Most Hong Kong DSE candidates prefer postponing the exams and worry about getting sick with Covid-19, NGO survey finds

  • Youth New World, a charity that helps low-income families, polled 352 Form Six students about the arrangements for this year’s Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams
  • On Wednesday, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said authorities would consult health experts to confirm if the exams should start on April 22
Sue Ng |

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A survey of DSE candidates finds 65 per cent of respondents want the exams to be postponed. Photo: POOL

An NGO survey found most candidates preferred postponing Hong Kong’s university entrance exams and were worried about contracting Covid-19, as the city’s education minister said authorities would aim to begin the exams as scheduled.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said authorities would keep a close eye on the Covid-19 situation and consult health experts to confirm whether the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams should start on April 22.

Yeung said further details would be announced in early April.

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Published last Sunday, results from a survey conducted by Youth New World, an NGO that serves low-income families and students in Hong Kong, found 65 per cent of respondents wished to postpone the DSE exams. About 70 per cent expressed concern about getting infected during the test.

From March 4 to 18, the charity polled 352 Form Six students online in Chinese to understand their response to this year’s DSE arrangements amid the city’s fifth wave.

With 61.5 per cent of those polled saying the DSE should not be cancelled, 80 per cent said authorities should create a backup plan as soon as possible, instead of “passively depending on the pandemic situation”.

Youth New World has released a survey on Form Six students’ views on the DSE exam arrangements under Covid-19. Photo: Handout

Authorities had previously announced that DSE candidates would need to show negative results from Covid-19 rapid tests for each subject they sit, with those who were infected or under isolation orders not allowed to attend the exams.

In February, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority said this year’s DSE exams could be postponed to mid-May or early June. If the epidemic situation remained severe by mid-May, the examination would be cancelled, and candidates’ DSE results would be based on their schools’ internal assessment marks.

In the Youth New World survey, 71 per cent of interviewees disagreed with the proposed contingency plan. About 80 per cent agreed that authorities should announce the final decision on a backup plan as soon as possible.

Almost 90 per cent of respondents were “unsatisfied” with the government’s handling of the Covid-19 epidemic.

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As for sources of stress, which participants scored from zero to nine points, “exam preparation under the pandemic” was rated highest with 7.58 marks. Other concerns included “worry about learning progress under Covid” (7.34), “cancellation of the DSE” (6.71), “getting infected” (6.65), and “postponement of the exam” (5.70).

Tong Wing-yiu, vice-chairman of Youth New World, noted that this year’s candidates were suffering from more stress than those from last year as they had the least in-person school days.

“This year, students only attended school [in person] for about 180 days ... They have had the least time in school to learn and prepare for the DSE, compared to those from previous years,” said Tong, who had taught in both primary and secondary schools for 20 years.

He also said the compressed DSE timetable added anxiety for pupils: “For some elective subjects, they are lined up on consecutive days. This reduces their revision time.”

DSE candidates must show negative results from Covid-19 rapid tests for every exam they sit. Photo: AFP

To help alleviate student stress, Tong urged authorities to confirm the examination start date and details as soon as possible.

“With an exact timetable and arrangement, students will feel secure,” he said, adding that authorities should also address concerns about Covid-19.

“The government could arrange a special room for infected students to take the exam and announce the reliable rapid test kits for candidates to buy.”

He also noted that it was unreasonable to base pupils’ DSE results on their internal school performance.

“What if some students studying in a Band Three school outperform the school’s standard? It’s not fair,” he said.

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