Insight: university doesn't have to be the ultimate goal for students
With the new 334 academic structure in place, let's ponder how the future of our young people can be brighter.
Since most of our secondary school students have to sit the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam and only a few will get a university place, what should we do to help the rest maintain hope and strive for advancement to reach their potential and exploit their individuality, for their own benefit and that of society?
It is gladdening to hear two measures from the chief executive's latest policy address that are closely related to this: first, there will be money for schools to engage extra hands so that teachers will have more time to help students with life and career planning, and second, the career guidance team within the Education Bureau will be expanded to provide more support. These are steps in the right direction but their success will depend on implementation. Money is not as valuable as extra teaching posts for schools, but it's better than nothing.
To maximise the intended effects, there must be adequate guidelines and help for the schools to establish more life and career planning for their students. Suitable teaching materials and aptitude tests or other assessment tools also need to be made available for schools. Teachers in charge of such functions need training to learn about, say, multiple human intelligences and the range of possibilities for development.
Career counselling skills are, of course, essential, too. All sorts of information on career or academic opportunities, if collected, categorised and disseminated could greatly help career counselling teachers in schools. Helping each student devise a sound individualised career plan should be an ideal for all. If students can see what is possible and how they might make a plan to attain their goals, they may see greater hope and also better roles in society. This will keep them more motivated at school.
The good work on the qualifications framework should continue, expand and deepen in the belief that every citizen can make a greater contribution to society if they can improve their knowledge and skill levels.
If parents understand that there are many routes to academic success and career advancement for their children, other than direct entry to university, they would not put as much unnecessary pressure on their children to excel academically. If parents ease up in this regard, schools might have more room to explore different learning opportunities for students, instead of joining the blind race to get as many into university as they can.
Increasing the number of first-degree and articulation places for associate degree holders, as has been flagged in the latest policy address, is another good move.
The government should discreetly continue its effort along these lines and see that various institutions are also in place and their programmes strengthened to provide young people with all sorts of vocational training at post-secondary level - even at senior secondary levels for the few who really cannot make it through a grammar school-type education.
Of course, our economy needs to develop new niches and provide more jobs if young people are to fully exploit their potential.
Robin Cheung Man-biu is a retired school principal