Final bow for that exam

Final bow for that exam

Hong Kong's students are saying a fond farewell to an old academic friend

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A Level History_L
Photo: May Tse/SCMP
Good luck to the 41,000 candidates who will be receiving their Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) results today. This year marks the end of an era in the history of Hong Kong education - the final HKALE, better known as the A-levels, was held a few weeks ago.

In future, Hong Kong students will be taking the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination.

Over the years, the HKALE has been the gateway for secondary students to enter university.

Before 1993, Hong Kong schools needed to choose between two university entrance exams - the HKALE and the Hong Kong Higher Level Examination.

The HKALE was designed mainly for students in English-medium schools who wanted to study a three-year course at the University of Hong Kong at the end of Form Seven.

Chinese-medium school students, who planned to take a four-year course at Chinese University at the end of Form Six, would select the HKALE.

In 1993, education authorities said the overlapping examination system was unsuitable, causing confusion and anxiety among Hong Kong students, so the two exams were merged.

After the 1997 handover, the mother-tongue policy was introduced in Hong Kong. Critics said this would weaken students' English language ability.

The pass rate in Use of English in the HKALE since 2005 has proved the critics were right.

The year 2005 was the time that students, who started at secondary school in 1998 - when the mother-tongue policy began - sat their HKALE.

The pass rate in 2005 was 76.5per cent - down 2.9 per cent compared to results from the year before. The pass rate continued to fall over the next two years, reaching a low point of 74 per cent in 2007.

However, while Hong Kong students' English has suffered as a result of the mother-tongue policy, their Chinese has improved. The percentage of students passing Chinese in the HKALE has gone up from 83.5 per cent in 1996 to 94 per cent in 2005.

The year 2001 was the first time students received their A-level and the now-discontinued Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination results over the internet.

It also proved a stressful and unhappy time - for both students and the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority.

Up to 9,500 students applied to have their papers rechecked and re-marked after the A-level results came out - a 54 per cent increase on the year before.

There was speculation that the increase in re-checks was caused by errors in questions in the pure mathematics and history A-level papers, but the Hong Kong Examination and Assessment Authority never confirmed this.

About 10 per cent of maths exam candidates and 4 per cent of history exam candidates asked for their papers to be rechecked and remarked that year.

Over the years, the A-Level has provided an essential base for Hong Kong's higher education - giving students the opportunity to see the fruits of their hard work.

Let us hope the HKDSE proves a great success in the years ahead.

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