HK pupils will face modified syllabus as Britain phases out GCSE exams

Radical shake-up of British education system will see examination phased out by 2017, but international version is likely to continue

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2012, 1:56pm


Thousands of Hong Kong pupils who sit General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations will face a modified syllabus in the wake of a shake-up in the British examination system.

But two international qualification providers said yesterday that the GCSE's international version, the IGCSE, would continue for the foreseeable future.

Monday's announcement by British Education Secretary Michael Gove set Britain on the path to one of the biggest shake-ups of its education system in decades, with a new exam, the English Baccalaureate, replacing the GCSE from 2017.

Gove said the move was intended to tackle "grade inflation" - a growing number of students recording high marks - and "dumbing down" of standards.

In Hong Kong, thousands of students, from the English Schools Foundation, international schools and some local schools, sit GCSE and international GCSE exams to give them the option of continuing their studies in Britain.

There will be time to adjust the curriculum to cope with the reform, ESF development adviser Chris Durbin says. But he added it would "be rather silly" for London to make dramatic changes to the IGCSE exams because this was "a kind of export income" for Britain's struggling economy.

It is also unlikely that the ESF will introduce the new baccalaureate as its schools have focused on offering an internationalised syllabus, he said.

A spokeswoman for Pearson, which owns the British exam board Edexcel and offers the IGCSE internationally, said: "If our international customers continue to see value in the IGCSE product, we will continue to offer it as part of our international portfolio."

A spokeswoman for Cambridge International Examinations said the IGCSE exams were expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

About 3,000 pupils take Pearson's GCSE and International GCSE exams in Hong Kong each year, according to the company, which is, along with Cambridge International Examinations, a major provider of such exams in Hong Kong.

Durbin said the IGCSE papers were written with reference to the GCSE exams used in the UK, although the international papers do not fall under the jurisdiction of the British government.

The deputy principal of a direct subsidy scheme school said she was concerned about uncertainties brought by the announcement and hoped the UK would not give up on highly regarded qualifications.

"What is the justification? Can't it just be revised instead of being totally scrapped," Pauline Chow Lo-sai of Fukien Secondary School, said.

Under the British reforms, GCSEs will be phased out in two stages. The new curriculum will be introduced for English, maths and science in 2015 and sit for the English Baccalaureate exams in 2017. The changes for history, geography and languages will come in 2016, with the first exams in 2018.