John Larrysson's Column: What if You Fail the HKDSE?

I know a student who failed the HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education). Then he repeated form six at my school. The problem is that he had been lazy in his studies over the past several years. Academic topics just did not interest him and when he did study he forced himself to do the minimum. In form 6 he was not able to make up for years of ignoring school work. So after failing the HKDSE in the previous year, it looked as if he was going to fail again. The problem is that he had been told that getting good marks in the HKDSE and getting into university was the only path to success. The alternative was to be a street sleeper.

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He attempted suicide, by jumping off the top floor of the school. He was stopped in time and is now under medical care. 

There are other options; failing the HKDSE does not make one a street sleeper. Having completed form 6 he could enter the Diploma of Vocational Education programme at the Vocational Training Council (VTC). He could get a regular job and study topics that are useful to him in the evening. There are also associate degree courses.

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I know someone who failed out of secondary school and then got a job in a trading company. He once had trouble with an order emailed to the company from Germany and in the German language. So he got a German grammar book from the library and a German-English dictionary. (It was before Google Translate.) He answered the letter and his company got the contract. He cannot speak German, and mispronounces words badly when he tries, but he can answer letters. He will never lose that job.

If someone studies to be a doctor they need to be very interested in medicine, since they will study for many years. Just working hard is not enough. That life is not right for everyone. Society still needs people to repair air-conditioners, police the city, cook restaurant meals, fix water pipes, repair trucks, deliver mail, drive buses and so on. None of these careers require university and some pay well. 

Next time I will tell you the story of how someone who hated school went on to become rich and successful.

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by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for over two decades.


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