A few days ago, one of the prompts for the DSE Chinese Paper 4 (Speaking) asked: Which “taste” would you use to describe the lives of Hong Kong senior secondary school students?
Immediately I imagined that the majority of students would have said “bitter”. This is in no way a surprise, especially given the number of students committing suicide recently. To a large extent, this shows that a lot of Hong Kong students feel extremely pressured and burdened under the Hong Kong education system. Studying under this system, they become disenchanted with what life offers.
In particular, as the main task for senior secondary students is to face the public exam, pressure further accumulates. The DSEs are often regarded as the only way to get into universities, so students know that there are no other options except to pass and do well in the exams. This adds immense pressure to students who feel that they have to “go big or go home”, with their future resting on the DSE results. In addition, having to rush through the syllabus of 4 core subjects and 2 to 3 elective subjects in just 3 years undeniably leads to an increasing workload, more extra lessons and less rest and relaxation for students.
Life indeed looks extremely “bitter” and miserable for students. Where’s the fun, and where has the passion gone? But the thing is – can their entire senior secondary school life be only described as such?
True, the DSEs are challenging, but secondary school life is not wholly dominated by it. For example, what about the fun times when you and your classmates performed in school talent shows? What about all the extra-curricular activities and doing the things you like to do, like singing in the choir, swimming or debating? What about simply eating out with your friends, gossiping, taking silly pictures on Snapchat and talking about nonsensical things? Sometimes when you think about it, secondary school is really the place where you will find true friends: one who always supports you when you meet a stumbling block, one who always makes you laugh even though you don’t feel like it, one who lends you a shoulder to cry on every time you feel sad, one who offers you advice when you have nowhere to turn to.
Every time you think about giving up, think of all the wonderful people you have encountered, think of all the beautiful memories you have shared, and you will realise that life is not as “bitter” as you think – there are so many things deserving to be treasured and preserved.
If I had to answer this question, I would have used “spicy” to describe the lives of Hong Kong senior secondary school students. Sometimes when things are too spicy it can be very painful and a lot of people who cannot stand hotness will shed tears as a result. This is a metaphor for the extreme challenges brought by the DSEs, which students may find unbearable. However, not all spices are that extreme in taste. Yes, the DSEs are a challenge, but sometimes a challenge is not a bad thing: it allows us to understand ourselves better and it toughens us up in the face of future trials and tribulations. Furthermore, it allows us to realise that there are people and things around us who keep adding excitement to our lives, and they are the ones who remind us that there are always something in life worth fighting for.