A dwindling number of students studying HKCEE shorthand and A-level French means the subjects will soon be scrapped from the public examination syllabus in 2001. Only two pupils sat for the French examination last year and fewer than 10 had taken it in recent years, Hong Kong Examinations Authority secretary Choi Chee-cheong said yesterday. Students who wished to take the exam from the 2001 academic year could sit the British equivalent, he said. Only a few hundred students had taken shorthand in recent years, mostly at one commercial college. The college said scrapping the exam would not pose a big problem. In future, prospective shorthand students will have to take their tests through channels such as the Pitman's examination or the London Chamber of Commerce Institute exams. The authority also will relax rules for private candidates sitting the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination from the academic year 2000, although the age requirement of 21 will stay.