New exam regime put to the test
When the curtain falls on a collective experience that became part of public life for decades, an air of nostalgia is inevitable. The public emotion aroused by the release of the final public Advanced Level Examination results last week is thus understandable.
The exam for Form Seven students has long been part of Hong Kong's much-criticised education system. Over the years, it has sent hundreds of thousands of achievers to universities. But the number of losers is even higher. With the Certificate of Education Examination for Form Five students having also ended last year, a decades-old education system has come to a close.
Hopes are high for the new regime. In two weeks, results of the first Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination will be announced. Replacing the two-tier exam, the diploma is part of a new structure for secondary and university education introduced in 2009. Students' performance in the new exam will be widely seen as an indicator of how successful the revised academic system is.
Undoubtedly, students' stress and anxiety are exceptionally high this year. For the first time, two university entrance exams have run in parallel. Although university places have doubled to cope with students from these two streams, this does not dilute the perception that admission is more competitive. According to the exam authority, 3,000 of the 18,000 A-level exam students who met the basic entrance requirement will lose out due to insufficient places. Competition for those taking the new exam is even higher, with more than 72,000 students fighting for 15,000 subsidised places.
No matter whether there are one or two public exams for students, they have to serve their purpose. The new academic system is due for a review later this year. It is in Hong Kong's best interests to critically examine the achievements and inadequacies and improve accordingly.