Hong Kong students choosing sub-degree courses are not ‘losers’, but realists
With the date for the release of Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Exam results fast approaching, parents and students might be starting to prepare for admission to tertiary education, searching frantically for information, tips and advice on how best to enter their preferred degree programmes.
In reality, only about 18 per cent of the Form Six graduates would secure a degree offer, meaning that a vast majority of students would have to decide on whether to further their studies or join the workforce.
Sub-degree programmes are often showcased as a safe haven for graduates with mediocre results, but their value is often called into question, due to the large number of higher diploma and associate degree programmes available on the market.
But, in fact, they provide students with an alternative route to University Grants Committee or non-UGC degree programmes; as stand-alone qualifications, they equip students with the credentials needed for the job market.
Since the launch of such programmes almost two decades ago, however, there has been growing concern about the extent of recognition of associate degree and higher diploma programmes by employers and tertiary institutes.
As far as I know, all sub-degree programmes have to go through very stringent academic accreditation before they are run, but the prevailing public perception, that these programmes are second-best, remains.
For instance, schoolteachers, though equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitude needed, often have a hard time trying to persuade Form Six students with average results – and their parents – to consider applying for sub-degree programmes, as children don’t want to be labelled “losers”. Many live in denial and would rather choose to retake the HKDSE.
As a front-line teacher, I have witnessed a student taking the public exam three times to get into university via the Joint University Programmes Admission System, to no avail. By contrast, another student who graduated in the same year worked her way up from her higher diploma studies to UGC-degree graduation.
Sub-degree programmes undoubtedly give students with so-so public exam results an alternative pathway to further their studies, but it takes the efforts of the government, schools, teachers and parents to help students see the value of such programmes.
A host of quality-control measures introduced by the government is a step in the right direction in terms of boosting parents’ and students’ confidence in them.
I also call on parents and students to be realistic when deciding what path to take for post-secondary education. A careful consideration of students’ abilities, interest and career aspirations should be made, to make an informed decision that benefits them career-wise in the long run.
Jason Tang, Tin Shui Wai