This year saw the lowest number of top performers – obtaining 5** in seven subjects – in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) since 2012. Some believe this is because of changes to the syllabus in some DSE subjects, as well as the university admission requirements.
Only four students among 68,128 candidates got a perfect score. They are: Tammy Yiu Tsz-ching and Bernice Cheung Cheuk-sin from Diocesan Girls’ School in Jordan; Wong Ho-sum from Queen’s College in Causeway Bay; and Se Wing-tung from St Paul’s Co-educational College in Mid-levels, all 18.
Hong Kong Taoist Association Tang Hin Memorial Secondary School principal Lai Chi-yuen said the new Chinese curriculum might have resulted in fewer top performers.
For the first time this year, candidates only took four DSE Chinese papers instead of five, as Paper 5 was merged with Paper 3, renamed as Listening and Integrated Skills.
“The DSE Chinese is difficult, much more than before. The stress faced by students is also far greater as it takes a lot of time for them to adapt to the new course and exam requirements,” Lai said.
Some students claimed that this year’s DSEs were easier, but Hok Yau Club Student Guidance Centre director Ng Po-shing said there were still challenges. “The DSE English exam seemed a lot simpler, so it was easy to pass,” he said. “But the subject involves numerous general questions asking students for their opinions. These types of question are not easy to handle, so it was harder for students to achieve top scores.”
Ng said another reason for fewer perfect scorers could be because fewer students actually wrote the seven exams needed for a top score.
“Local undergraduate programmes only recognise one or two electives, so more students might have refused to take three or more electives,” Ng said.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen also said there were fewer electives for students to choose, due to the limited number of teachers. “Some electives, such as Chinese History at St Clare’s Girls’ School, were scrapped due to insufficient educational resources,” he said. “When students are not able to select the electives they are interested in, it’s harder for them to put effort in other subjects and get top scores.”
But Wong Hak-lim, a maths teacher and vice-principal of Buddhist Ho Nam Kam College in Yau Tong, says there’s another reason. He believes many students who could have achieved top scores might have chosen other curriculums such as IB, which might offer more flexibility than DSE and still get them into university.