Coronavirus: No special centres for infected Hong Kong students sitting DSE

  • Education Bureau had set up special centre at Penny’s Bay quarantine facility last year for students who were infected with Covid-19 or close contacts of patients
  • Sources say arrangement will be scrapped for exams in April, but bureau yet to announce whether students who test positive for Covid will sit alongside their peers

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Secondary school students sitting last year’s university entrance exam. Photo: HKEAA

Hong Kong students infected with Covid-19 will not sit their university entrance exams in dedicated centres in April following the phasing out of the city’s isolation facilities, the Post has learned.

The Education Bureau on Monday said it was discussing with the examination authorities and would consult health experts to make “appropriate arrangements” to protect candidates’ safety. One school head said arrangements should be made to allow infected students to use separate rooms within the same exam centres as their peers.

The bureau set up a special centre last year at the Penny’s Bay quarantine facility to allow students who were close contacts of Covid-19 patients, or who were infected themselves, to sit the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE). The centre was used by 44 candidates.

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Last year marked the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020 that infected students were allowed to take the DSE exams, as they could previously only apply for a grade assessment based on their school performance.

Two sources confirmed to the Post that no such centres would be arranged this year, as Hong Kong took another step towards normality by scrapping the mandatory isolation policy for Covid patients on Monday.

A bureau spokesman said it was discussing with the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and would announce the decision as soon as possible.

“[We] will consult public health experts and communicate with the school sector in a timely manner to take appropriate arrangements to protect the safety and well-being of candidates,” she said.

A demonstration of exam arrangement at Penny’s Bay exam centre. Photo: HKEAA

A spokeswoman for the authority on Tuesday provided a similar response.

“[We] will continue to closely monitor the development of the pandemic and work with the Education Bureau and the school sector, with reference to the advice of the health experts, to implement appropriate examination arrangements to safeguard the health of candidates and examination personnel,” she said.

Tang Fei, a secondary school principal and a lawmaker, said it was normal for the bureau to scrap the special exam centres as the city was returning to normality. He said he would ask the bureau about the arrangements for infected candidates in the legislature this week.

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“Personally, I do not think students infected with Covid-19 should be treated in the same way as those who caught a flu,” he said, adding they should be placed in a different room in the exam centres as the seriousness of the symptoms of different candidates varied.

“If there is an infected case sitting nearby, students would feel uneasy throughout the exam and their morale and psychological status would be greatly affected.”

Tang also added some retired teachers were willing to be exam supervisors and the bureau should provide them with sufficient anti-epidemic supplies

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Meanwhile, the exam authority on Tuesday announced that a total of 50,823 candidates had registered to sit the DSE this year – 759 students more than last year. It marked the first increase after yearly declines since 2014.

Nearly 44,900 students will be the last cohort to sit the exam for the controversial liberal studies subject after the government’s announcement in 2020 that it needed to be revamped in the wake of 2019’s social unrest.

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