- The move to bring the summer break forward is aimed at freeing up campuses for use as mass Covid-19 testing and vaccination centres
- Hong Kong’s annual university entrance exams will kick off on April 22 as scheduled, with all candidates required to show negative rapid test results
Hong Kong students’ summer holiday will start on March 7, around four months earlier than usual, but kindergartens and international schools will be able to conduct online learning instead if they choose, the city’s education minister has announced.
The move to bring students’ summer break forward was prompted by the city’s surging fifth wave of coronavirus infections, and is aimed at freeing up campuses for use as mass Covid-19 testing and vaccination centres.
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“We hope that the face-to-face lessons of kindergartens and primary schools can resume after the Easter holiday if the epidemic situation improves, while secondary school students can go back to their schools after the public examination,” Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said, referring to Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams.
This year’s summer holiday will run from no earlier than March 7 until after Easter on April 17. The last day of the current school year will be pushed back to no later than August 12, while the next one will start on September 1.
Local primary and secondary schools will have some flexibility on the exact dates, but they must start their holiday no later than March 27. They can also bring forward the last day of school to August 2.
Kindergartens and international schools will be able to decide on their own holiday, but online lessons must be arranged if they do not adhere to the new schedule, as teachers will not be allowed to return to campus during the city’s universal Covid-19 testing drive slated for March.
Yeung explained there were technical difficulties when it came to international schools remaining open in July and August because they stuck to different academic calendars. Kindergartens also had shorter summer holidays to begin with, making it difficult for them to bring the break forward.
The suggestion to bring forward the summer holiday had previously sparked strong concerns among some school heads over disruptions to learning.
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Meanwhile, the DSE, Hong Kong’s annual university entrance exams, will kick off on April 22 as scheduled, with all candidates required to show a negative rapid Covid-19 test result for every subject they sit. Rapid test kits will be provided.
The examination period will be compressed to three weeks, Yeung said, while two contingency dates have been identified in May and June if the DSEs need to be postponed. The exact exam dates will be confirmed in early April.
Around 50,000 candidates sat the DSE last year.
Since the fifth wave began at the end of December, Hong Kong has logged 158,683 coronavirus cases, making the total for the entire pandemic 171,214. Health officials reported 83 Covid-related deaths on Sunday alone, taking the total to 727.
The government plans to conduct compulsory Covid-19 testing for all 7.4 million residents in March to tackle the ever-expanding fifth wave, with tightened social-distancing measures remaining in force until at least April 20.