Hong Kong's education system needs to be tailor-made for students and be inspiring, says Agnes Chan Miling

By staff writer, with additional reporting by Sebastien Raybaud

Singer-turned-writer Agnes Chan Miling says Hong Kong’s outdated education system and rigid university entry requirements need overhaul

By staff writer, with additional reporting by Sebastien Raybaud |

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Agnes Chan Miling is calling for an education minister who is "inspiring".

Hong Kong needs an overhaul of its outdated colonial education system and a minister who is “inspiring, can think out of the box and serve the people”, according to singer-turned-writer Agnes Chan Miling.

Chan said the next education chief should be willing to put in a lot of effort and not be afraid of criticism.

“As [bureau] secretaries, you are not governing people but inspiring them to passionately chase their dreams,” she said.

Chan also called out the civil service for being too “colonial”.

“Our civil servants are very systematic, obedient, smart and have high standards, but we need people who think out of the box, who can’t be replaced by robots,” she said.

Chan said the issue would affect Hong Kong’s competitiveness, adding that the city’s education system should be tailor-made for every child so they can find their paths.

Regarding admissions, Chan said Hong Kong universities could consider college entrance examinations as an alternative to the Diploma of Secondary Education exams – taken by the majority of local students – such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) or the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), along with interviews and a mini thesis.

The current system does not particularly favour students. “The current system is very competitive and doesn’t cater for the interests of students that want to study abroad and pursue different fields that most local schools don’t offer. A good example is religious and ethics studies,” says HKU student Joy Pamnani, 18.

Joy would like to see different university entry requirements. “Different types of exams are good, and an interview and mini thesis would help expose youngsters to the requirements of university. I think students should also be assigned to do more coursework, so their marks can be split between exams and coursework. Not everything should be determined by the exam,” Pamnani adds.

City University student Ruby Leung, 20, agrees with Joy. “If they can afford it, who wouldn’t want to give the IB or the SAT a try? But IB is only offered in private schools. I do think the SAT would be an indicator because it can be taken several times. I suggest the government offers the DSE twice a year for students who did not do well enough the first time.

As for university admissions, Leung feels the government should be more flexible and amend the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), the application system for local Hong Kong universities. “If students have to write an essay for every subject they are interested in, it would be stressful. An interview would give a more holistic approach, but it seems universities in Hong Kong are too lazy to interview local students who apply through JUPAS,” Leung says.

Edited by Andrew McNicol