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太久之前的,沒作考究。50年代及之後出生的港人,均直接或間接經歷過升中試SSEE,學能測驗AAT,或現在的TSA。這些是全港公費小學生要考的公開試。中學則有會考(俗稱school cert)及近幾年的DSE文憑試。在余的求學過程裡,升中試、會考及其後當時俗稱Matric的人生3個大試都是高比率的淘汰賽。60年代的香港連6年小學也不是全民可以享用的。隨後麥理浩於1978年實施九年免費教育,事隔30年到2008年才再獲提升至12年。今年狼英施政報告唯一的亮點是在明年增加至包括幼稚園的15年,可惜人心苦不足,讚美的聲音不怎麼聽到,傳媒之寵兒卻是那些聲大夾惡的貪得無厭。世界上免費的是教育也好、醫療也好、甚至例如食物銀行或毛主席年代及現今肥仔恩的食品券,市場上一定有其他產品也有人願意出錢購買。匆匆查看了維基,在英國及澳州,免費或強制教育都是不包括幼稚園的。且說一下自身經驗,余在四分一世紀前比較西化,在91年把兩歲的小女送入由全鬼婆辦的幼稚園,94年進入競爭頗烈的 ESF英基小學Kowloon Junior School.當年開始流行說下個世紀將會是中國的世紀,於是余約見KJS的校長請教他課程或課外會否教中文作為第二語文,獲告知否定的答案。在中國對世界影響力日增的21世紀,不懂中文的中國人應該不會有優勢。余把小女放進政府的小一統一派位,很幸運獲派一等一的嘉諾撒聖瑪利。要告訴看官的不是我們的好運氣,而是6歲的小女雖然是重讀小一(西方一般都是5歲讀小學),但當她入讀這家頂級女校時,她是個完全的文盲。讀了3年國際幼稚園及1年已算是舊式規範化的英基小學,4年間付出了佔我家開支頗大比例的大概20萬元,所謂上課是一本課本也沒有(放學回家也從來沒有功課),英語名詞識得講但完全不會拼寫,中文字更遑說了。從西式教育跨入香港主流教育的首兩年追得頗辛苦,在小三開始慢慢追到了,順利升上中學,到06年會考也超越20分同校預科的門檻。這個小故事可反思一下現今怪獸家長視為起跑線的幼稚園『教育』是否符合很多人心目中的『國際/西方』標準。
也來看看國內情況,77年文革後第一屆高考取錄率雖比同年英殖香港的百分之一點幾高得多,但只是4.8%。到本世紀10年代已升至嚇人的70%-75%,每年600多近700萬的大學畢業生淹沒了整個就業市場,人浮於事！在GDP(Gross不是 per capita)以外,中國的大學入學率也已是超英趕美。但這麼”驕人”的入學率之下,作弊、代考...仍然層出不窮。且先岔開一下,上星期香港醫管局公佈了旗下醫院的手術成績表,香港的弱智傳媒立刻大做文章聚焦為何屯門醫院包尾。翌日早上余在香港電台千禧年代節目中聽到公共醫療醫生協會會長陳沛然對事件的看法,其所說其實是『阿媽是女人』一般的真理,但余堅信香港的傳媒仍會選擇性不明白。陳醫生說在任何水平的比拼都一定會分出高下,而香港各醫院手術水平相比很多其他地方都高。如果將比較的醫院數目包括這些地方,香港各醫院都不會在較後位置。但在香港各醫院間作比較,一定會有高下。比如世界杯,世界各國想進到4年一次的決賽週要先打地區外圍賽。過去數十年國足一般在外圍賽已出局,但試過一次在2002年在外圍賽突放異彩脫穎而出,但去到決賽週與高水平隊伍比賽則成為零勝、零和、零入球的三零部隊。屯門醫院可能等如是像英格蘭,比較多機率進入世界杯決賽週,但在那麼高的水平作賽就多數陪跑了。
話說回來,高考仍有作弊,絕大多數不是擔心進不了大學,而是想成績好可以進排名高的大學。無論先進國家如美英,抑或香港或國內,大學素質或名聲,跟香港各公營醫院一樣,肯定不是一致的。把眼界放寬一點,上述各地方的中學小學的素質也是參差不齊,國外叫名校,國內叫重點學校。香港在過去半世紀的大多數時間出現過的各種考試除了扮演淘汰賽的角色外,也擔當著至少同等重要的分流角色。又岔開一下,近年來香港犯民喜歡把愛字派稱為土共、港共或左仔。左右不分在世界上實無出犯民之右。70年代初起由帶頭倡議廢除升中試SSEE直至今天要廢除TSA,就是犯民陣營中的骨幹兼老大哥之教協,且手法越用越激。在詬病SSEE的替代品AAT及TSA時就說這兩個考試的內容不實用不實際,亦屢屢有人提議復用SSEE之中英數模式。但教師當年卻痛批升中试迫使学生长时间温习，剥夺学生的快乐童年，摧残学生身心。余仍清楚記得69年整年都捧著一本紫色一本橙色各約1吋厚的SSEE天書讀中文與英文,余與眾多同學均感這兩本書令我們終身受用。可能包括專業人士在內,社會上非體力勞動工作最重要就是語文的運用及numeracy(百度翻譯:識數/計算能力)。而語文能力從年紀越小學習效果越好,不妨留意身邊朋友或社會上成功人士的口音,年紀較大才學另一語言或方言,擺脫鄉音肯定較困難,李超人也不例外。在小學階段不努力,中學便事倍功半。反而其他科目在中學甚至大學才學不會太遲。余深信商業社會慨嘆香港下一代的語文能力每況愈下就是取消SSEE的結果。要廢除考試的人包括教師,認為中學學位分配應以居住區域來抽籤決定,亦得其所哉。這些人的其中一個目標就是借取消考試同時打擊傳統名校,與文革的階級鬥爭路線(鬥垮精英階級鬥臭知識分子)接近。