DSE 2022: Hong Kong students with visual impairments reveal challenges of studying for university entrance exams

  • Wong Tsz-shing, who hopes to become a social worker, used special equipment to read revision materials and studied extra hours to keep up with classmates
  • Meanwhile, Keung Sum-wai relied on tablets to prepare for her exams, saying she aims to become a kindergarten teacher
Kelly Fung |

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Wong Tsz-shing and Keung Sum-wai from the Ebenezer School showcase their DSE results. Photo: KY Cheng

As students across Hong Kong received the results of their university entrance exams on Wednesday, Wong Tsz-shing recalls waking up one time at 4am to study with his friends before school started.

The 18-year-old, who has albinism, a lifelong genetic disorder that leads to low vision and restricts the body from producing melanin, said he used a special camera placed above his computer monitor to zoom in line by line on the past papers he studied for this year’s Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams.

“Now, even though I look at my report card on the desk, I cannot read anything,” said Wong, who has 10 per cent vision.

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The student from Ebenezer School, for pupils with visual disabilities, achieved a total score of 27 points with a 5* in Chinese History and an A in Japanese from the “Other Language Subjects” category in his Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams.

The DSE is scored on a scale of seven levels. The highest mark is 5**, while the lowest is level 1.

But Wong said achieving such a score took a lot of hard work and long hours of studying.

“It takes me so much longer to revise everything I need to … and it is very exhausting for me to read the past papers, which I need to enlarge the text on my computer or iPad,” he added.

Keung Sum-wai (left) and Wong Tsz-shing from the Ebenezer School pose with the Closed Circuit Magnifier that helps them study. Photo: KY Cheng

“While my friends were playing around or had already finished their revision, I was always revising until late at night.”

Almost every day since he was in Form Two, Wong said, he would start revising at around 9am and continue studying his learning materials until midnight – all because of his aspiration to become a social worker.

“Growing up, I’ve received a lot of help from people around me, including schoolteachers and my parents … who have provided me with learning resources and emotional support. So I really hope to become a social worker to help others,” he said, adding that he planned to go to Chinese University (CUHK) to study social work.

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Wong was among the city’s 3,218 students with special educational needs (SEN) who were provided alternative arrangements for their written examinations this year, according to the city’s exam authority.

But Wong said he wasn’t always a high-achieving student. When he was in Form One, he struggled with exams and ranked second to last in a class of about 30 students, he noted.

“I failed a lot of subjects and I was distressed about my poor performance,” he said, adding it was his social worker who “pulled him out” of his own darkness when he was in junior form.

The students used special equipment to read and study past exam papers. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

“The social worker has done a lot for me. When I felt lost, he would talk to me to help me comb through my thoughts, and he would invite me to take part in different activities so I can take a break from my studies.”

Citing his social worker as a source of inspiration, Wong said he aspires to take up the same role and offer help to teenagers.

“I went through the stages of confusion when you need to decide on your study path in Form Six. So I hope to encourage and take care of those in need,” he said.

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Asked if he had any words for fellow classmates, the student said: “Always remember why you started and your goals in life.”

“I also want to remind myself to be a social worker who does what is right … and someone who never forgets his aspirations.”

Another student from Ebenezer School, Keung Sum-wai, explained how she relied on tablets and other special tools to prepare for her exams.

“I would ask my teachers to give me a soft copy of past papers, so I could do them on my tablet,” the 18-year-old said, adding that she and other students with visual impairments rely on special equipment to read what is written on the blackboard in the classroom.

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“I know I need to work harder than most people … so I wanted to give my best,” she said.

Keung, who achieved a total of 20 points on the DSE, will pursue Early Childhood Education at the Education University of Hong Kong with the goal of becoming a teacher in a local kindergarten. Though she understands it is no easy feat for a visually-impaired person, her passion for the job has never faded.

“I want to become a teacher who can be remembered by young children and be a good part of their memories,” she said.

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