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Change to University of Hong Kong admission process welcomed by 70 per cent of school pupils ahead of final exams

  • Students excelling in specialist areas will no longer be penalised if they get poor grades in mandatory subjects
  • Survey by charity Youth New World finds changes will affect pupils’ further education choices
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 7:29pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2018, 10:52pm

Getting good grades in a variety of subjects will no longer guarantee you a place at the University of Hong Kong, and most secondary school pupils consider that a good thing.

A survey released on Sunday showed that 70 per cent of those in their final year of secondary education supported the university’s decision to change its admission’s process to reward excellence in a specialist subject.

In the past, pupils earning top grades in one area, but poor marks in others, were often left at a disadvantaged, compared to those who tested well across a range of topics.

HKU’s new scoring system gives more credit for excelling in a particular field, although some students were concerned that all-rounders would now be the ones at a disadvantage, and the changes would affect how students prepared for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams.

The telephone survey, conducted by education charity Youth New World, also found that about 60 per cent of the 908 respondents said the new system would affect their further education choices.

“The survey reflected that many pupils wanted universities to have more diversified admission systems,” said Ivy Chan Ka-man, director general of the charity. “On the one hand, the university can admit students who have strong abilities in specific disciplines.

“On the other hand, students can focus more on studying their favourite subjects.”

Competition for public university places hots up as DSE exam results announced

Under the new scoring system, applicants would gain 0.5, 1 and 1.5 extra points respectively if they scored Level 5, 5* or 5** – the top grade – in DSE subjects.

Previously, Level 5 was worth five points, 5* six points and 5** seven points. Under the new system, Level 5 would mean 5.5 points, 5* seven points and 5** 8.5 points.

The university’s minimum admission requirement of 14 points remains unchanged.

Most DSE candidates take four core subjects – Chinese and English languages, mathematics and liberal studies – and two or three elective subjects.

Chan said the new system would benefit poor pupils to some extent, because previous studies found that children from poor families were weaker in language-related subjects such as English, because their families could not provide an English-speaking environment.

Hong Kong students should know that DSE heartbreak is not the end of the world

But, Mandy Pang Chung-man, a first-year engineering student at HKU, said she might have had to consider other universities if she were to take the DSE exam under the new system.

The 18-year-old scored one Level 5 and one Level 5*, and Level 4 for the remaining subjects. She believes the new system would give those who excelled in some subjects advantages over all-rounders such as her.

“Under the new system, I might not have been admitted by HKU, so I might as well choose other universities,” Pang said.

The survey also found that almost 70 per cent the respondents believed the announcement of the new system, which came on November 3, was too late.

Chan said many secondary schools required teachers and pupils to discuss and decide on preferences to universities and disciplines by mid-November. If pupils wanted to change preferences after that, they would need schools’ special permission, Chan said.

“This was why some pupils believed the announcement had disrupted their strategies,” she said.