Published: 18:06, August 15, 2023 | Updated: 18:16, August 15, 2023
'Chinese roots and Western foliage advantage for HK'
By Eugene Chan

Straight Talk presenter Eugene Chan (left) interviews Man-sing Zhou (center) and Manish Gurung on the show on Aug 8, 2023. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

On Straight Talk this week, we begin our two-part series with recent DSE graduates sharing their experiences, their insights into HK's education system and more.

In the first part, one student from Mainland China Man-sing Zhou and one minority group student Manish Gurung tell us how they want their future to develop and how the education can become better.

Check out the full transcript of TVB’s Straight Talk host Dr Eugene Chan’s interview with the DSE graduates:

Chan: Good evening and welcome to Straight Talk. Following on from last week's session on youth, we are going to discuss a critical topic that affects the youth and the future of Hong Kong that is the education system. Specifically, we will explore whether Hong Kong's education system is fit for purpose. Joining us this evening our recent graduates of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, DSE, who will share their experiences and insights. In this episode, we will focus on the challenges faced by non Chinese speaking students and recent immigrants from the mainland, in navigating the different culture, system and emphasis in education. Let's welcome our guests. On the left is Manish Gurung, and on the right is Man-shing Zhou. Welcome! 

So, let's start the program by introducing yourself, Manish. Maybe you can tell the viewers which school you go to, and where you're from originally?

Gurung: Yes. First of all, thank you, Dr Eugene for inviting me to your show. I just graduated from CMA Choi Cheung Kwok Secondary school and my name is Gurung Manish and I would like to share the experiences of a non-Chinese speaking student in Hong Kong.

Chan: Right, and Man-Shing?

Zhou: Yes. And I'm actually a graduate from CUHKFAA Chan Chun Ha Secondary School.

Chan: Right. Thank you for telling us. I'm sure it is your first program on television. And we really appreciate that the viewers will be able to listen to first-hand information from you. So, Gurung, do you mind sharing your results with us?

Gurung: Oh, yes. So overall, I think my results are okay. However, there's definitely lots of room for improvement.

Chan: Are you happy with it?

Gurung: Yes, I'm happy with it.

Chan: Yes, Man-shing?

Zhou: To be honest, no. Since my DSE result is insufficient to let me get into my dream school.

Chan: Really?

Zhou: Yes. So, because I only got 4 in English. But I would say it's still a great experience to have received this kind of fate or standards or something.

Chan: Right, when you said that you get a 4 in English? Does it mean you need to get a 5 or 5 star to get into the course you want to do?

Zhou: Yes, I need to get 5 to get into the law program of Hong Kong Schools.

Chan: So, you will be interested in pursuing a career in law? 

Zhou: Yes. 

Chan: So, what would you do about that?

Zhou: I will, because I’m going to study in a law school in mainland China in the future. And I am just planning to study the JD programs in Hong Kong in the future to both study the civil law and common law system.

Chan: Right. Man-shing, although I'm not a legal professional, I've got many friends and family who are lawyers, and there are many ways to become a lawyer. So, Gurung, you're quite happy with the results?

Gurung: Yes.

Chan: Is there any particular subject that you find difficulty in during your preparation for exams?

Gurung: Oh, yes, it has to be maths.

Chan: Really?

Gurung: Yes, as I set a higher standard for myself in maths since I want to pursue accounting, and a higher maths grade is required for it. However, my maths was not up to my expectations. 

Chan: Right, but do you think you'll be able to get into the profession you want to get into?

Gurung: Maybe. 

Chan: Alright, okay. So, I understand you're from a non-Chinese speaking school. And also you're from Nepal, right?

Gurung: Yes.

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Chan: So, have you found that studying in the local school, some sort of a challenge? Do they give you enough support?

Gurung: Yes, I do think it's quite a challenge, especially when I have to communicate with a Chinese student or a local. However, my school did provide me with a lot of support. And I think the biggest support was the environment of my school. It focuses a lot on multiculturalism, which I think is very important in Hong Kong. And we were allowed to freely exchange our cultures and learn more about each other.

