My Take

Straight-A to a straight-A life for four Hong Kong high achievers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 October, 2015, 2:17am
UPDATED : Friday, 16 October, 2015, 2:17am

There is no dispute that Hong Kong students are great scholastic achievers. Just look at our results in international studies like the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

This is, however, always followed by a conditional "but": But, people ask, are they creative independent thinkers? Since creativity is a vague term, it's a challenge to decide one way or another if you have not already taken a dogmatic stance about Hong Kong's education system.

But a recent profile of four straight-A students by the Post in the now-defunct Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination show at least in their case, their results were a pretty good predictor of future success. Now you may think the sample size is too small to mean anything. But then, there aren't many straight-A students in HKCEE anyway. In some years, there was not a single such student. So those four, picked randomly, are not completely unrepresentative.

One studied business at university, joined Goldman Sachs and later started his own charity to recruit top university graduates to teach at underprivileged schools.

A second one went straight to the University of Hong Kong's medical school and became a cardiothoracic surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

A third one won a full scholarship to study electrical engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. He later pursued laser engineering at graduate school and eventually took a PhD in biomedical image processing. That landed him a job with the bio-tech giant Amgen in the US.

But I am saving the most interesting one for last. In 1995, Chow Shing-yuk became the first student from the New Territories to score straight As in HKCEE.

After earning a degree in economics, he became a professional gambler in Macau for eight years, playing only "Texas hold 'em", a type of poker that requires more skill than luck. He earned enough money to start EasyVan, a kind of Uber for goods delivery vans in Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore and Taipei.

Many people who never have to struggle under the local system tend to knock it. But its competitiveness does produce many high achievers, not just in grades, but in life.