Students from Hong Kong are getting world-beating results in the International Baccalaureate exam, but this doesn’t mean it’s a wall-to-wall city of nerds – one of the top performers this year is sports champion Xavier Chang. H.C. Lu reports.
HONG KONG HAS arguably the world’s best school system for smart children, according to the latest data about the super-tough International Baccalaureate exam. About 15% of the entire planet’s top scorers in the 2022 exam came from this one city.
Globally, only 640 candidates scored the maximum possible 45 points in the latest round of results, and 93 were from Hong Kong.
While straight comparisons are difficult, given that the exam is run twice a year with different entrants, Hong Kong is consistently among top spots in the global IB charts, along with other educational high-scoring hotspots, such as Singapore, the UK and Russia.
INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL
Of the 93 Hong Kong young people who scored the maximum in the most recent round, more than a third, 36, came from the seven English Schools Foundation high schools. A further 12 came from St. Paul’s Co-educational College, plus five from Diocesan Boys’ School, four from Canadian International School of Hong Kong, and four from Po Leung Kuk Choi Kai Yau School. It’s interesting to see that both western-style and Chinese-style schools produce top-scorers.
The large number of IB “perfect score” students doesn’t automatically mean that Hong Kong schools are good for all children. However, the PISA Education rankings, which reviews broader results in 79 countries, places Hong Kong among the top four places in reading and mathematics, which are Mainland China, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong. By any measure, that’s an excellent placing.
NOT JUST NERDS
Does that make Hong Kong a great city for nerds? Not necessarily. One of the people who achieved a maximum score was Xavier Chang, who is a rising star in soccer. He told reporters he wants to become a sports psychologist to support athletes in the future. The student said he believes that maintaining a sound mental state is crucial to professional athletes.
But he admitted that it is not easy to strike a balance between studies and sports interests. Chang hopes that more parents in Hong Kong will encourage their children to pursue both academic studies and sports interests at the same time.
The student from ESF’s Discovery College said he had opted to study a Bachelor of Psychology degree at the University of California, Los Angeles. Leaving Hong Kong means that he has had to quit celebrated local soccer club Kitchee. Yet he leaves on a high note, after having helped his team to win this year’s U18 League Cup.
Most Hong Kong parents like their children to focus on book learning. But Chang was pleased that his parents, noting his love of football from a young age, supported his interest in soccer.
BOOKS, SPORTS BOTH VITAL
Still, one needs to be hard-working and self-disciplined to do both. Aspiring to achieve success in academia, he studied during train journeys he said. He tended to study hard for exams on weekends, while attending team practice on weekdays.
He hopes that other Hong Kong’s parents will encourage their children not to solely focus on academic results, but also develop their sports interests.
Why did he choose to go to the US? In that country, sports skills are particularly highly prized at college level. So, while book-learning may be prioritised in Hong Kong, the so-called “jock” is a star in America. With both skills, it’s clear that Xavier Chang will go far.
As for Hong Kong education as a whole, it scores extremely high on a world scale – and that’s a fact which is perhaps not appreciated enough.