Students displayed their writing skills and creativity with essays on education, tourism and new business ventures in a contest. The Creative Essay Competition 2000, part of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Education Programme sponsored by America Online (HK), aimed to promote insight, vision and creativity among tertiary students in the face of new challenges in the 21st century. This year a record-breaking 220 students took part in the competition, submitting a total of 140 essays. There were three topics for participants to choose from. The first topic was opinions on the proposals put forward by the Education Commission to improve the education system; the second topic was how to make Hong Kong a more popular destination for international holidaymakers; and the third was a business proposal to draw venture capital. The contestants were judged according to their creativity, analytical power and writing skills. 'I was surprised when I found out that we came second. There was fierce competition and we only spent two to three weeks on the essay,' said Ho Kim-fai, a third year physics ma jor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Teammate Au Yeung Ka-man, a business major, said: 'We owe a great deal to our teachers and professors who gave us valuable advice and help. They spent a lot of time teaching us how to write a good business proposal.' The duo's winning essay was a business plan to provide back- up services for small- to medium-sized e-commerce firms. The judging panel comprised Secretary for Education and Manpower Joseph Wong Wing- ping; Lingnan University president Professor Edward Chen Kwan-yiu; Central Policy Unit head Dr Edgar Cheng Wai-kin, and Hong Kong Economic Journal chief editor Chiu Hsiang- chung. 'This year's participants came up with some very creative and high-quality work,' said Mr Wong. 'For example, one of the essays pointed out the drawbacks of our education system, saying it is too examination-oriented and kills students' creativity. It offered some good suggestions on how educators can help students strike a balance between their interests and their studies.' Professor Chen, who has also been a judge for the past two years, said the essays had shown marked improvement. 'Participants displayed greater creativity, but more detailed analysis is needed for the business proposals.'