'New exam should be easier and shorter'
Many students taking the university entrance exam this year could fail the new liberal studies subject, according to a study by a concern group.
And since the subject is now compulsory, this could mean fewer students getting into university, the group says.
The Hong Kong Liberal Studies Association urged the government to make the exam easier and shorter to reflect the ability of pupils. If this was not done, it said, the test would be meaningless.
It has conducted four rounds of random testing on 1,500 senior secondary students from 117 schools since November 2010.
The failure rate for liberal studies ranged from 30 to 70 per cent.
'A large number of students may not pass. We worry that some won't get into university because of this subject, while they will do well in other subjects,' association member Wong Ka-leung said.
Under the new education structure, the first Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam will be held in March. It will replace the A-levels exam - which will be held for the last time this year - as the university entrance exam. Students will have more flexibility to choose their subjects, but Chinese, English, mathematics and liberal studies will be compulsory. Liberal studies tests knowledge of the world, critical thinking and reasoning with questions on current affairs and values.
Both students and teachers complain that the exam requirements for the new liberal studies subject are vague. They say the broad subject - which ventures into ideology and philosophy - dramatically increases the workload of teachers.
The association's Hui Chun-lung said many of the students it tested simply could not finish all of the questions. 'If many of them fail, you are not really testing them. And it will not look good when these results are seen overseas. We need to make the test a meaningful one that can test students' ability.'
Hui and Wong called on the government to make the exam easier and shorter.
Wong also noted that teachers were under pressure when it came to deciding what to teach.
'If you want to teach how to achieve quality of life and you read the news, almost everything is related, such as the air quality objectives and the levy on garbage,' Wong said. 'Even the chief executive election could be relevant. But if you don't spend time on all of these topics, you could risk missing something [in the syllabus].'
A Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority spokeswoman said yesterday that the syllabus and exam structure would be reviewed only after this year's exams.
She said the exams were formulated after in-depth studies and consultation, and there had been opportunities for practice runs before the formal exam, slated for April.