Exams authority lowering the benchmark on English tests

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 August, 2007, 12:00am

I was astonished to read about the 'new' and 'better' marking system that has been introduced for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education English and Chinese exams ('Confusion over new grading system', August 8).

Grammar, which is the basis of mastering English, has been all but abandoned in the revised syllabus. It was the hardest part of past HKCEE exams and lowered the overall pass results, and so, of course, it had to go! To wit, the written exam paper now consists exclusively of comprehension.

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority is actually lowering the benchmark.

Example one, proof-reading, which is a prerequisite for error-free, effective communication, has virtually been eliminated. Formerly, candidates had to correct a passage with either one or no corrections on each line.

Now, the passage underscores each error and even indicates what type of error it is. If you were an employee, would your boss point out all the mistakes in a manuscript and tell you what kind of mistake it was before asking you to read it?

Other examples are the new Level One and Level Five rankings and published guidelines. In the Level One example, how can 'plan some big eat club' be accepted as meriting any marks at all (the guideline indicates the passage meriting one point)? A zero mark would be justified.

Then we come to the 'so-called' Level Five ranking. Unique means 'one of a kind' so how can the examiner accept 'more unique' as proper English?

Basic English grammar mistakes predominate over the Hong Kong landscape. Any reader who has partaken of any outpatient visit to a government hospital will smirk at the stickers on the doors reading: 'Please knock the door.' Shouldn't they read 'knock on the door'?

Similarly, i-Cable still hasn't corrected its on-screen displays that read 'to subscribe this channel' when every native English speaker knows you have to 'subscribe to' something.

Like the Peanuts character Charlie Brown, all I can utter is 'Sigh ...'

Robert E. Castilho, Ho Man Tin