Exodus over exams is overreaction

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 November, 2011, 12:00am


Few people look back with fondness on the Certificate of Education Examination, which spelled exam hell for generations of secondary school seniors.

Now, the old exam is to be replaced by the new Diploma of Secondary Education examination, and anxiety has followed. Anecdotal evidence suggests more parents are sending their children to study overseas, to avoid the new exam.

Under the old system, at least students and parents knew what to expect. No one likes uncertainty, or turning their children into guinea pigs for an experiment in education reform. So the concerns and worries over the new test are understandable. However, they are also exaggerated.

Much is made of the differences between the two exam systems. Under the old system, local universities required a minimum of a passing grade in Chinese, English and two other subjects. With the new exam, they require at least passes in Chinese, English, maths and the new subject of liberal studies.

But the new subject requirements actually make sense. A knowledge of secondary-school maths will help prepare for university study and many future jobs. Liberal studies, which take in the humanities and ask open-ended questions in exams, should encourage critical thinking over rote learning.

But the most important reason for the new system is that a year is being taken off secondary school, to be compensated by a fourth year at university. That year will be far more valuable than a secondary-school year. Hopefully, confidence will be gained as people get used to the new system.

Sending children to study overseas is a legitimate educational option, but let's do it for the right reason.