Continuing Education

We had the results of the HKDSE examination announced this week, which indicated that 17,000 plus qualified students would be competing for about 14,000 places in the local universities. Su was reminiscing the days when she had many more students competing for a lot fewer places available in the local universities. In 1982 when she took her A Level exam, Hong Kong had only HKU and CUHK, so that the number of tertiary education places wouldn’t exceed 4,000, even if one counted the places at HK Polytechnic, but there were some 28,000 students competing, not to mention that these students had been weeded down from over 120,000 who had sat for the School Certificate Exam two years earlier. The local education scene has certainly gone a long way and evolved many times. Briefly, in 1946, the Education Department introduced the Hong Kong School Certificate Examination (HKSCE), initially for English schools and later with a separate one for Chinese schools, and still later merged back into one. I would have sat for this examination in 1963. Records show that the HKSCE was reformed into the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) which was in practice from 1974 to 2011, and there were 127,162 students sitting for the 2010 examination, the last year it was held, including school candidates and private candidates. The HKCEE then underwent metamorphosis into the present-day Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination, and there were 82,350 candidates in 2013 when the first examination was held, compared with just over 50,000 in the one just held, in 2022.

These statistics certainly speak a lot; and it does seem, prima facie, that Hong Kong has been spending a lot more on an increasingly declining student population. Food for thoughts indeed.

It is Hong Kong’s annual Book Fair again. Francis told me that his book The Other Wen Su would be taken by The Hong Kong Book Centre to the Fair though he was not optimistic that there would be too many takers. In passing, Francis also told me that his friend printer who printed his book, had since sold all his hardware and printing machines partly because of the pandemic, but mainly because demand had gone down considerably. Indeed, we have learnt that there are not many big and serious printers left in Hong Kong, and more interestingly, these remaining printers are now helping their previous competitors, who had since wound up, to meet printing orders from their previous clients.

Francis also mentioned that he had been in correspondence with the descendants of characters whom he had mentioned in his book and who had been in the company of our Grand Uncle Wen Su and his friend and last Emperor Puyi. Between his network of scholars and teachers, Francis must have established a complex web of people many of whom had unique and interesting past which in turn would be stuff for research and memoirs. For example, there was a gentleman, a local philanthropist, who passed away about 50 years ago and whose descendants had lent his name for local schools. One of his grandsons wanted to follow up on an item on his wish list – to publish a memoir. He approached Francis. And that would open up another story and create more learning opportunities, both for himself and for others.

Su has been looking for books available in the local libraries, which she can order through the internet at HK$3.50 for each item. In this manner, she can save having to find storage space for more new books, of which there are already too many in Mei Foo. Yesterday, I asked her to look up whether my book was in the local library system, for I was required to give the Book Registration five copies when I had my book registered. To her surprise and our joy, it was, and catalogued under autobiography by three subjects, namely, civil servants, Hong Kong (China) and history. One copy is available at the Central Library in Tin Hau and another at the City Hall Library. Su decided to make a trip to Tin Hau soon, to generate traffic, lest the book would be archived, as was my friend’s No, Minister. Encouraged by the find, I asked Su to search for Francis’s The Other Wen Su. It was also found, except that they didn’t list the name of the publisher, because it didn’t appear in the book. Su told Francis afterwards, who didn’t know either that it was in the local library system, and he was glad too.  Such is what I would call, lifelong learning or continuing education. We all should endeavour to learn something new each day.

Talking of storage space, we have been renting space at Tai Wo Hau since our move to Mei Foo in 2013, and mentally, I have always kept a note that I would run it down in ten years when I would be 75, which would be now, or anytime now. Rental is getting rather expensive, and besides, it would be difficult to keep things too long. I mentioned this to my son in our recent WhatsApp call with a specific question on whether he would like to retrieve some memorabilia from the storage, and if so, what. It is sort of difficult in his situation to say anything specific, without first having sight of a manifest or a briefing on what were in the storage. In the end, we settled on some very broad parameters and decided that we would discuss the matter again. In the meantime, we are developing a plan – mainly Su’s efforts – on how to run down the storage. We would give priorities to keep photo albums and more recent books, which would be boxed in new cartons, so that everything left behind would be moved to the landfill someday. In the meantime, our flat at Conduit Road has been left vacant for more than a few months, and Su is looking at the possibility that it might become our second flat.

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