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Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

How 2019 DSE fee waiver could hurt Hong Kong students with university hopes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 5:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 March, 2018, 10:26pm

As the parent of a pupil who is going to sit the DSE (Diploma of Secondary Education) in 2019, I am deeply concerned about the proposed exam fee waiver for all candidates.

DSE is regarded as the most important public examination for Hong Kong’s secondary school pupils. It serves to provide certification to pupils who have completed three years of senior secondary education under the New Academic Structure. Our financial secretary has misunderstood the purpose of DSE. The purpose of the DSE is definitely not to encourage self-learning among the public.

DSE is a high-stakes test. Most secondary school pupils were admitted to subsidised university entrance exams in Hong Kong via DSE results. It would be unfair to the 2019 cohort if the exam fee exemption attracts many private candidates who did not complete the new curriculum. The exam results could be distorted.

Hong Kong Budget 2018-2019

For instance, in the Chinese language oral test, pupils have to discuss a topic and reach a conclusion. Teachers coach pupils and guide them on discussion methods. Private candidates without preparation would not be familiar with the process, and may just argue rather than discuss and listen.

If many private candidates sit the exam, the chance of the group not being able to discuss a topic would increase. Failure to reach a conclusion would see all candidates in the group get a poor score.

Private tutors have boasted that they have sat the DSE subjects for years and always got a 5**. If a significant number of these “professional candidates” join DSE 2019 because it is free of charge, the results of elite secondary pupils would be jeopardised. The results of those who attain level 5 would be differentiated by the curve of normal distribution – and extreme high scores from “professional candidates” would skew that curve. With professionals in the fray, it would be more difficult to get 5**, even if the 2019 cohort are as competent as those in previous years.

DSE fee waiver plan can be ‘adjusted’ to ensure school students not affected by candidate surge, Hong Kong finance chief says

DSE is a means for selection. Universities and employers take DSE results for evidence of pupils’ attainment. DSE results are of paramount importance for our youngsters, as they determine their academic and career prospects. Now many fear years of diligence and toil will be futile if the exam is not fair and scores will be distorted by adults who sit the exam for fun or for the promotion of their tutorial business.

Jenny Cheung, Tai Wai