Plagiarism in school exposes flaws

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 July, 2013, 1:33am

I refer to the report ("Cheating students lose their places at university", July 15).

While different parties point accusing fingers a timely discussion is needed regarding those (from Modern College) who cheated in their Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Chinese language "school projects" which "counted towards grades" in the exam.

The demands being placed on candidates in the HKDSE exam are beyond their intellectual capacity given that they are still just teenagers. Any readers who have done a masters degree can recall the painful experience of digging into new ideas and synthesising them in a research-based dissertation. Why are teens forced to do demanding tasks which are similar to this process in school-based assessment (SBA) projects which involve more than one subject?

This is in addition to their studies for other exam papers of four core subjects and at least two electives. Have senior officials at the Education Bureau learned anything about teenagers' physical and mental development? Are they putting the cart before the horse? How can a teenager who has not fully matured intellectually be expected to cope with these complicated SBAs? These are skills they are expected to acquire at university level.

Students of average ability are at a disadvantage. Also, parents on low incomes cannot provide the financial assistance needed to help their children complete their assignments. Why should underprivileged groups have to face this form of discrimination?

The intention was for the SBA to ease students' stress, but it has had the opposite effect. It was supposed to ensure that students' academic performance would not be solely based on a one-off exam, but would include coursework assessment. However, in the case of the 23 candidates in Modern College, that is not how it worked out.

Some of these candidates were repeaters, meaning they had already failed the HKDSE and they and their families were under tremendous stress. The way in which the SBA is run has completely defeated its purpose.

I think it was doomed from the start and the Modern College case is only the tip of the iceberg. How can just one authority, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), assess millions of students' research projects in different subjects and from so many schools?

The remaining SBAs should be scrapped. The HKEAA and bureau officials must put themselves in the shoes of students and frontline teachers.

Kendra Ip, Hung Hom