極端的左傾思想就是把一切資源平均分配,仍分不均勻的話就抽籤。考試對勤力的及天賦高的考生有利,抽籤則沒有人輸在起跑線。老毛死後四人幫被捕這種極左思想在大陸已無市場,杜汶澤及陳啟宗都說過一句至理名言：『香港是中國裡面最左的地方』。政治正確而實際不正確的說話最容易蠱惑普羅大眾,『人人生而平等 All men are created equal』這句老美獨立宣言裡的話就是佼佼者。大家卻沒想到作者謝法新Thomas Jefferson 寫的men實際只包括白男人,不包括白女人更不包所有有色人種。越來越多人仇富,在共產制度下可以令到所有人失去識投胎的優勢。但看官想一想你們欣賞的傑出人士,例如語文、數學、物理成績突出的同學,白雪仙、梅艷芳、張碧晨的嗓子,美斯、馬龍、莎蓮娜的球技，奧巴馬、蔡英文、于丹的口才...等等是天賦抑或是你我勤力苦練就能達致的呢？ 『人人生而平等』是安慰平凡人的麻醉劑。在制度上追求平等的左翼人士於過去幾十年可以使香港的中小學從考試取錄學生變成主要靠居住地區來抽籤決定,但無風無浪一條龍直升到中學畢業後呢？香港或世界任何地方的大學都不是以『公平』的抽籤來取錄學生的。把考試惡魔化,是又一個政客極為容易推銷給選民的課題。但如果以後香港學生一生人只考一個公開試DSE,真的是好事嗎？在舉行升中試的年代,不論你住在哪區,只要你考得好,就能獲派頂級學校如皇仁、英皇、伊莉莎白...等等，有啥不公平呢？
本文刊出後, 27/1/2016在南華早報讀到港大理學院院長上面的文章。院長說今天有些辦教育的當成生意, 把學生當成顧客是錯的。香港卻是不單只辦教育的, 學生自己、學生家長們也同樣把學生看成是顧客, 而且顧客永遠是對的, 只有學生說了算。
I am grateful to my classmate Chee, a Professor in one of the local universities for writing his insight on university enrollment in HK. As it would be rather inconvenient for readers to read the long article in 2 or more separate paragraphs in the response column below, I am listing it here as an appendix to the main text above.
It took me a while to write this response but it's better late than never. Before I say anything, I first want to stress that for someone educated in the US it is only natural that I am biased towards the US system.
While I have no objection to public examinations for screening out the weaker students but definitely not to the extreme of what HK used to do 40 – 50 years ago. At that time my estimation is that only ~1% of the college age were accepted into university. This is NOT something to be proud of but rather reflects the fact that the British were not willing to spend any money to educate young people in HK. For the same reason, students were channelled to either science or arts class at a very early age. Under such a system DeBroglie – a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, will never have the opportunity to change his major from history to Physics. Also, Einstein will be channelled to the arts class. It is not a coincidence that all the other Universities were built after it had become clear that HK will be returned to China by 1997.
