Pupils enter race for university places
Leo Tang Cheuk-fung is among the last generation of Hongkongers to take the A-Level examinations. But he is too busy hitting the books to think about that.
Over the next couple of months, the 19-year-old, who attends a government secondary school in Ma On Shan, will join about 40,000 other Form Seven students sitting the exams.
A-Levels will be replaced next year as the main path to university by the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE), which 70,000 Form Six pupils will sit for the first time this year.
The Education Bureau has said there will be more than 100,000 tertiary education places available to secondary-school graduates this year. But only 18 per cent of them will be able to secure places in local universities, government figures show.
To prepare for five exams, Tang has been looking into the exam archives and familiarising himself with the questions that have been asked in the past five years.
The effort has already paid off. At his Chinese A-level oral exam last Thursday, Tang was quizzed on 'whether teachers should stay neutral when discussing issues that involve politics with students'.
'If you look back, there have been more questions like this since 2007,' he said.
There's still a long way for Tang to go; the A-Level written exams begin on Friday.
Tang said he was less concerned about his results than what his next step will be. He expects to pass all his subjects but he wonders if they will be good enough to secure one of the 15,000 university places reserved for Form Seven graduates. Another 15,000 places are open to the first batch of diploma graduates.
'I am not too confident about what to do after my exam,' he said.
'If you can't get right into university, you need to compete with so many people for other programmes.'
Tang has already applied to Hong Kong universities as well as several Taiwanese universities in the hope of studying geography.
Over in Ngau Tau Kok, Marco Ho Ching-hin, 17, is preparing for his HKDSE exams, which start on March 28.
Ho said he was feeling quite relaxed about the upcoming Chinese-language papers, but he was more worried about the exams for English and liberal studies, a new subject.
'I was told that we should use some jargon to score better if we are asked questions about our personal development,' he said as he leafed through notes on the theories of American developmental psychologist Erik Erikson.
Ho hopes to study economics, but his family cannot afford to send him for study overseas if he does not secure a place at a local university.
Social worker Kwok Man-fong, from the Hok Yau Club counselling service, said the supply of university-degree places remained inadequate.
He said the club had received more than 200 calls for advice since September, most of them from people seeking information about career and study pathways.