Public exam candidates said the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) should go ahead amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Most of them said the first contingency plan announced by the Education Bureau, and that scrapping the speaking exams would be unfair.
The bureau announced two contingency plans for the DSE last Thursday. Secretary for Education, Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, stressed the exams must proceed and preventive measures would be taken at the exam venues to lower the risk of infection.
The bureau’s first contingency plan is to postpone all exams originally scheduled before March 27, and move them to May. Meanwhile, all written exams and English speaking exams proceed as planned starting on March 27.
Under the second plan, all exams will be postponed for about four weeks. All written exams will start on April 24, instead of March 27, and finish on May 25. All Chinese and English speaking exams will be cancelled. Yeung said the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority would use the grades of other papers, like listening and integration skills, in these two subjects to calculate the overall scores.
“I would prefer the first plan,” said Cyrus Chu, a 17-year-old DSE candidate from St Louis School, “Oral assessment papers are really important to students who are already relatively weak in languages. Cancelling speaking exams, as proposed in the second plan, means it’s harder to get a passing grade for those students.”
Cyrus added that he was afraid any postponement of exams would affect his university applications because some overseas institutions were expecting his results in July. Putting off the DSE means universities would not have enough time to properly evaluate his performance, Cyrus said.
He was also worried whether students would be able to do their mock exams before the DSE. “Our school originally intended to complete the rest of our mock exams after the Lunar New Year holiday,” he said. With the class suspension, students might not get a taste of the DSE before it begins.
Another candidate, Vincent Cheung from Queen’s College, said he supported the first plan. “I don’t want the exams to be delayed for too long. It’s such a torture to wait for it to come around and get it over with,” the 17-year-old said.
Although he agreed that the DSE must proceed, he was not happy with Yeung’s announcement. “It’s too late to release the details now, and he also didn’t give any guidelines to schools regarding our mock exams.”
Crystal Chung Ching-to, 17, also opted for the first plan, citing the same reasons given by Cyrus. “For the first plan, our all-round abilities will be examined. But for the second plan, it will make the whole examination unfair to those who excel in speaking.”
Crystal said her preparation for the DSE was disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. “I stopped my speaking practice [with other candidates],” the Carmel Secondary School student said. “I also became less motivated to study as I don’t know the exact date of the public exam. Now I’m trying to treat the postponement as extra time for revision.”
Helen Chan, another DSE candidate from True Light Middle School of Hong Kong, said she found flaws in both contingency plans. “The mock exams provided by the school have been postponed due to class suspension, so I would like to have more time to prepare for the real DSE,” she said. “And the second plan suggests cancelling the speaking papers, so my grades are definitely going to be affected.”
No matter which plan the bureau adopts, the 17-year-old said it was important for candidates to know the final decision as soon as possible.
The bureau will make a final decision on the DSE by the end of this month.