Students under pressure as deadline looms on choice of tertiary studies
The weekends over the past month were an exciting time for many senior school students. For some, it was the first time they set foot on university campuses, during the annual open days organised by institutions.
Both public and private universities used the occasion to impress youngsters with their programmes and facilities. All made sure their staff acted as ambassadors, addressing questions from programme admissions criteria, learning activities, the ratio of local and non-local intake, to hall life, a potentially impactful experience which is not necessarily available to everyone in a small place like Hong Kong.
Students have until early December to submit their application to the Joint University Programmes Admission System for up to 20 degree or sub-degree courses at publicly funded institutions.
With the expansion of higher education in Hong Kong over the past decade, students have far more options. Their choices are not restricted to the public sector alone, not to mention the option of going abroad. Last weekend, besides exhibitions and seminars, the private Shue Yan University opened up its multimedia and animation laboratory to the young, an increasing number of whom aspire to university education.
The average 16-year-old can be bewildered by the plethora of study choices available. There is every reason for them to feel excited, but it can also be an anxious experience for those who don't really know what they should do. Even whether or not to study abroad can cause problems. In one family, I was told, the father and the son stopped talking to each other after the father objected to his son's request to go to university in Britain. The "cold war" went on for months until the father gave in.
The issue of choosing what programme to take and where, has become more prominent under the new 3+3+4 academic structure system, where all secondary students are expected to stay in school until they have completed Secondary or Form Six.
Now everyone faces increased pressure as many more students are competing at the same time for entry into higher studies. Naturally, almost all aim high. But the less academically inclined may find it hard to decide what they should do, or whether to study further. The idea of four years of tertiary study may not appeal, yet the fact remains that a degree matters very much at a time of "qualification inflation".
Even clerical jobs are flooded with applications from degree holders these days.
That is why some schools have stepped up career counselling, and teachers have made extra efforts to find out about students' aspirations and interests before offering advice on possible paths. Wider availability of information can also help young people discover the way to go. The average teen may not have an inkling of what he or she is cut out to be, but in a competitive world, early preparations matter.
One can at least find out early in life what makes him or her tick. That should be the basis of any decision on future study plans.
Education has become more important than ever in today's world, but that does not necessarily mean more at degree level, or a degree in popular disciplines. Looking back, being particularly interested in history at school, I opted for social sciences at university, which eventually led to a rewarding journalism career, something I had never envisaged when I was a teen.