The controversy surrounding memorised model answers at the last Advanced-Level examination is still provoking comment in education circles and among students. It was found that about 584 Form Seven students had written memorised essays in the composition part of the Chinese Language and Culture paper. The discovery stunned teachers and drew sharp criticism from the public. Many said the students deserved to be penalised for their 'unethical' behaviour and demanded a review of the examination system. The identical essays had originated from a model answer published in a revision-aid book for A-Level students. The Education Department took the punitive step of slashing grades of students who wrote the model essay answer. A group of senior students from Sha Tin Government School had some strong views to express on the matter. 'It's a bit too harsh to put down their grades, as this could mean the students losing a place at university or tertiary institutes because of it,' said Chau Kwan-hoi, a Form Four science student. She said the question of what is 'memorised' or 'copied' was still too vague, and if the students had only used a few stock words or phrases they learned from a model essay, then the punishment was too severe. She added that the Education Department should consider giving these students another exam in this particular paper. Form Five student Fong Wan-ki said it was unfair to heap all the blame on the students. She pointed out that it was common practice for Hong Kong students to memorise model answers for tests or exams. 'The Hong Kong education system seems to emphasise good results rather than independent thinking, and that indirectly encourages students to memorise a standard answer that guarantees a high mark,' the 15-year-old said. She said students have been memorising answers right through their school years, so it should come as no surprise when they use model essay answers at an exam. Wan-ki said the authority should review the system and give a clear-cut definition of what it regards as 'memorisation'. However, Form Six arts student Tse Man-wai said the students' methods were a disgrace to the education community. 'It wasn't just one or two students, but 584. That's about 10 per cent of the total number of candidates who took that subject.' He said it would be unfair to other hard-working students if the department gave some students another chance at the exam. 'Memorising important facts and figures for subjects like history and geography is fine, but to memorise a whole model essay for a composition paper is ridiculous,' said Cheung Ka-man, a Form Six arts student. She said composition was based on creativity and demanded original thought. It was acceptable to use a good phrase or two picked up from a well-written article, but wrong to reproduce the article word for word, she said. Ka-man said A-Level students were not children but young adults who knew what they were doing, and if they were doing something that was obviously wrong, then they should pay the price. Honesty was an important aspect of one's personality, she said. Her classmate Liu Lai-to said that students who bend exam rules could well apply the same attitudes in their adult life. 'Education is not just gaining knowledge, but also cultivating an upright, honest-dealing attitude to life,' Lai-to said.