Hong Kong's students aren't thinking critically and aren't able to clearly express themselves, an opinion recently held by public exam officials.
In the latest report on the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, which was held for the last time this year, and Hong Kong A-levels, the words "narrow-mindedness", "immaturity" and "bad grammar" were frequently used.
One examiner said of the general student performance in the AS (Advanced Subsidiary) level use of English exam that fewer than 5 percent of candidates could write highly accurately. The examiner says the problem affected the "vast majority of candidates" and is one that should be "urgently" addressed.
Chow Ping-yan, chairman of the policy watchdog Education Convergence, agreed the students' inability to demonstrate basic academic skills was a major systemic problem. "It may be the ability of students, but it may also be that there is a problem with the schools," he said.
Chow also pointed out that most of the 20,000 candidates who took this year's HKCEE exam were repeaters trying to better their mark and who studied on their own.
To have examiners declare the vast majority of students cannot write proper English is shocking, but also not surprising. No wonder parents are anxiously putting their children in tutorial schools at whatever cost. They have no trust in the school system, or the government for looking out for the students' best interests. They are Hong Kong's future. The more low-quality the students are, the less chance they have of getting into university or finding a job.
It's the ones who studied overseas who will have a better chance and these few years many are coming back and easily getting jobs, particularly those requiring strong English for speaking and writing. Where does that leave those born and raised in Hong Kong? It also means expatriates continue to have jobs in Hong Kong, making it harder to keep jobs domestically.
What's even more appalling is to find that even mathematics was not a strong subject, as those who took the HKCEE exam were found to lack understanding of fundamental concepts such as percentages.
What happened to Hong Kong kids' math skills?
But more importantly it's the ability to think critically that Hong Kong students really need but severely lack. Because of immaturity or sheltered lives, they take things at face value. This combined with the school system that teaches by rote method instead of encouraging children to think outside the box exacerbates the problem. How is the future of Hong Kong going to develop when its young people don't know how to think critically? Is the city going to turn into a mini China and not be able to innovate at all?
One last thing. Form Seven students who took public affairs and liberal studies exams this year failed to understand mainland political theory. For example they did not demonstrate enough knowledge of the "Three Represents" by former President Jiang Zemin.
I'll admit I don't even know what the "Three Represents" is, but apparently it's that the Communist Party should lead China by representing the broad majority of the population, as well as represent advanced culture and productivity.
These kinds of political philosophies are too abstract for students to understand. Even most mainlanders don't really know what the "Three Represents" means.
On this account I'll cut Hong Kong students some slack. But in the meantime they really need to work on fundamental skills or they won't be able to get ahead in this competitive society.