SCMP Monday, May 22, 2000


Public exam system to be revamped


A revamp of the public examination system is under way to take into account Education Commission reforms which aim to relieve exam pressure and encourage life-long learning.

The Hongkong Examinations Authority - a statutory body which administers public examinations - will be restructured. "The role of the authority has to change," said its secretary Choi Chee-cheong. "In the past, exams were an agent to assess how much a student had learned in class. In the future, exams will be a tool to help a student learn."

The authority also plans to change its name to the Hongkong Examinations and Assessments Authority, pending legislative amendments, Mr Choi said.

It is an independent, self-funding, and non-profit statutory body. Its main role is to administer the two main public examinations, the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (or Hong Kong's O-level) and the Advanced Level Examination (the university entrance exam).

On behalf of overseas examining bodies and local professional bodies, the authority also runs more than 140 exams leading to academic, professional, or practical qualifications. Among those bodies are the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, and Qualifying Examinations for Estate Agents/Salespersons.

The revamp coincides with the Education Commission's reforms which seek to abolish the Secondary School Places Allocation System and Certificate of Education Examination under a new "through-road" system.

Pupils may not need to face their first public examinations for university admission until the end of senior secondary three, equivalent to Form Six under the existing curriculum.

Mr Choi said the teacher-assessment scheme, under which a candidate's performance in class work is taken into account, would be extended. The scheme is presently run for laboratory or practical subjects. "We believe the approach is correct and will certainly apply the scheme to the future university admission exam," said Mr Choi.

To take into account the commission-proposed senior secondary system, Mr Choi said it might consider allowing senior secondary two students to apply to sit the university admission exam for some or all subjects.

"We want to allow students the greatest possible flexibility. Some students are smarter. There is no reason why we have to force a student to complete a course in six years before he is allowed to sit for the exam," added Mr Choi.

The authority is also expected to abolish the so-called "fine grade" system - sub-classifying a grade into three sub-grades - in the two local public exams.

Mr Choi said: "When the commission has suggested universities should put less emphasis on exam results, it does not seem very meaningful to state a Grade A as Grade A1, A2, or A3. Simply a Grade A should be good enough."

The commission report urges reform of the university admission system.

It says that universities should not over-emphasise students' results in public examinations but should instead consider their overall performance including their non-academic abilities and interpersonal skills as reflected in their school's internal assessments and interviews.