Recognition for qualification a milestone for HK education
Hong Kong's education reforms have reached an important milestone with the international recognition of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education.
The inclusion of the HKDSE in the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) tariff used by British universities for admissions is testament to the rigour of the new senior secondary curriculum. It can now stand alongside major qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate Diploma and British A-levels. This should enable British institutions to set minimum entry requirements similar to those in Hong Kong - though offers will vary, often upwards, given the competitive nature of university entry.
Recognition is good news for Hong Kong and not something that has come easily. It is the result of years of hard work by those building the HKDSE and their foresight in ensuring it could stand up to local and international scrutiny. The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority has consulted exam boards, recognition bodies and universities in many countries. The outcome is good for students. The fact they should be able to proceed directly to university in Britain, Australia and US gives them many options. It is good for Hong Kong as it means internationally educated graduates can return worldly wise with a diversity of knowledge and skills. This is important given Hong Kong's key resource is its human capital and its role in China is in the international arena. But this benefit is not unique to Hong Kong. Britain wants more of its students studying overseas for cultural and economic reasons. No society can afford to be a parochial backwater in education.
This is not to say students who go abroad will necessarily be better than those remaining in Hong Kong. The benefit will be the diversity they bring, as well as high academic standards from the world's leading universities.
As more students aim for higher levels of learning there will still not be enough places for them all in Hong Kong institutions, publicly funded or private, after 2012. The chance to go abroad, or to study for an overseas qualification in Hong Kong, means greater access to university education.
The UCAS benchmarking does not mean British universities will automatically admit students with comparable grades to British A-level. This is a tool to use to make their own admissions decisions. They can now look more closely at the HKDSE, using this study and information provided by the examinations authority about the exam.
But some uncertainty will remain until after the first students have completed the qualification and shown their colours at universities at home and abroad. It helps that Hong Kong students are prized for their abilities and hard work, just as they excel in international comparisons such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Programme for International Student Assessment.
If the reforms result in improved learning and critical thinking those advantages should increase, despite challenges that come with implementing major education change.
Katherine Forestier, director of education and science services, British Council Hong Kong