“Chinese medicine originated in mainland China, so I might get better resources if I study here,” said Pang Wai-hei, a Hong Kong student at Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine (GZUCM), recalling the time when he decided to study across the border.
Three generations of his family were Chinese medicine doctors, so Pang chose to take over the family business and study Chinese medicine in Guangzhou through the Scheme for Admission of Hong Kong Students to Mainland Higher Education Institutions.
This scheme helps DSE candidates to get a bachelor degree more easily by allowing students who achieve relatively lower scores in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (DSE) to study at mainland universities.
Pang got to understand and then fall in love with the mainland since he lived in Shenzhen for eight years before moving to Hong Kong. He hopes to settle down in the mainland regardless of the difficulty working in mainland hospitals as an overseas student, because Hong Kong has got a surplus of Chinese medicine practitioners for decades.
Although it may be easier for DSE candidates to obtain a degree in Chinese Medicine from the mainland, their job prospects are not that rosy, either in the mainland or Hong Kong.
In 2015, the year when Pang got admitted, the university took in 152 DSE candidates to its Chinese Medicine bachelor programme, with a minimum admission score of 3,3,2,2, the lowest score for studying at Hong Kong’s universities.
In contrast, a similar undergraduate programme at the Chinese University of Hong Kong received 1,406 applications, and finally 20 students, who ranked the top 10 percent of all DSE candidates, got enrolled.Fok Oi-lam, a Hong Kong student about to graduate in the Chinese Medicine programme at GZUCM this year, said that overseas and mainland students have classes and exams separately, and the exams for overseas students are easier since teachers give precise reviews in advance so that many students can get high scores only by going over what they are told.
The university turns a blind eye on the study ethos among overseas students. Some students are used to asking their teachers what is likely to be tested, and teachers seldom refuse to help them, she said.
“Of course it is good for students if they are told the exam points, but the lengthy reviewing has undermined the outcome of learning, which is also unfair to those who study hard,” she said.
She also pointed out that the unfairness lies in the uneven distribution of resources, explaining that overseas students have much fewer skill courses than local students, especially in the fundamental cultivation skills like punctures.
Fang Wenjia, a mainland student in the same programme, said it was not the result of the university not paying enough attention to overseas students. The university actually provided quality internship opportunities for each student, which is one of the students’ graduation requirements, but most overseas students did not cherish it and often went absent.
“It’s easy for them to graduate in some sense,” Fang said. “But it also means they have little chance of passing the National Examination in Licensed Doctor Qualification because their academic performance is not competitive enough.”
Mainland graduates returning to Hong Kong are also required to sit for the Chinese Medicine Practitioners Licensing Examination directed by the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong (CMCHK). The candidates are required to graduate from programmes accredited by the CMCHK, including the GZCMU Chinese Medicine programme.
Choy Kit-wa, a Chinese Medicine graduate from CUHK who spent a year and half as an intern at GZCMU’s clinic, said there might be discrepancies between mainland and Hong Kong graduates when they take the exam, because their teaching materials are different. Besides, Hong Kong universities have provided sufficient training for candidates.
Choy graduated in last July and now works in a Chinese medicine clinic run by three parties — the government, the university, and a non-profit organization which admitted five graduates, only one mainland graduate included, who passed the Licensing Exam last year.
Fok is planning to work in Hong Kong after graduation, but the university does not provide them with pre-examination guidance and consultation on how to find a job in Hong Kong.
In fact, the job market of Chinese medicine practitioners in Hong Kong is now caught in a dilemma, because Chinese medicine is not included in the public healthcare system and private businesses cannot absorb the overwhelming manpower.
According to figures from CMCHK in 2017, there are about 10,000 Chinese medicine practitioners who are registered, listed or registered under limitation in Hong Kong.
Choy said that although the government guarantees three years’ employment for Chinese medicine graduates in the tripartite clinics, the demand for doctors decreases by the fact that the patients usually go to public hospitals or Western medicine clinics.
Census and Statistics Department’s Thematic Household Survey Report No.63 in 2017 shows that the ratio of people seeking for medical treatment from Chinese and Western medicine in Hong Kong was about 1 to 9, and the percentage of Chinese medicine patients dropped from 17.7 percent in 2014 to 16.7 percent in 2016.
In order to prepare for the Licensing Exam, Fok and her classmate Kwong Wei-jie are both planning to go to cram school in Hong Kong after graduation. Meanwhile, Kwong said he would like to go further studies in Hong Kong because there is a rumor that mainland candidates’ passing rate in the Licensing Exam is lower.
“The quality of DSE candidates studying in the mainland is not uniform, so a degree from Hong Kong universities is more necessary,” Kwong said.
“Chasing another degree in Hong Kong is like glossing over the past,” he added. “Once you have graduated, no one would care about your mainland degree anymore.”
Chen Yuyang, Apr. 26, 2019