Students are under enough pressure
It is the usual depressing season for public examinations. Those who have gone through this stage will agree that the Hong Kong exam is a dreadful experience. In the coming weeks, some 70,000 students will be gearing up for the final battle that determines whether they will leave school for work or move up to university.
The pressure this year is particularly high because it's a different game under the newly implemented Hong Kong Diploma for Secondary Education that replaces the previous two-tier exam. Understandably, the new curriculum has fuelled anxiety among students, teachers and parents. The marking for the compulsory liberal studies unit has already been criticised as too vague and arbitrary.
The latest disturbing news is that Hong Kong's examination authority is seeking ways to hold the exams earlier or force students to take two a day so that the results will be released earlier to give universities more time to process applications. Inevitably, the move has given an impression that students' interests have been sacrificed for administrative convenience.
There are good reasons why education groups have rejected the proposed changes. Schools have long been calling for the exam to be delayed so that there will be more time to finish the curriculum. The proposal to advance next year's oral exam to as early as February is certainly a step in the wrong direction. The option to squeeze two exams into the same day is equally objectionable. In some cases, students will have to cope with two papers in six hours. The pressure of such a marathon exam session would be huge. Any move that could weigh on students further should be carefully assessed before being implemented. That said, universities should be given sufficient time to process admissions. Their academic year is already expected to start later than usual because the new exam results are only due in late July, three weeks later than it used to be under the old A-level exam. A better option is perhaps deploying more resources to speed up the marking process, which will ease the pressure on students and universities.