Hong Kong DSE exam history maker Thomas Wong, 18, aspires to be a doctor and promises not to ‘get conceited’
La Salle College student scores 5** in eight subjects, while five other boys – including three from St Paul’s Co-educational College – and three girls achieve top mark in seven subjects
An 18-year-old Hongkonger who made history on Wednesday by scoring the top mark of 5** for eight subjects in the city’s secondary school graduation exams has revealed plans for a career in medicine and said he would not become “conceited”.
Thomas Wong Tsz-hang of La Salle College promised to stay humble and keep striving, despite his never before achieved feat in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam.
“I feel that I cannot get conceited with these grades and they do not guarantee I will be very successful in life. I will continue to work hard,” said the youngster, who is deciding between the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University.
The musically-talented Wong, who plays the piano and cello, said he would remain in the city to work after graduating.
“I really like Hong Kong and I am born and bred [here]. I will stay in Hong Kong and serve this society.”
Wong was among 50,447 full-day school candidates getting their result slips on Wednesday for the city’s high-stakes exam that determines whether secondary school leavers can enter university.
He scored top marks in compulsory subjects Chinese, English, mathematics and liberal studies, and in four electives: physics, chemistry, biology, and music. He also achieved a 5** grade in an extended module in mathematics focusing on algebra and calculus.
Five other boys and three girls also passed the exam with flying colours, achieving the top result of 5** in seven subjects. The figure was up from six last year.
Among the youngest candidates sitting the exams was 13-year-old Tsui Man-hung from Buddhist Wong Wan Tin College.
Tsui had studied in mainland China until three years ago, when he enrolled at the Sha Tin school. He skipped several levels to take the DSE exams earlier.
He secured a score of 3 for English and Chinese, 5 in liberal studies, maths and an extended maths module, and 4 for physics.
Tsui said he hoped to get into a civil engineering course at university.
“I spend over 90 per cent of my time studying,” he said. “I have a little bit of exercising time after I wake up at 5.30am, and before I sleep at 9pm.”
St Paul’s Co-educational College in the Mid-Levels produced three of this year’s top scorers – Michael Lam Ching-wang, 18; Bosco Luk Hei, 17; and Hubert Wong Ching-ho, 16 – while the other two top scorers were Andy Shum Ka-ho, 17, of Diocesan Boys’ School in Mong Kok, and Yuen Wai-him, 18, of Queen’s College in Causeway Bay.
Stephanie Leung Tsz-kiu, 18, and Lam Yuet-yee, 17, of Diocesan Girls’ School in Jordan, and Cheris Lee Cheuk-ying, 17, of Good Hope School in Wong Tai Sin, also scored top marks.
The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority announced on Tuesday that just over 42 per cent – or 21,264 of full-day school students taking the DSE exam – made the cut for the 15,000 first-year places in publicly funded degree programmes.
This is higher than the 20,885 last year, making competition for coveted spots in public universities tougher.
Unlike in previous years when the majority of top scorers opted to study medicine, two-thirds of this year’s best performers stated a preference for other subjects, including law and politics.
They also gave their views on politics and social issues, as journalists directed a variety of questions at them in keeping with the annual practice of quizzing top scorers.
La Salle’s Wong backed the pending and controversial legislation to criminalise insulting the national anthem.
“A lot of other countries have similar legislation,” he said. “It’s only going to apply to public spaces, so as long as it doesn’t affect any private property, I think this policy is acceptable.”
Diocesan Girls’ School graduate Leung, whose parents are civil servants, praised Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, but added: “In terms of improving and guarding democracy, the efforts she claimed she would make seem to have resulted in nothing definite.”
Asked if she would become a politician, she said it depended on the local “political environment in the future”.
She has received a conditional offer from Oxford University to study political philosophy.
“As 2047 is approaching like a deadline, I will have to see if there’s still freedom of speech left in Hong Kong when I graduate from university,” Leung said, referring to the year Beijing’s 50-year promise to maintain the city’s way of life under the “one country, two systems” principle expires.
St Paul’s Wong, who is hoping to pursue law at HKU, said a controversial joint rail checkpoint with mainland authorities, which will see immigration and customs officers from north of the border work on Hong Kong soil for the first time, had to some extent violated the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
“The rule of law is a core value of Hong Kong and we have to protect it,” the youngest of the top scorers said.
On the recent release by mainland authorities of Liu Xia, wife of late Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, Wong said: “China can do more on human rights.”
Wong’s schoolmate Lam said he also wanted to study law, and become an advocate for environmental and cultural issues. Meanwhile Luk aimed to pursue a programme in global business at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
Yuen of Queen’s College and Lam of Diocesan Girls said they would pursue medical degrees, with Yuen describing the profession as one that would allow him to give back to society. Lam called for urgent action on improving long queuing times at public hospitals in the city.
Shum from Diocesan Boys said he wanted to become a dentist. Meanwhile, Good Hope School’s Lee hoped to gain admission into HKU’s business and law double degree programme, saying she sought to help the underprivileged in future.
“Since there are quite a lot of unjust situations in society, we need someone to deal with the injustice,” Lee said. “Becoming a lawyer is one of the ways to do so.”
Despite her academic success, Lee believed the city’s education system needed to be improved so that “more opportunities and assistance” could be given to the younger generation.
“A lot of youngsters face tremendous pressure, but they don’t have a way out,” she said.
Asked how he handled the pressure and stress of exams, Shum said he practised the clarinet or piano, or built toy models, while Luk played the harmonica.
Super top scorer Wong described his parents as supportive and taking a “laissez-faire” approach to his education. They would ask if he needed help and remind him to eat regularly, he said.
“Sometimes, just a few words of support are enough.”
On what advice he would give students, he said: “Your DSE results do not guarantee success.
“If you did not get good grades, you don’t need to feel bad. One certificate should not define your life.”
Additional reporting by Erin Chan, Nicola Chan, Evanna Gurung, Zoe Law, Erickson Lee, Joshua Lee, Alice Tse and Mandy Zheng