Chan: Right. You told me before the show that you were actually born in Hong Kong.

Gurung: Yes.

Chan: So, you have been brought up in Hong Kong. But do you still find the difference in culture?

Gurung: Yes, I do. As I was born in Hong Kong, it wasn't too much of a challenge adjusting to the culture of Hong Kong. However, when I was growing up, I did watch … mostly I consumed English-medium content. And I was around more people of my background, and less Chinese and locals. So, learning the Chinese language was definitely more of a challenge than it should have been.

Chan: But if I like you to sort of elaborate more on the language barrier or cultural differences on non-Chinese speaking students, what else … what are the most common problems that they will encounter in the school that you can observe?

Gurung: The most common problem I encounter is, since the classes are separated into the Chinese teaching and the English teaching, there might not be that much motivation and incentive for English speaking and Chinese speaking students to really become friends, and get to know more about each other.

Chan: Right. So, maybe there's something that the school can do a little bit more on that end.

Gurung: Yes.

Chan: And Man-shing, you told me earlier that actually you studied in Guangdong for many years, until five, six years ago. So, what's the difference that you find when you come back to study in Hong Kong? Would you call that kind of a culture shock, because although we are both Chinese I'm sure the system is different.

Zhou: I will describe it … because we have lots of classifications of culture and we have lifestyle. So, in the perspective of lifestyle, Guangdong lifestyle is actually similar to Hong Kong, where you eat some… our taste is quite similar. But I will say the culture of education between … The difference between Hong Kong and Guangdong, it's quite big, because in the mainland the color of Confucius should be deeper than Hong Kong and for Hong Kong's education. I must describe it as well-balanced since the competitions in Hong Kong is not that exaggerated. And at the same time, most of the schools in Hong Kong will offer a variety of opportunities to students to explore more of their possibilities.

Chan: You know, I'm sure the viewers is super surprised when they hear that they're saying the Hong Kong is less pressure, because I'm sure everybody will see Hong Kong education system, they call it using Peking duck meaning to stuffing education for the students, then we have a very emphasis on rote learning, and also exam-oriented teaching methods. So, do you think if we follow along that line, is it going to affect the students' teaching experience? What do you think, the Hong Kong style?

Zhou: I think that it won't affect students that much. As recently, the Hong Kong government has promoted the use of STEM education. And Hong Kong students are fairly creative, in my opinion, as they take up lots of other activities such as arts and music. And most of them play an instrument from extra tutorial classes.

Chan: That sounds very encouraging. Man-shing, another area people often mentioned, is whatever you learn in school isn't going to be able to apply in your practical life. So, do you think whatever you've been taught is too theoretical?

Zhou: Not that. Since I would describe the educational style of Hong Kong as flexible like our teacher will … they are really good at using some real life examples, to help us understand some theoretical concepts. So, I do think that what we learned in textbooks can be used in our real life, practically. Yes.

Chan: Well, actually, I was going to ask you whether you feel the students in Hong Kong have been more pressured, and more competitive. But since you have already mentioned, it looks in the mainland there is more competitive pressure more competitive. So, in that angle, what would you say are the strengths of Hong Kong students? And how will you suggest to the government to release all our strengths so that they can do even better?

Zhou: Firstly, to talk about the strength of Hong Kong students, because we all know that Hong Kong is a city with Chinese roots and Western foliage. So, I think the advantage of Hong Kong students is that we own the characteristics of both cultures together, like Confucius teaches us politeness, humanity and morality and the modern metropolis teaches us efficiency, effectiveness and individualism. So, yes, we are smart, but humble. We are diligent but efficient. Yes.

Chan: So, everything's perfect in Hong Kong.

Zhou: Not that.

Chan: Gurung. I’m gonna ask you about the non-Chinese speaking school, you'd mentioned that more effort should be put so that the Chinese classes and English classes can be grouped together. Anything else can you think of to improve your students’ learning experience?

