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Why are Hong Kong universities dashing the dreams of so many young people?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 11:04am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 September, 2018, 11:03am

For decades, the admission rates of Hong Kong universities have been kept at an extraordinarily low level. To the lucky ones, successful admission into university is a status symbol. However, for most young people, their hopes for a university education are largely dashed.

Around 15,000 students are admitted annually into local universities. This accounts for fewer than 30 per cent of the secondary school students who sit the Diploma of Secondary Education exam.

Hong Kong’s admission rate lags behind that of some of our neighbouring cities. In Singapore, for example, more than 30 per cent of every cohort of students enter a local university, and the target is to raise it to 40 per cent by 2020. How long will Hong Kong’s outdated elitist approach to university education continue?

As an international city, Hong Kong needs talents of different kinds, and universities are the best place for incubating new ideas and innovation. In fact, international assessments like the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) have time and again clearly shown that Hong Kong students do extremely well in mathematics, science and reading. So why shouldn’t we offer more university places for them?

What’s next for DSE students after exam results?

Another issue regarding local university admission is the “3322” minimum entrance requirement. Currently, the minimum requirement is a level 3 in both Chinese and English language, and a level 2 in mathematics and liberal studies. As three of these four DSE core subjects are heavily language-loaded, some students are excluded from university education even though they excel in non-core elective subjects or other non-language-loaded subjects. This lack of flexibility and neglect of special talents should be properly addressed.

In the long run, the local public schools and DSE system will be greatly undermined if nothing is done to remedy the worsening situation.

Michael Wong Wai Yu, honorary executive secretary, The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools