Students who sat the university entrance examination this year have every reason to feel proud. They have endured extraordinary hardship since last summer – class disruptions, delays and cancellations, stringent health measures at examination halls, and disputes over a controversial question in a history paper. Yet many managed to perform well in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) tests. Regardless of their individual scores, they are all achievers and deserve congratulations. The pressure and inconvenience facing students amid prolonged social unrest and a pandemic can only be imagined. Some 50,000 candidates had to put up with online learning – often at irregular intervals – badly affected study routines and repeatedly adjusted exam arrangements. While there were those who felt distressed and helpless, others stayed positive and rose to the challenge. The online release of results yesterday may have even made the occasion less eventful, with youngsters unable to gather and share their joy or sorrow with schoolmates and teachers. Although there were only seven top scorers compared with 12 last year, it is hard to say whether the adverse conditions are reflected in this performance. However, students must have been relieved to learn that competition for subsidised university programmes is not as keen as before. A total of 18,572, or 37 per cent of candidates, achieved the minimum requirement for the 15,000 first-degree places, compared to 19,676 and 21,205 over the past two years. Some say they will opt for studying overseas, referring to the gloomy situation in the city over the past year. But many more will stay. Number of Hong Kong students meeting DSE exam requirements takes tumble Admittedly, the road ahead will not be easy, be it in search of work or further study. But having gone through challenging times, such as the Occupy protests in 2014 as well as the current political and health crises, students have come out far stronger. The lesson is also one for the wider public. Students’ perseverance and ability to survive one of the most testing exams in years has shed light on how the wider community can cope with adversity. With will and skill, nothing is insurmountable. As in the past, Hong Kong will once again pass with flying colours.