20 October 2018
Scholarism's Wong Chi-fung (center) denies being offered a conditional place at Chinese University. Photo: HKEJ
Scholarism's Wong Chi-fung (center) denies being offered a conditional place at Chinese University. Photo: HKEJ

Who will give Joshua Wong a ticket to university?

Intellect is much more than academic — just ask Chief Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung who suggested that his popularity is much lower than that of his predecessor because Cambridge law graduate Wong Yan-lung is much smarter.

Alas, though, popularity is no guarantee of a good academic record. Consider the case of Scholarism’s Joshua Wong Chi-fung. 

The results of high school exams come out next month and we hear that some of Joshua Wong’s schoolmates fear that his scores might not be good enough to get him into university. One described his prospects as a “marginal pass with hope.”

But one newspaper reported this week that things were not so bleak because he’d been given a conditional offer by Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)’s government and public administration department. Conditional offers are a way of getting into university before places are handed out based on exam results.

Joshua Wong denied the report and any suggestion that he had jumped the educational queue. 

All this would be a moot point had his academic record been as strong as his popularity. Then the 18-year-old would have sailed into what would be a perfect training ground for a young rising political star.

So how could this articulate young man, who features in a documentary by British filmmaker Matthew Torne earlier this year, have a lackluster school result?

Obviously he spent too much time on social movements, most notably the anti-national education campaign which dragged on for months. He also has dyslexia and may be busy dating.

Or it is the local education system to blame because bright youngsters like Joshua Wong may be stuck, if not struck out, by creative writing exam topics like this year’s “A Necessary Silence”.

We wonder how well would our education officials do on such exams — especially Education Bureau chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim, who was marked down heavily this month in a survey of Hong Kong teachers.

Bad exam results are not the end of the world and there are many examples of bright students going on after screwing up in tests. Entrepreneur Chan Yik-hei, dubbed “Son of the Star” for his robot innovations, was given a free pass into the University of Science and Technology despite failing both English and Chinese and not managing to get even a C in mathematics and computing. 

So, whether he takes it not, should a similar university exemption be granted to Joshua Wong? He is universally seen as a smarter teen than chief executives Leung Chun-ying, a Polytechnic building surveying diploma holder, pharmacy sales trainee Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, and even Tung Chee-hwa, a marine civil engineering graduate of Liverpool University.

It’s all a matter of politics. The local paper that broke the story of Joshua Wong’s Chinese University conditional offer also quoted a certain pro-establishment campaigner challenging the ethics of giving out conditional offers, and another old hand demanding to know why students better than Wong were not accepted. Chinese University declined to comment on the report, saying that it was only speculation.

Now, would someone at Stanford University — or even Tsinghua University — be smart enough to offer a place to save the kid from any embarrassment?

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EJ Insight writer

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