There has been much heated debate regarding Hong Kong's new secondary school curriculum.
One education expert said that the rationale behind the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education is to help youngsters acquire a range of abilities as a basis to plan their future instead of being a gateway to university. I certainly agree that the conventional mentality of flocking to universities is wrong.
A lot of people have succeeded in their careers without degrees. For example, Apple founder Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, who created Facebook, dropped out of college. So who can say that university is the only key to success?
Just because a person has a degree it does not mean he or she is better than someone who did not study at university. Some professions, especially those in the service industries, require a good work attitude and confidence. These qualities can only be observed through employees' work performance, rather than academic achievements. Moreover, the qualities that some occupations need are hard to teach. For instance, artists and designers depend on creativity and innovation and a university degree may not be what they need.
How many ordinary school students can be like the exceptional people I have described?
The new curriculum has yet to prove its effectiveness in developing students' abilities. I am in the second batch of diploma candidates and I honestly cannot see how the system will help us to become mature and responsible young adults developing our own unique talents. We are still reduced to studying according to the syllabus.
The crux of the problem is the unshakeable mindset of society. Will an employer hire a university graduate or an associate degree holder with an equally good work attitude? The mentality that a university degree amounts to a promising future is deeply ingrained in Hong Kong society. Parents and teachers place too much emphasis on getting to university. With stiff competition from young adults from all over the world, especially the mainland, a bachelor's degree is almost a must for job-seekers.
For the education reforms to succeed, the Education Bureau must make the system less exam-oriented, so pupils have more time to develop their talents. As long as the public mindset remains unchanged, universities will still be the dream of all students.
Only when the new secondary school curriculum accurately reflects youngsters' abilities in different aspects will they attach less value to university degrees.
Catherine Lee Ka-wing, Fanling