DSE fee waiver plan can be ‘adjusted’ to ensure school students not affected by candidate surge, Hong Kong finance chief says
Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s remarks come amid concerns grant will be abused by those hoping to take test ‘for fun’
A plan to pay fees for the Hong Kong secondary-level leaving examinations next year could be adjusted to prevent a possible surge in candidate numbers from affecting those who really need to take the test, the city’s finance chief said on Saturday.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po first announced the entrance fee waiver for those taking the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) in his budget address on Wednesday. The government planned to use part of the record HK$138 billion (US$17.6 billion) surplus to cover costs for the goodwill gesture, estimated to be about HK$180 million.
While the plan would cover school students and private candidates, such those who want to retake the test, many internet users spoke of sitting for the examination “for fun”, raising concerns of a surge in candidates crowding out those taking it to enter university.
There were also fears about whether additional candidates would affect the overall grading mechanism.
“I have noticed public opinion and those on the internet in the past few days,” Chan said on a Saturday radio programme.
“Is it possible to adjust [the plan]? Yes, totally,” he said. “The most important thing is that we can help the others while not affecting students.”
Chan stressed that the priority would be students sitting for the examination as part of their trajectory into university. He said he had asked the Education Bureau, as well as the Examinations and Assessment Authority, to follow up on the matter and to ensure this group is not affected.
He said the plan to also cover private candidates was to encourage young people who did not do well on their first attempt to sit for the examination again.
Christine Choi Yuk-lin, the undersecretary for education, said on Saturday that authorities were still reviewing implementation details.
“This measure is to alleviate the [financial] burden on students and candidates,” Choi said. “Some private candidates might also have this need, but we are still studying ways to identify if they really require [the fee waiver].”
Choi also said she hoped people would not abuse the grant and disrupt school candidates.
“If people took the exam just for fun or to disturb other students, I think this violates the [plan’s] original purpose,” she said, adding that the DSE examination would be important to many school candidates who had worked hard for more than 10 years.
The government announced the measure after DSE fees rose over the past three years. Fees for the language portions this year increased to HK$619, up by HK$24 from the previous year, while fees for other subjects climbed HK$16 to HK$414.