Mr. Shangkong

From child to adult, the need to study never seems to end

Three education-related events this past weekend highlight the choices that we all must make as we struggle and seek to provide for our lives

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 3:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 June, 2014, 7:51am

For many people, the past weekend was about one thing - education. I am not talking only about the annual national college entrance exam on the mainland where even if you get a college degree, you can't stop studying completely.

Two other education events occurred. One was at the junior level and involved how to win a place for a child in a well-known primary school in Hong Kong - ideally, one not too far from their homes or they may spend hours on the road before they can even sit in their classrooms.

If you saw how many parents queued at primary schools early Saturday morning, you would know that education in Hong Kong is hardly a happy story.

While the Hong Kong media focused on the primary school story over the weekend, the other more challenging education story was largely ignored. Did you know nearly 150,000 candidates for the Chartered Financial Analyst qualification sat for the 2014 CFA exams at different locations around the world at the weekend?

To have a family member get into college is ... the last hope for the family to change its destiny

Many of them have ambitions of high-flying jobs in the financial services industry, such as research analysts at major investment banks with starting salaries at around US$100,000 a year. Perhaps they are seeking more senior jobs - such as chief financial officer - whose annual incomes could easily reach several million Hong Kong dollars.

In Hong Kong, more than 6,000 candidates took the Level 1, 2, and 3 exams for CFA qualifications on Saturday. On the mainland, the number of applicants was far larger - more than 25,000 - making it the biggest participant in terms of the origin of CFA candidates, or about 17 per cent of all CFA exam takers worldwide, according to the CFA Institute, the organiser of the exams.

The number of people taking the CFA exam is also an indicator of the health of the financial job market. Industry insiders say when the job market isn't doing well, you will see more people taking the exams.

That was what happened during the 2008 global financial crisis.

Many financial workers lost their jobs so they decided to become CFAs and some studied for their MBA degrees. Some headhunters may argue which qualification is more important - a CFA or MBA. The general impression taken from employers in recent years is that perhaps there are already too many MBAs.

On the mainland, it was not just about CFA exams on the weekend. The much bigger and nationwide test is the national college entrance exam, which is widely known as a life-changing event for many families and students.

In rural areas, to have a family member get into college is seen as the last hope for the whole family to change its destiny. More than nine million high school students sat for the college exams over the weekend.

After the exam, some of them will go to universities and others will go to vocational schools - or just throw themselves into society to learn how to survive in the tough job market. Those who are admitted by universities will soon realise their degrees are not the end of their education stories. Eventually, some of them may try the CFA or other exams too.


George Chen is the financial editor and a columnist at the Post. Mr. Shangkong appears every Monday in print and online. Follow @george_chen on Twitter or visit