The recent spurt in student suicides is a disquieting reminder of how unhappy some of our students have become.
Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim has played deaf and blind and buried his head in the sand, aside from spouting platitudes, the latest one being “there are always solutions to problems”.
But just because our officials are useless doesn’t mean the youth must succumb to despair.
Our youngsters and their parents must know that having not-so-impeccable academic records or failure to ace the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) or the Pre-S1 exam for secondary school is never the end of the world.
There’s no need to lose any sleep, let alone take one’s life, over paltry issues like academics.
It’s not a sin to be mediocre, nor do we see any proof that our officials are any more cerebral than us and can score better in those obsolescent exams they have obstinately refused to change.
We also want to tell our students: never let your youth slip away in gloom.
Look at all those wage earners and job hunters who start missing their schooldays once they bid farewell to them.
There are so many wonderful things you’re going to miss.
The first thing is that you are allowed to fail in school. You can retake subjects. Extra tutoring and counseling are usually available in universities.
But once you step into the job market, don’t expect employers to show the same patience when job seekers fall over each other for an available post.
By then you will realize how trivial it is to worry about your TSA or mid-term exams. It’s a jungle out there, compared to the placid environment at school.
This is especially true in Hong Kong with its notorious work-life imbalance.
So while you are still in school, learn how to carry the burdens of exams and papers, so that when you go out into the real world, you can handle the harsher demands of society.
Our advice is not to take your academic results too seriously, but you need to be mentally strong before you make a splash into the job market.
Seize all opportunities to make your schooldays longer, let’s say by pursuing a higher degree.
Remember that the share of job hunters with postgraduate level qualification stands at just 6-7 percent of the local manpower supply in recent years. A rewarding investment of time and money, for sure.
There are other fringe benefits that you’ll surely miss as well.
Fancy gadgets offered at a discount, like an iPad that is HK$800 cheaper or a Dell laptop with a HK$1,200 markdown?
There is a student notebook ownership program launched every fall at all local tertiary institutions that cover major brands from Apple to Lenovo.
This is unique in Hong Kong and has long been the envy of young peers elsewhere.
Your student card is also your pass to a wide array of discounts and privileges in town, from MTR’s 50 percent off student travel scheme to discounted concert and exhibition tickets and free admission to most government-run museums and galleries.
A college student can also access all the library resources of the eight publicly-funded universities with the HKALL system, the Hong Kong Academic Library Link, borrow books online and sit back and wait for their timely delivery to your desk.
Ample sports facilities and on-campus medical services from laboratory to dispensary, usually free or charging nominal fees, are another exclusive benefit to our students.
Another thing you’ll surely miss is campus dining.
Hong Kong universities outsource the running of their canteens to catering chains and you can find on campus all major brands such as Café de Coral and Maxim’s.
All items, including fast food and takeaways, are offered at discounted prices.
Starbucks, Pacific Coffee, McDonald’s, Caffe Habitu, Délifrance and similar establishments are also penetrating local campuses.
In fact, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University decided to check diners’ identity after learning that clerks and office workers in Hung Hom and East Tsim Sha Tsui flock to its campus to feast on nice and cheap meals.
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