SCMP Thursday, May 18, 2000


University heads urge transition year


Some university heads have suggested introducing a transition foundation year for sixth-formers if university degrees are extended from three to four years.

As part of an overall reform of the education system, the Education Commission - the Government's think-tank on education policies - has suggested that university programmes be lengthened to four years from 2007. Senior secondary schooling would in turn be shortened to three years from the present four. All students now enter university after seven years of secondary school education. A working group, set up under the commission to study the feasibility of switching to three-year senior secondary schooling, will make recommendations to the Government in 2002.

It will then be decided whether to admit students after both six and seven-year secondary education. Universities may admit students after both six years and seven years during a transition period - the length of which will not be determined until after the 2002 decision - before degree programmes are extended fully to four years.

The University of Science and Technology and Baptist University agree on the need for a foundation year to enable students completing only six years of secondary school to catch up with the degree programme.

"In the transition, the four-year programme will likely take the shape of a foundation year followed by a three-year programme not too different from the current three-year system so that students admitted from both streams can share classes," Peter Dobson, the University of Science and Technology's associate vice-president for academic affairs, said in a letter to the Heads of Universities Committee. His views are shared by Baptist University president Dr Daniel Tse Chi-wai.

Dr Tse said in his letter to the committee: "For students coming out of senior secondary three [sixth form], the AS [Advanced Supplementary] level results should be the norm for admission to a foundation year which the university will design."

He said the university wanted to design a new curriculum to cater to the two batches of students.

Chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council Stephen Hui Chim-yim said: "As secondary school heads, we are only concerned if students will be taught something new in the foundation year or if it is just similar to Secondary Seven."

Cheung Man-kwong, the legislator representing the education sector, said: "It doesn't matter whether the universities are calling it the first year or the foundation year. It only matters what universities are teaching the students."