The Education Bureau (EDB) announced two contingency plans regarding the HKDSE examination timetable in light of the city’s ongoing coronavirus outbreak this afternoon, one day after the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) urged the Bureau to advise contingency plans for students’ exams.
The first plan is to postpone all exams originally scheduled before March 27, including Physical Education (Practical), Music (Practical) and Chinese Speaking. EDB’s Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung proposed that Physical Education (Practical) and Music (Practical) exams be held in May, while the Chinese Speaking exam, originally scheduled from March 11 to 19, be rescheduled to from May 18 to 26.
Meanwhile, all written exams and English Speaking proceed as planned starting on March 27. He also proposed pushing the date of the release of results to one week later, from July 8 to July 15.
The second plan is to postpone all exams for about four weeks. All written exams will start on April 24, instead of March 27, and finish on May 25. Physical Education (Practical) and Music (Practical) exams will be postponed from late May to mid June. All Chinese and English Speaking exams will be cancelled.
Yeung said the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) would use the grades of other papers, like Listening and Integration Skills, in these two subjects to calculate the overall scores.
The Bureau will make a final decision of which plan they'll adopt by the end of February.
Yeung ruled out the possibility of cancelling the HKDSE exams this year. "We must ensure student safety, but the DSE is an extremely important exam and in principle, it needs to go ahead," he said. "We need to strike a balance."
Further delay of local public exams is not preferred, as it would limit DSE candidates’ time to apply for local and overseas universities, he added.
Yeung also pointed out that the local public exams in 2013 - namely the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination - proceeded amidst SARS.
DSE candidates will be required to put on masks and fill in health declaration forms - indicating their temperature, and that they have not travelled to mainland China within 14 days - upon their arrival at the examination venue, added HKEAA’s Secretary General So Kwok-sang.
Body temperature screening booths would also be set up at the entrance of examination venues, where students are advised to use hand sanitiser to clean their hands. Candidates whose body temperature exceeds 38 degrees Celsius will be asked to leave the exam venue.
HKEAA will consider penalising or even disqualifying candidates who are dishonest about their health condition.
If candidates have a fever, or suffer from the symptoms of acute upper respiratory tract infection, like coughing or shortness of breath, they should stay away from the exam venues and seek help from the doctor, So said.
According to the HKEAA’s Examination Regulations, no make-up examinations will be arranged for students who are absent from written and practical exams.
DSE admission forms will be distributed to candidates on March 5.
Classes will resume on March 2 at the earliest, and further suspension would depend on several factors, including professional medical advice from the Health Department, the supply of protective equipment in schools and its impacts on Hong Kong cross-boundary students.
The application deadline of the HK$2,500 one-off student grant will be extended to two weeks after class resumption.
Meanwhile, if classes have still not resumed by March 9, primary six students’ third and last internal examination for the purpose of Secondary School Places Allocation will be cancelled. The Bureau would look at students' past results instead.
Earlier this morning, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU) sent a letter to the EDB urging Yeung to provide support measures for schools and parents.
The HKPTU demanded classes be suspended until the outbreak is in control, and that the EDB should assist schools in - and provide them with - coronavirus protective equipment to ensure the safety of teaching staff and students.
The Union also called on the EDB to set clear guidelines advising people who have been to China against visiting school campuses within 14 days of their arrival, and to consider giving additional allowance and resources for schools to support online learning during the class suspension.