After today, the HKCEE will just be a memory
A day like today has been one of elation and disappointment for generations of secondary school graduates.
But the release today of results for the last batch of candidates who took the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination marks the end of an era in the city's education history.
The public exam is being replaced by the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, under a 3+3+4 education system starting next year which cuts a year from secondary school and adds one to university education.
'The HKCEE has finished a historic role,' said Examinations and Assessment Authority secretary general Tong Chong-sze. 'It is a collective memory.'
Four million pupils had taken the exam, Tong said, making it part of the social fabric of the city and a rite of passage for youngsters.
The youngest candidates this year were two 13-year-olds while the eldest was 65. Some 26,573 pupils were involved with 22 subjects on offer - much fewer than the more than 100,000 in an average year as most were private candidates having another stab for a better grade.
The best performer was a woman who got 4 As and 3 Bs, followed by two candidates who obtained 3 As. In all there were 490 As scored this year.
A decades-old annual test each spring, the HKCEE became a symbol of the city's exam-focused education system.
Since 1978, when the authority took over the exam from the government, more than a million personnel, as well as thousands of schools, had taken part in facilitating the exam, Tong said.
He said some candidates had repeatedly taken the exam to challenge themselves. 'There are people who see it as an intellectual challenge.'
More than 30 candidates who took part in this year's exam also took part in the first 1978 exam.
Started by the colonial government in the 1930s, the exam was an important tool for the government to select the elite for higher education and the civil service.
For many, a full cert (five passes including Chinese and English) usually led to a more comfortable white-collar career.
Most companies in Hong Kong require their office staff to obtain five passes. This year, 536 pupils obtained passes in five subjects.