Gurung: Yes. So, with my experience, I found that most of my classmates and relatives, when they're studying here in Hong Kong, their main goal is to eventually study overseas, such as in the UK or Australia. So they don't really have that much purpose to, they think that learning Chinese isn't as important for them. So I think something really helpful for them would be to teach more about Chinese history in schools, and really push them to learn more about why they should learn Chinese and maybe feel more connected with the culture.

Chan: But you think … I'm sure you're having a very packed curriculum, do you think there's still time for the non-Chinese speaking students to learn more of the Chinese background history, etcetera? 

Gurung: Yes, I think there is. As we can choose our electives…

Chan: Right, I see.

Gurung: …maybe it can also be implied and installed as an elective that we can choose to learn on our own.

Chan: Right. Good idea. So, let's take a short break now, but viewers, we'll be right back.

Chan: Welcome back, we have been exploring the question of whether Hong Kong's education system is fit for purpose. And we are doing that with recent graduates of the Hong Kong DSC examination. We have Manish Gurung and Man-shing Zhou, with us this evening, who have been sharing with us their results from the DSE and the challenges they have faced. So in the first part, Man-shing you have spoken very clearly that you felt the Hong Kong students are quite all rounded, they have the advantage of having the east and the west culture. And Manish you told us that in non-Chinese speaking schools, it'd be much better if there are more encouragement between the Chinese and English speaking students to group together more, and to take more electives, so that they know more about Hong Kong. So let's move on to another thing that I'm sure is going to interest our viewers, it’s about your future plans. So Manish, what do you want to pursue after the DSE?

Gurung: I want to pursue a degree in accounting, as I have always wanted to be working in a business or maybe a startup of my own. And I've always had a business mindset. And I wanted to work for myself. And I think that learning accounting and pursuing a career in Hong Kong is very viable. As Hong Kong is a global financial hub. It's very closely connected with the world. And it also receives a lot of support from the mainland, the Central Government. As I still remember from my liberal studies lesson, I learned about the Belt and Road Initiative, and the 14th five-year plan. And all of this helps Hong Kong a lot, especially in the accounting industry. And I think that as Hong Kong a very global city, that I'm very confident that I can find a lot of opportunities to work not only in Hong Kong, but also overseas or in China, if I do some accounting,

Chan: Right, Man-shing, yourself?

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Zhou: I want to study law in the future. And actually, the origin of it is because of a TV series called The Exciting Offer, which portrays a group of ambitious law graduates competing for an official offer of a famous law firm and their patience ignited my interest in law and also helped me to ensure my future career aspirations. And I further started to explore more about law and I joined debates, and also some MOOT course summer school. And the more I know about this industry, the stronger the desire to study in law, because I love exploring human nature. I love those controversial cases, which inspired a lot of interesting and excellent debates. So, yes and that would be really fascinating, if I can finally turn my interests into my career.

Chan: Man-shing, you mentioned you got inspired by a TV series. Yeah. Is it because the lifestyle they go after they could have pubs, they drive nice cars? Is it what attracts you?

Zhou: No, to be honest, at that TV series, most of the… that’s called a reality show instead of TV series, because a lot, they are real law graduates, they work in a real law firm. And they work very hard. The whole duration, it's pretty tough. But I can feel their patience. They're united in this situation. So yes, I really love this kind of atmosphere. 

Chan: You also mentioned that there's a high chance you will go back to the law school on the mainland to learn civil law, compared to the common law we have in Hong Kong. So, it looks like you're very determined. So, what will be your plan after that? Do you want to come back to Hong Kong to do a postgraduate degree maybe?

Zhou: Yes, I will definitely come back to Hong Kong for a JD program, because I want to study both civil law and… we may call ocean law, because or common law. Because nowadays, the interaction between mainland and Hong Kong has become more and more connected. So it would be really beneficial if I actually earned the knowledge of these two law systems.

Chan:  So, since both of you are now in the Straight Talk program, as you know, we always want a direct answer and honest answer from you. And hopefully, I'm sure the viewers are looking forward to me to asking you this, that some people say that the social ladder in Hong Kong has been broken. That means it's very difficult, for the ones who come from a lower socio-economic class, to work hard and climb to the middle and higher social status. As a result, the ones who are rich will become richer, and the ones who are poor will remain poor. So, do you agree with that statement and why?

