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HKDSE - Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

Hong Kong exam authority chief suggests trimming Chinese ‘paper of death’ to reduce student stress

Dr Tong Chong-sze argues that the oral and listening test components for the subject were not necessary, but notes idea should be further reviewed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 10:04pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 August, 2017, 10:24pm

An outgoing Hong Kong education official has suggested removing the oral and listening components of the Chinese language test to reduce the stress on students sitting for the city’s college entrance examinations.

Dr Tong Chong-sze, secretary general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, said on Friday he had heard that secondary schools spent a lot of time and effort on Chinese and English language papers for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination.

This resulted in students not having time to take a third elective or participate in extracurricular activities.

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He said a way to free up time for students was to simplify the structure of the Chinese papers, such as taking out two components – oral and listening.

“Chinese language is the mother tongue [for most students in Hong Kong],” he noted, adding that they should already be familiar with the subject.

“[At a similar level on mainland China], Chinese language examinations only assess composition and comprehension skills. Similarly, there is no need to test oral and listening skills [at that level] in the UK.”

Dubbed the “paper of death”, the difficulty of the Chinese language examination in Hong Kong has become a major hindrance as part of the test for students to qualify for university.

While English language is also another big challenge, Tong noted that English was a “foreign language”, so testing of all four components – reading, writing, listening and speaking – were necessary.

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But Tong, who is stepping down at the end of the month to take up the post of vice-president at Open University, stressed that his suggestion was more of a direction the authority could move towards in an extreme scenario.

He said that it was up to experts to look into whether such a change was needed.

Tong also noted that the Chinese DSE format had gone through several improvements since its implementation in 2012.

For example, last year, the number of Chinese language papers was reduced from five to three after combining sections for listening and integrated skills.