Sarah Lee Wai-sze among sports stars winning a chance to shine in the classroom
A fresh batch of athletes has been admitted to a part-time bachelor's degree programme that will allow them to pursue their studies while juggling commitments in competitive sports.
Seven athletes have started university life at the Institute of Education in an alternative tertiary education programme, having left the classroom for the sports field years ago.
Among them is cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, 26, who won a bronze medal at the Olympic Games in London last year.
Institute president Stephen Cheung Yan-leung said high scores in the Diploma of Secondary Education should not be the only criterion for enrolment.
"We should give a chance to students who have devoted themselves to areas such as sports and music instead of the DSE," he said. "In the past we did not have enough educational resources but now the city is doing much better financially. Young people like these athletes deserve a chance."
The students are doing a Bachelor of Health Education, a two-year, part-time course that allows them to arrange classes around their training.
"Students can graduate as long as they complete 10 courses," HKIEd associate vice-president Joanne Chung Wai-yee said.
"We will give them the course timetable for the coming two years at the beginning of the first semester and they are free to choose the courses that meet their training schedule."
Still, the system was not diverse enough to offer options for those who put sports over studies, Cheung said.
Karate exponent Li Pui-ki dropped out of a full-time bachelor programme at Tung Wah College last year before she applied for the HKIEd.
"The Tung Wah programme required me to take seven courses a semester," she said.
"I found it hard to spend one day a week on campus because of my training."
Institute associate vice-president Joanne Chung Wai-yee said students such as Li could catch up through online learning channel Moodle. They also could extend their studies beyond two years.
Li said she was grateful to the HKIEd.
"They are willing to offer us a chance despite our previous poor academic performance," she said.
Three-time Olympic swimmer Hannah Wilson, who is not part of the programme, said it was hard for students to get support from schools when academic results were so highly valued.
The institute has enrolled 16 athletes in the part-time programme since 2010.