What do you think of the new grading system for the Certificate of Education Examinations?
Under the new grading system for Chinese and English public exams, candidates' performances are no longer being graded A-B but levels one to five. I think with the English exam, the new system will enhance students' language standards.
Under the old system, students could choose syllabus A or B. A was regarded as simpler and B more challenging. Some of the less competent students chose the easier syllabus because they wanted to avoid competing with students who excelled in English. Their priority was to pass exams so they could get into Form Six. In effect, their standard of English declined. With the new grading system however, the rules are different. If they want to get level two or above, in order to get into Form Six, they will have to try harder at English and this can lead to improved standards.
Also, the new grading system is a more accurate gauge of a student's genuine language standard. Under the old system, as language standards declined, even students who got an A might not have reached a very high standard of English proficiency.
The new system benefits exam candidates and prospective employers because it indicates the actual standard of English.
Steven Lau Yuk-fai, Kwun Tong
The change to the new standards-referencing grading system is a reasonable move that fits our society's needs.
As the city strengthens its position as a regional financial, tourism and exhibitions hub, it needs a larger population with relatively basic English proficiency.
In my opinion, by measuring students' ability against absolute standards, the new grading scheme better reflects students' real language proficiency. It gives employers a clearer indication of a potential employee's ability to communicate in English.
The effectiveness of the new system will depend on curriculum design. For instance, the English-language curriculum has for too long focused on grammatical rules instead of practical communication skills. If this focus remains unchanged, it will be difficult for the new system to accurately reflect students' ability to communicate in the language.
Franco Pang, Kwai Chung
How can domestic helpers be protected from dog attacks?
I refer to Agnes Lam's article ('Labour Department urged to simplify claims for dog bites', August 2).
The article highlighted a case in which a domestic helper was bitten by her employer's dog. As the case involves a claim for employees' compensation, I wish to provide some background information about the handling of work accidents and the related compensation claims.
According to the Employees' Compensation Ordinance, employers are liable to pay compensation to employees for work-related injuries. Employers should report non-fatal work accidents to the commissioner for labour within 14 days after the accident comes to their knowledge.
In some cases, the injured employee may be required to provide a medical report to substantiate his claim for compensation. For treatment received at public hospitals, the Labour Department could approach the respective hospital for a report with the consent of the employee and the fee for obtaining such a report may be waived. Our staff will offer advice and assistance to the injured employee as appropriate.
Minor compensation claims involving sick leave of seven days or less may be settled by a direct agreement between the employer and the injured employee, with payment of compensation on or before the employee's normal pay day.
As for other cases, the Labour Department will assess the compensation and issue to the employer and the injured employee a certificate stating the amount of compensation payable. The employer should make the payment within 21 days from the date of issue of the certificate. An appeal mechanism is in place for either the employer or the injured employee to raise an objection to the assessment.
The Labour Department has published leaflets providing guidance on ways to settle compensation claims arising from work-related injuries for free distribution to members of the public. They can also be downloaded from the website: www.labour.gov.hk.
Meanwhile, Labour Department staff have liaised with the secretary of the Hong Kong Domestic Workers' General Union to offer assistance to the injured employees of the case in question.
Stanley Ng, for commissioner for labour
What can be done to combat the mosquito problem?
The mosquito problem is a concern for Hong Kong people. Different government departments are working together to improve anti-mosquito measures.
Stagnant water is the main breeding area for mosquitoes, so those breeding areas must be eliminated.
Members of the public can help by reporting breeding black spots to the relevant government departments. Also, when they are going out to rural areas, they should use insect repellent to protect themselves from bites.
Planting anti-mosquito vegetation is an environmentally friendly way of curbing the problem.
Since using pesticides can damage our natural environment and may cause biological mutation, it is not a long-term solution to the problem.
Wong Kwai-ching, Lam Tin