school during the current economic downturn had magnified anxieties.
Chui Yat-hung, director of the Hok Yau Club student guidance centre, said students feared a bleak future if they failed to get into Form Six.
The unemployment rate among 15 to 18-year-olds is 21.3 per cent, compared to 4.6 per cent for the general workforce.
Director of Education Matthew Cheung Kin-chung yesterday responded to the demand by increasing the number of Secondary Six places at Government evening schools from 360 to 540. Places for students wishing to repeat Secondary Five will be raised from 1,160 to 2,160.
Mr Cheung said: 'The competition for places was more intense this year with an improvement in overall results.'
Form Six places were secured by 19,689 students yesterday. The remaining 24,954 eligible students will be vying for just 4,635 places left.
The number of students attaining the minimum level required for Secondary Six increased from 57.2 to 58.6 per cent.
Concern group Education Convergence said the economic downturn and social expectations had helped improve results.
'In general, society and parents are more concerned with children getting higher education,' said the group's vice-chairman, Choi Kwok-kwong.
'Students cherish the opportunity to study further because they know they probably can't find a job with just secondary school qualifications.'
Students with poor results can apply for Project Springboard, a one-year course that offers Chinese, English, computer training and some vocational skills. The programme, created last year, aims to give students a second chance even if they score nothing in the exams.
Hundreds of students queued outside Po Leung Kuk Vicwood K. T. Chong Form Six College in Tai Kok Tsui to scramble for its keenly sought Secondary Six places.
Vicwood is the only college dedicated to Secondary Six, at the exclusion of younger students, subsidised by the Government. It distributed 1,700 application forms and filled all 363 regular places yesterday. Ten places will be available today for private and evening school students.
The 17 students who scored 10 A's were from the Diocesan Boys' School in Mongkok, Wah Yan College in Wan Chai, Queen's College in Tin Hau, Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong, St Paul's Co-educational School in Mid-Levels, Tsuen Wan Government Secondary School, Sha Tin Government Secondary School and La Salle College, Kowloon Tong.