Face off: Should all schools in Hong Kong abolish exams?

  • Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a showdown that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint
  • This week, students discuss whether tests are really necessary, or if it’s time for them to go
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Do exams like the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education really help students? Or do they just cause more stress and other mental health issues? Photo: POOL

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For: Michael Chow, 14, STFA Leung Kau Kui College

Many students seem to hate school exams because they are stressful. What is the purpose of an exam? It is to test students’ academic progress. Teachers can now do this through e-learning, so there’s no need for exams.

First of all, exams are very harmful to students’ mental health. Students who fail their exams may have to repeat for one year which makes them very anxious.

A 2018 study carried out by the Baptist Oi Kwan Social Service showed that among 7,500 Secondary One to Six students who were interviewed, 51.5 per cent of them were suffering from depression.

Most of the students said the main sources of their stress included the HKDSE, schoolwork and worries about their future.

School exams no longer needed thanks to technology

In fact, students may become more interested in their studies if exams are abolished. The education system should be changed so that students, instead of rote learning in class, can explore their interests and start preparing for their future careers.

If students don’t have to worry about exams, they would be far more engaged during their lessons.

What’s more, students who get low marks in exams face criticism from both teachers and parents. As a result, they could lose their self-esteem and fail to reach their potential.

Opinion: Covid shows us that a blended learning approach may be best

Some may think that abolishing exams will cause students to lose their competitiveness. For example, then they might not be able to get into a university. I disagree. With a higher interest in learning and less pressure from parents, they would be happier, more eager to gain knowledge, and achieve their goals.

Therefore, I think all schools in Hong Kong should abolish exams which would help students to become well-rounded adults later in life.

Students face a range of emotions after receiving results for university entrance exams. Photo: Sam Tsang

Against: Janice Mook, 17, Diocesan Girls’ School

We will never stop complaining about school exams. But they are necessary to evaluate students’ ability and play a vital role in maintaining equality in the education system.

Admittedly, exams are stressful, but they keep students motivated. Research has shown that those who have performance goals for exams will do well in their studies.

Exams also cultivate students’ ability to work under pressure. Many students who take part in extracurricular activities while preparing for exams develop time-management skills and discipline which help them to face the future with confidence.

How to help last-minute exam prep stick

Exams are the best way to test students’ understanding of a subject. A good example is the HKDSE, which recognises candidates with different skills.

Even modern technology cannot replace exams. According to the book, Weapons of Mass Destruction, technology such as artificial intelligence is a flawed way to measure the learning progress of students. They are often closed-door evaluations which lack transparency.

Last year, GCSEs and A-levels were cancelled because of the pandemic, so instead, algorithms were used to award grades based on teachers’ judgment, class rankings and past assessments. This led to wrongly penalising some students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Exam and study tips from adults who’ve been there before

Some people may favour other forms of assessment such as coursework, presentations or research essays, but they don’t realise that students may end up cheating or acquiring help from others.

If you are hoping to land a good job in a well-known company nowadays, you’ll definitely need a university degree.

One thing I would like to see is local schools including more practical elements in their curriculum while reducing the emphasis on memorisation.

But it’s nonsense to say that school exams should be abolished.

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