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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 9:50am
NewsHong Kong

Public exams being devalued, principals warn

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2012, 8:53am

School principals fear Hong Kong universities will take in more pupils who have studied international curriculums at the expense of those who take local public exams.

The University of Hong Kong reserves about 20 per cent of its first-year degree places for those taking non-local exams, while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has stuck to a figure of 15 to 20 per cent.

Students who study international curriculums do not go though the local Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas) and are known as non-Jupas students.

"How many families can afford to send their children to international schools or give extra tutorial support for their children to take international examinations?" the chairman of the Grant Schools Council, George Tam Siu-ping, said.

He said that ultimately the government should provide more university places.

Tam, who is also the principal of Wah Yan College, said a sixth-former at his school was admitted to HKU's faculty of medicine this year on the strength of his GCSE A-level results.

HKU registrar Henry Wai Wing-kun said the university's percentage of first-year degree places reserved for non-Jupas applicants had been stable for five years "but it has gone up from a decade ago, when there were fewer international schools and students doing international curriculum".

Besides those in international schools, non-Jupas candidates include those who take associate degree programmes and students in local schools who have taken international exams such as the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) or International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum offered at some direct subsidy scheme schools.

Almost a quarter of English Schools Foundation graduates this year went on to local universities.

Students are worried about their chances of getting into university under new admission requirements since the launch this year of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam.

"Parents find it more viable for their children to do the GCSE and come back via non-Jupas," said Ronnie Cheng, principal of the elite Diocesan Boys' School (DBS), echoing Tam's concern.

Kenneth Fung, a fifth-former at DBS, is studying to take GCSE A Level exams early next year, as are a number of other pupils in his class.

"It seems hard to get good grades in the diploma," he said.


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This article is now closed to comments

Decades ago, many of us took both GCE and HKU Matariculation advanced level subjects in science and mathematics. I can't speak for others who never took these subjects in their entrance to HKU departments of medicine, math, science and engineering. There was little question then our local exams were much tougher. We never needed tutoring to take GCE or US Scholastic Aptitude Tests or Achievements Tests of special subjects.
Why should we offer some local students an easier alternative with IB and GCSE to gain admissions to local universities?
Is it fair to set aside a sizable quota for rich kids attending expensive international schools and taking easier exams in order to gain entrance into HKU Faculty of Medicine?
No matter how you look at it, this lower standard of admissions smacks of class discrimnation -- giving rich kids a break.
Of course, I am in favor of exempting qualified foreign students who seek admissions into our local tertiary institutions.
You wrote:
"No matter how you look at it, this lower standard of admissions smacks of class discrimnation -- giving rich kids a break.
Of course, I am in favor of exempting qualified foreign students who seek admissions into our local tertiary institutions."
These "qualified foreign students" apply to the local unis with IBs, A levels, SATs and other qualifications. Your argument against "class discrimation" smacks of gross discrimination against our OWN LOCAL students armed with the same qualifications as these foreign students.
The "rich" students u are trying to discriminate are 99 percent from the middle class, who contribute much in taxes. They are applying for the local unis because of the growing expensive fees overseas. The really rich do not go to the local unis, if you don't already know.
Your assertion that local exams are above international ones like the IB is also nonsense - top Ivy League and British unis with far higher rankings than our local unis have admitted many HK students with these qualifications.
I say scrap the discriminatory 20 percent quota. All admissions should be based wholly on merit. That's how America became great.
Please note I restrict my example to the Faculty of Medicine. I know of "rich" kids who figure aren't good enough to gain admission into US medical schools and don't have the perseverance -- 4 years med school and 4 or more years of hospital residency sneaked into HKU med school through this back door.
Our local universities are very good. I went to America for both my undergraduate and Ph.D. Just about every friend I knew majoring in physics in HKU during my matriculation year obtained his Ph.D. from one of the best universities in the US and UK. In case you don't know, physics Ph.D. takes an average of 6 years beyond a bachelor in the US and many do postdoctoral fellowships after that. My point is rich kids' disdain of local schools is misplaced.
Yes, I know rich kids want to major in something fluffy, touchy-feely in a brand name foreign school after international school and use their family connections to advance their career. But the point I want to make is that lowering the standard of admissions for our local schools will put us on the slippery slope of no return.
A disclosure: I am an alumnus of St. Joseph's College.
Absolutely right that rich kids will not go local!


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