3+3+4 = ?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 21 January, 2005, 12:00am

EDUCATION REFORMS in Hong Kong have left many students and parents confused.

Increases in university tuition will put a strain on families as parents try to find money to pay the government's proposed $50,000 tuition fee for four years - an amount that far exceeds the $8,750 it currently costs to study Form Seven (which will instead be replaced by the fourth year at university).

Many say that this extra year at university will improve students' overall development.

Some may argue that the United States has adopted such an education system to great effect.

Hong Kong's new venture sounds perfect on paper, but I have doubts about effectiveness.

Students need to be given more opportunities to explore, but forcing an extra year of university on them is not going to help.

The problem needs to be tackled at the roots.

A general education requirement at the university level comes too late. Students need to be taught 'transferable skills' - a buzzword in today's economy - from the beginning.

They need to be encouraged to see the links between their subjects in primary school and secondary


Timing aside, issues such as funding are also problematic.

Universities in the US often provide generous scholarships for students with no financial resources.

In Hong Kong, however, these scholarships tend to be reserved for the best and the brightest - not necessarily the most financially disadvantaged.

And why does the new system mandate a fourth year? Why can't it be optional? It is optional in the US, where universities often adopt a credit system, and there are students who choose to graduate early - sometimes after only two-and-a-half years.

A student may be worried about finances or may want to take on a heavier course load.

The 3+3+4 system is not flexible enough to meet these needs, which require a more sophisticated approach and more funding.

We are planting the seeds for our future society.

If you plant a seed and don't give it water and sunlight, it will not bloom. If the stem of your plant is too rigid, it will snap in the wind.

Ms Yeung is a student at the University of Pennsylvania