Gurung: Yes, to a certain extent, I do agree with this claim. As I think it's very hard for the middle class, even if they are the upper middle class, I think there's a huge gap between that and the upper class of Hong Kong as the housing and everything, the living expenses are just astronomically high once you get to that upper class. And however, I do think that it's very possible to learn… I mean to earn a living in Hong Kong and have a stable life here in Hong Kong, if you just work hard enough, and you put all of your effort into your work.

Chan: Man-shing? 

Zhou: So, I also agree with this statement, because the higher position is now dominated by more mature people, because like one same job, a mature person can always do better than a youngster. So I would say this kind of trend seems irreversible, but as youngsters we can, like, find out our own unique benefits or advantages, like we are one of the digital natives, we know the internet a lot so we can try to explore more about this view to let ourselves to maybe develop some side jobs about the internet, like KOL or something like that. That may be the chance for us to achieve a rise in social status.

Chan: So, do you think our system will promote the students of your time to be more creative and even have what we call critical thinking? Is it being promoted at your school?

Gurung: Oh, yes, in my school, there is a STEM club and STEM team. So, I think that STEM education can help us be more… help us be more creative. And it opens up more opportunities such as technology, and it allows us to be more creative.

Chan: Man-shing, you also mentioned that this generation is more tech, sort of tech news, more savvy in terms of all the internet and all that. So how can our educational system incorporate or better the technology and digital literacy skills into the system so that we will prepare our students better for the modern world?

Zhou: I would say some skills like cutting or other technological skills can be introduced in high school courses, since nowadays, our class design only focuses, maybe mostly focused on some academic subjects. But I do think that those skills are really crucial for us nowadays. So, if this kind of skill is taught in high school, our students can find their interest, their habits, in the internet field, or in the technological field at an early age, they can further pursue this in university life. 

Chan: Manish, I'm going to ask you, since I'm sure the viewers will, by now know that you are a man of good plans and you know what you want to do? You will be pursuing your accounting career. What else would you do to better equip yourself? So, that you will be able to make sure you’re going in a positive direction? What will you do?

Gurung: Yes, I think I would like to join some internships, to get used to the working environment of accounting, as well as get some connections, and learn more about the experience. And also, my goal is to… my first goal, my short term goal after graduating is to work in one of the Big Four firms, and they think that will help me a lot in my accounting career.

Chan: Man-shing, yourself?

Zhou: My future plans, my short term future plan, should enhance my English ability since English is really crucial in law study. And also, as I've mentioned, nowadays we should catch some opportunities on the internet. So, I'm also planning to learn some skills, like cutting, and also music production to enrich, or to let myself become a more all-rounded person.

Chan: Right. Manish, I'm gonna give you the last question. I know the Secretary of Education must be watching the show. Being from a non-Chinese speaking student population, what will you say to the Secretary? How will you think the way forward for Hong Kong so that all non-Chinese speaking students will be doing better, and faring better in their career.

Gurung: I think that you really need… It really needs to be emphasized that you can live here in Hong Kong and be kind of a local one day, instead of feeling like you're an outcast, or that you have to force yourself to talk to the locals or become friends with them. And I know that many of them do eventually want to escape to another country like the UK, as they find that obviously getting a job as much easier as they can only… they can only use English, right? And they don't have to put as much effort into Chinese.

Chan: Right, Man-shing?

Zhou: I may suggest to promote some, like teachers should or schools should play a role to prevent some discrimination from happening in schools to maybe a student who speak Mandarin. And also like, even nowadays, there is already a lot of opportunity provided to a lot of new immigrants, to help them adapt to the culture and also the environment in Hong Kong rapidly. But I still think that it can be more to let them adapt to this kind of life.

Chan: Thank you Manish and Man-shing for sharing your experiences with us. Your insights have been valuable and will enable our viewers to make their own judgment as to whether the Hong Kong education system is fit for purpose, and has been able to cater for students from diverse backgrounds. Have a great evening, and please join us again next week to hear from two other DSE graduates on this important topic. Good night!