HKDSE - Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

Students should not be losing out because of exam revamp

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 August, 2012, 4:53am

Securing a university place remains the top priority for Hong Kong students. They are trained to sit through a series of highly competitive examinations to enter the institution they prefer. When the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) was introduced to replace the two-tier exam as part of the academic structure revamp, hopes were high that it would ease pressure on the students. Sadly, the change appears to have brought more anxiety and disappointment.

The sentiments were reflected in the first university admission based on the new exam results. Although 26,000 students have met the minimum admission requirement, only 15,000 of them can actually study in one of the eight funded universities. Given that competition is keen and places limited, it is to be expected that those with lower scores will lose out.

Over the years, students have had a good idea of the A-Level grades needed to apply for a particular faculty. But the rules of the game under the new exam are totally different. The fact that seven in 10 students have reshuffled their top three preferences after getting the exam scores in July speaks volumes about the students' anxiety. There have been suggestions that wrong selection strategy has become a bigger problem this year. Some students with above-average scores have failed, apparently because many have been conservative in their faculty choices. Some blame the government and universities for giving false hopes with unusually low minimum requirements. Others complain that getting a university place is now more a matter of luck rather than performance.

If the number of students seeking to study overseas is indicative of people's confidence in the curriculum revamp, the latest figure should be a cause for concern. So far, more than 6,000 students have applied for courses in Britain, 37 per cent more than last year. Those who apply with HKDSE scores have also encountered problems. While top universities like Oxford and Cambridge are said to have made offers to Hongkongers from the new system, one student told this paper that his grade in combined science, a new subject in the curriculum, has been rejected by a British university. This underlines the need for more government promotion overseas to ensure the new exam will be internationally recognised.

The academic revamp was not introduced to make students' life more difficult. The experience in the exam and university admissions should be carefully reviewed for improvements.