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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 5:35pm
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Fewer Hong Kong teens expect to complete university

More 15-year-olds in Singapore and South Korea believe they will go on to complete university

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 April, 2013, 3:57pm

Less than half of 15-year-olds in Hong Kong expect to complete a university education, compared with more than 80 per cent of their peers in South Korea, a study shows.

The city also trails rival Singapore, where more than seven in 10 youngsters expect to graduate.

The figures raise questions about the quality of Hong Kong's workforce in an increasingly knowledge-based environment.

Academics at Chinese University will use the figures, compiled in 2009 from a Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), to keep track of how pupils progress under the new secondary school curriculum and how their career choices are affected.

The study found that 47.2 per cent of Hong Kong pupils thought they would finish a university education, compared with 80.9 per cent in South Korea and 70.1 per cent in Singapore.

Only 18 per cent of students in the city gain admission to publicly funded universities, compared with more than 80 per cent in South Korea. Taiwan's admission rate, in theory, is 100 per cent, while Singapore is 26 per cent.

Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said Hong Kong's admission rate could increase to 30 per cent because of the decline in the number of young people and he hoped it could be pushed up to 40 per cent in five years.

But he conceded: "The low rate must have an effect on Hong Kong's competitiveness, when we are talking about building a knowledge economy."

The Hong Kong figure rose to 51 per cent in a 2012 test, which showed that students with higher socio-economic backgrounds were more optimistic. Some 81.1 per cent from the top 10 per cent group expected to finish university, compared with 34.8 per cent for the lowest 10 per cent.

About 4,500 15-year-olds took part in the test last year, and researchers from PISA's Hong Kong centre and Chinese University will follow 3,500 of them over the next three years.

Professor Esther Ho Sui-chu, of the university's department of educational administration and policy, said the financial burden on poorer families could explain the low expectations.

"If they don't even dare to expect to go to university, how can they put much effort into their studies?" she said.

Ip agreed the low university admission rate was a major factor among student expectations.

"The students are thinking practically," he said. "The banding system plays a part, too. By grouping students of different levels into different schools, there might be an atmosphere in poorer schools where students think they have little chance."

Ho said Hong Kong should go in the direction of adding university places.

"But it's difficult to say how many is enough. We lack research and planning. It's not that the more young people entering university the better. The government could invest in education programmes that suit the city's development as well."

*Correction: The graphic in an earlier version cited City University of Hong Kong as the source. The data is from Chinese University of Hong Kong.


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why would they? their monster parents already have their future all mapped and planned out, apartments in their names, millions in bank accounts... i have to work part time when i was 12 and i thought that was cool, i'm so jealous

Another question: does HK produce enough jobs for uni-grads??? South Korea may have 80% of its kids graduate from university but a bulk of them don't make it into chaebols and end up making coffee and clipping burgers. Let's focus on demand-side employment issues first.
You bet they don't expect to complete university.
They are so tempted to be a mobile phone sales, retail sales or property agent that is Hong Kong future.
Or they are lucky enough to have a dolce vita thanks to their wealthy parents who has earn a lot thanks to the latter.
The term 'university education' is ill-defined, and totally useless generally, and today, and bad for a survey because it does not ask a question relevant to the reality. 'Obtaining a degree' would be much nearer the expectation and achievable of tens of thousands of the young in Hong Kong. Simply put, going Ft to university is not the main mode of obtaining a degree in Hong Kong.
Extrapolating the 'expectation' count to raise alarm about future workforce in Hong Kong is bovine because 'expectation' has very little relationship to the reality in HK.
Facts: there was officially only Full-time places in Universities for 18% of the age group in 2003, but I suspect the real figure in FT study is more now.
But tens of thousands are in programmes offered by 28 post-secondary institutions leading to top-up, overseas-partnership or other types of degrees by part-time, extension, distance learning, mixed and other modes.
We have not counted the 70,000 to 80,000 Hong Kong students studying overseas mostly for degrees.
The fact is the low expectation recorded for 15 year olds in the survey is totally irrelevant.It badly shortchanges and under-rates the resolve of the adult Hongkonger to get a degree. It cannot predict the education level of our future workforce.
It is pathetic that the Legco Rep for Education was groping for higher figures to make it sound like the workforce will be fine, by saying the size of the age group is falling so the % will be higher - laughable.
What do you need University education for? You inherit money from your wealthy parents and increase that wealth by property speculating. Sad but True! So much for sarcasm!
Agree with some of the comments below, there is not much knowledge based industries, nor jobs for University graduates in HK. Even a new graduate of Law or Medicine will find rents in HK so prohibitively high to start up his own practice!
@johnyuan: Excellent points. If anything is obscene, the elitist stratification of our education system acts in contrary to the social harmony that is supposedly so prized. It is time to phase out this dinosaur of the colonial past.
@raglan: I’m with you here when you question whether Hong Kong generates enough jobs that require a university education. For all the talk of knowledge based economy, it seems that most of Hong Kong’s jobs have little need for a university education. This is reflected in the depressed wages for fresh university graduates as well as the job descriptions for entry level positions. There needs to be a dedicated initiative to create new knowledge based industries, otherwise university education is but an expensive luxury for many.
No place in the world runs as complicated education ‘system’ as in Hong Kong. A common thread that pierces through the different type of schools in Hong Kong is of a system that divides and stratifies students in accordance to degree of elitism which one time divided into 5 grades. After a long study by the Education Department in response to injustice done to lower graded students and schools, 3 grades become the new stratification. While it is a colonial culture (divide and conquer), parents and graduates of Hong Kong of elite schools out of protecting the elite status refuse any education reform. Only god’s intervention would ever right what fundamentery a colonial and discriminatory way of governance that predetermines what fate Hong Kong children must follow. The low esteem about oneself among the teens not to pursue higher education is inevitable.
Wouldn't make much of a difference whether HK youths complete University or not..........by the time they reach their teens, HK's monster parents would have already created a bunch of youths who think too highly of themselves and that no jobs are good enough for them because the parents already give them everything...........why bother going to university when you don't earn anything?..............I really wonder when HK's parents will wake up and stop creating a new generation of monsters..........this is HK's big problem.
Out universities are ranked number 1, 3 and 4 in Asia ( including HKUT, HkCU and HKU) above Korean, Japan, singapore and China. But ironically we don't have innovation of major industries like Samsung, Toyata, Sony, Cannon, etc. etc. if you look at our stock exchange, not even one single major companylisted in HK are made in HK in the past 10 years. Rather if you look at Facebook, Google, and many many are listed recently. There is a big misrepresentation there unless you don't tie economy to academic success. Take a look at the methodology of the ranking you probably know why. What I'm trying to say is Hk is behind very much in knowledge based economy and yet we are too complacent.


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