New school of thought
FOR students who have just completed Form 5 in Hong Kong, the Australian school system offers three important choices.
If their results are not so good, they can choose to go into Year 11 at an Australian secondary school. This will give them the chance of consolidating their learning and their fluency in English in two more years of senior secondary studies.
If they have good results, they can choose to go straight into the final Year 12 to take the Higher Certificate exams (or their equivalent), which will qualify them for higher education.
Or, they can choose the third option of taking a one-year foundation course.
This is a pre-university programme, which directly prepares students for entry into the various undergraduate courses offered by a specified university.
Some foundation programmes are run directly by the university, others are organised in conjunction with other government or private colleges.
Unlike Year 12 in the schooling system in which students prepare for public exams, the equivalent of the Hong Kong A levels, foundation programmes aim to provide an academic bridge between the students' studies in their home countries and the start of their undergraduate studies at an Australian higher education institution.
Although there are no public exams, foundation students must reach a certain pre-determined academic standard before they are offered a place at their chosen university.
Some foundation courses start in October or November and enrolment is still open for courses in 1993.
The successful completion of the foundation course will qualify students to enter their chosen university in time for the start of the July semester.
But foundation courses are not for everyone and many people find their years at an Australian high school rewarding - both academically and personally.
Foundation courses are particularly good for students who have good results. Less confident younger student are better off completing the secondary school option.
Many families in Hong Kong send their children to secondary school in Australia.
Although there are some good schools in Hong Kong and in other countries, increasing numbers of local people are deciding that, for them, Australian schools offer a great deal more.
With their emphasis on young people as individuals who should be encouraged to think, participate and analyse, Australian schools often help pupils to become confident decision-makers, who will be able to make things happen, both in their professional and in personal lives.
As well as having undeniably good academic records and top study facilities, many Australian schools also concentrate on helping their students to develop their personalities.
So that as well as being good scholars, they have the chance to be good sportsmen and women, good team members and good friends.
Many students have returned praising the open spaces of Australia, which form such a contrast from crowded Hong Kong. They have had the chance to be physically active and, on other occasions, the chance to be tranquil and studious.
''I have the time to read, to rest to relax; it is peaceful,'' said one Hong Kong student who enjoyed his year at an Australian secondary school so much that he stayed on for university.
Hong Kong is nearer to Australia than it is to Europe or to North America, and is in a similar time zone.
It is relatively simple to get student visas and, as a student, it is possible to get a work visa to earn extra money.
Australia is a multi-ethnic society and many schools have had years of experience looking after overseas students - particularly from Asia - and can anticipate any potential problems that young people who are living away from their families might have.