In the US, college enrolment rate is about 60% to 70%. One thing they are proud of is that people are given a second chance if they seriously want a college education. I personally know quite a few people who screwed up in their studies in high school or even in college but were able to excel in their studies when they grow older and more mature and focused. One of my classmate in graduate school actually got kicked out of school in college – probably party too much. After serving a few years in the army he decided that he would go back to college and was given a second chance. He eventually received a Master degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign (ranks 4th in EE in the US). Another example was a program director of National Science Foundation whom I knew in the late 80's. She worked for many years as a secretary and eventually decided to go back to college and eventually received a PhD in Physics. There are many Similar examples that I can quote and I believe this clearly demonstrates the success of the US education philosophy.
Coming back to HK, based on statistics provided by the HK Govt. the total no. of students enrolled in full-time degree programs in the 8 UGC-funded institution (i.e. including IED) is 69,600. Total population between age 18 – 23 is about 480,000. My rough estimation shows that 14.5% of the college age young men and women are actually enrolled in full-time degree programs in HK. In contrast to Zhang's opinion I believe this is an acceptable figure. I would say it is even needed particularly when you are talking about Hong Kong morphing into a knowledge-based society. Hong Kong has no natural resources with the exception of her people. I think it is a great mistake not to spend generously in education. Don't compare HK to Taiwan, Taiwan's is obviously a case of mismanagement.
I understand why Zhang feels that the U's in Hong Kong are taking in too many students. He probably had seen too many HK graduates performing poorly in his company. In my opinion, this is NOT due to taking in too many students into degree programs but because of the flaws in the management as explained below:
1.) In the old days when HK only accepted a mere 1% of her young people into degree programs, the Universities operated as elite schools. Students are driven enough to learn on their own thus a rigorous teaching and assessment program was not required. Universities then did not have much homework or tests or quizzes, just a final exam. This is similar to some elite school around the world today. For instance, Max Planck's Institute in Germany and Brown Univ. in the US, basically students can formulate their own individual program together with his/her advisor. This is in contrast to many other Universities in the States which typically have home works every week for each subject. This is because US had practiced popular education approach for many years. The problem with the practice in HK right now is that it still operates like an elite school while taking a high percentage of young people into her degree programs. In the name of responsible financial planning the failure rate in HK is artificially kept at a very low. The students know this very well and why would they work hard on their studies if they can pass without having to do so. This prompted a good friend of mine, who is an MIT professor (also a Joesephian), to remark that in HK, Kindergarten is the toughest and as the kids grow older the education program becomes easier which is the opposite to that in the US.
2.) For some reason many college students in HK believe that college life is equivalent to having a lot of fun. This is obviously a by-product of 1.). As a result, my feeling is that many of the college students in HK really did not learn much during their 4 years of college education. Many of them feel that since they are the 天之驕子they are entitled to graduate and a high pay job. This sense of entitlement is accentuated by many policies established by the HK Govt again in the name of sound financial practices. For instance, they provided student quotas specifically to accept sub-degree graduates who went through two years of associate degree programs and if we accept them then we MUST allow then to graduate in 2 years. This does not make sense to me. UGC is only telling the young people that they are entitled to a degree whether they work hard or not.
I strongly believe that our graduates will be much better if the Universities are allowed to fluked out more unqualified students and give the opportunities to those who are willing to work hard for it. Let me give an example, the University that I taught before returning to HK (Northeastern University in Boston) they really accept many students with poor high school and SAT grades into year 1. That is because NU believes that anyone who wants a college education should be given a chance. However, they routinely flunk out 20% to 30% of the students in their 1st year. I used to teach the 2nd year students and within a 10-week quarter we would give out 9 home works. Many of these students, through their hard work, were able to do something in their lives. Along Route 128 there are many high tech companies. Many of the founders are MIT and Harvard grads but NU also produced many highly successful engineers. In HK you will see your name and your picture in the 大字报 if you assign so many home works.
In summary, I do not think the UGC funded U's in HK are taking in too many students. Unfortunately, because of the conservative fiscal policies of the UGC the quality of the graduates is being significantly compromised.
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