An elite secondary school intending to switch to the Government's direct subsidy scheme is considering dropping a plan to screen students with written tests, which have been described as uneducational by the education chief.
St Paul's College in Bonham Road, Mid-Levels, had been looking to introduce written exams for students applying for Form One places after it decided last month to switch to the scheme, starting from next September.
The school's tentative decision to screen prospective students through interviews instead came as Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun urged elite schools switching to the scheme not to conduct written tests.
Since the start of the 2001/2002 school year, government and subsidised schools have been barred from conducting written entrance exams, a move aimed at avoiding the repetitive drilling of pupils.
Compared with government and other subsidised schools, schools operating under the direct subsidy scheme have greater autonomy. They can exercise full discretion in student intake, curriculum design and fee levels.
Mrs Law earlier told the South China Morning Post that written tests were 'uneducational'.
'A written exam only gives you one dimension of students' ability,' she said. 'To be a school with good quality, you need to provide a comprehensive education for students.'
When asked whether schools operating under the scheme were allowed to set written entrance exams, Mrs Law said: 'Any act which is uneducational will not be allowed. We would like to discuss with them alternative ways of helping them overcome what they perceive to be a problem of screening students.'
She was glad to know St Paul's was considering screening students by interviews.
St Paul's College principal Timothy Ha Wing-ho said the boys' school was likely to select students for the next school year by interviews but did not rule out the possibility of setting written tests if it received too many applications.
'Written tests are fairer and more accurate means of testing students and can cope with large number of applicants,' Mr Ha said.
He said the interviews would be conducted in English to test applicants' proficiency in the language. The deadline for applications will be early March.
The college, founded in 1851, is the oldest Anglo-Chinese secondary school in Hong Kong. Mr Ha said he had not yet been approached by education officials on the entrance exams.