Coronavirus: Hong Kong survey finds that most students support class suspensions

A majority of HKDSE candidates support postponing the exam until after Covid-19 has been contained globally

Nicola Chan |

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Most surveyed students thought the exams should only resume after the end of the epidemic.

More than 13,678 secondary students in Hong Kong think that school should be indefinitely suspended until the coronavirus outbreak is under control, and at least 2,437 DSE candidates maintained the public exam should be postponed, according to survey findings released at a press conference by two anti-government student organisations today.

The survey was conducted by Students Connect and Hong Kong Students from February 8-15. A total of 14,868 students participated in the survey, among which 19.3 per cent (2,868) claimed to be DSE candidates. The week-long online survey aimed to collect students’ opinions on the effectiveness of the government’s anti-epidemic measures and its relevant arrangements related to students’ health and education.

43.5 per cent of student respondents believed that class should only be resumed when the epidemic is under control in both Hong Kong and China, while 37.4 per cent think that classes should remain suspended until the outbreak is controlled globally.

How students and teachers cope with online learning during the class suspension

99 per cent of the participants found the government’s anti-epidemic measures insufficient, while 98 per cent concurred that a complete border closure should be implemented. On a scale of 1-5, with 1 being the lowest score, over 70 per cent of the respondents rated the government’s performance in fighting against the epidemic 1, and 21 per cent of them rated it 2.

Meanwhile, over 85 per cent (2,437) of the respondents taking the DSE this year hoped the examination could be deferred, which constitutes about 4.6 per cent of the total DSE candidates this year. In addition, over 78 per cent of them (2,237) prefer the Education Bureau’s proposed-but-not-adopted contingency plan’s suggestion of postponing all written exams by four weeks, but disagreed with its suggestion that the oral exams for Chinese and English should be cancelled.

However, the majority of these respondents also think the exams should commence, ideally, only after the epidemic is contained (under the condition that no newly-confirmed cases have been reported within 2 weeks).

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Other concerns reported by some DSE surveyees include the cancellation of mock exams and e-learning as a means to acquire new knowledge from the exam syllabus.

Northern district member Chiang Man-ching, also a Chinese tutor at Beacon College, condemned the HKEAA for not postponing the public exams for highly stressed candidates until the epidemic is contained.

“While the EDB attempts to reduce social contact by extending school suspensions, the HKEAA does the opposite,” said Chiang.

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He added that even though the HKEAA had urged schools serving as exam venues to ensure candidates would be seated at least 1.8 meters away from each other, it remains highly doubtful that there will be sufficient classrooms or space to implement the suggested measure during the examinations.

In addition to the 14-day mandatory quarantine for cross-border students travelling from mainland China to Hong Kong, Chiang urged the Authority to set up separate exam centres for cross-borders students to minimise the risk of spreading the epidemic.