Hong Kong secondary school pupils feel let down by curriculum, study shows

Six-year study by Polytechnic University shows stress levels rise as pupils progress through a curriculum where a single exam ‘decides their future’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 5:08pm
UPDATED : Friday, 07 July, 2017, 11:26pm

Hong Kong secondary school pupils face rising stress as they progress through school under a curriculum where a single exam “decides their future”, academic researchers have said.

Looking at the curriculum introduced in 2009, which reduced the number of public exams required from two to just one, a six-year study by Polytechnic University found that more than 60 per cent of pupils in the final school year found the new curriculum to be frustrating and said it leaves little room for them to show their talents.

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“The findings showed hidden problems in the new curriculum ... students are feeling increased stress but lower confidence [in senior classes],” said Daniel Shek Tan-lei, chair professor from the university’s department of applied social science, who led the research.

More than 84 per cent of the Form Six pupils found the new curriculum was still exam-oriented. Forty-two per cent of them, who were mostly pupils with lower academic scores, preferred the old two-exam system.

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“Some students didn’t want to have just one exam to decide their future,” said Shek.

The content of the new curriculum is also not as diverse as the pupils expected. More than 90 per cent of those studying in their fourth to final year said learning life skills was important, but more than 40 per cent of them said there was not enough such content in the curriculum.

The curriculum, introduced in 2009, aimed to “create more space and time for students to enrich their learning experience” by reducing the number of public examinations, according to the Education Bureau. Officials also hoped to allow pupils with different abilities to “reach their full potential” with the revised programme.

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But the Polytechnic University study showed that academic stress begins rising in their third year of study and peaks during the final year, when pupils have to take the Diploma for Secondary Education Examination.

Shek said schools should offer more teaching of life skills such as self-management and interpersonal relationships, adding that social and emotional learning was compulsory in schools in the US and Singapore.