Stay focused and prepared for HKDSE Examination
Secretary for Education
Over the past few months, all members of our community are fighting the epidemic as one. While the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 has slightly dropped from a peak in the last couple of days, there is no room for slackening and we must keep up our strenuous efforts. Further observation is required before we can be sure whether the situation is stabilising. For now, we still take 24 April as the date for commencing the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination.
24 April still the best option
This is the critical time for the HKDSE Examination. During the past fortnight, the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) met with the senior management of universities and principal representatives of the secondary school sector on different occasions. With an open mind, we have explored together the scenarios of commencing the HKDSE Examination as scheduled on 24 April, further postponing the HKDSE Examination and even cancelling the HKDSE Examination this year.
It is our consensus that enabling the HKDSE Examination to take place as far as safety allows is in the best interest of students. As the only local public examination, the HKDSE Examination provides students with the opportunity to conclude what they have worked hard to learn during six years of secondary education and offers widely-recognised credentials for further study or employment.
If the HKDSE Examination can commence on 24 April, all written examinations should be able to be completed by 25 May and results will still be released within July. Accordingly, there should be little impact on the timing for enrolment in local or overseas universities.
As a matter of fact, the HKEAA has got all examination centres ready, with epidemic prevention supplies made available for candidates and examination personnel. On examination days, all candidates arriving at an examination centre will be subject to temperature checking and disinfecting, and only those showing no symptom of fever or acute respiratory infections will be allowed to sit for the examination. As far as practicable, candidates’ seats will be spaced out at intervals of 1.8 metres and daily cleaning will be enhanced in all venues. To ensure candidates’ safety in the examination centres, the HKEAA will consider stipulating more guidelines having regard to the latest development.
Alternative plans for postponement or cancellation
Yet we must have alternative plans and preparations for a severe situation that lingers, including further postponement of the HKDSE Examination as an option. Till when then? Should it be a near date, the epidemic may not over yet. But a further postponement until a more distant date may likely affect the admission of students, opening of the new academic year and programme arrangements of universities. Thus we will continue our deliberation with the education sector which still have different views.
As for the cancellation of the HKDSE Examination, this is certainly not a well-received option, as that means there will be no public examination results for all candidates. However, cancellation will be the only choice if a persisting epidemic renders the safe administering of the HKDSE Examination impossible. Should that be the case, the HKEAA will have to devise a relatively fair assessment mechanism that rates all school candidates by assessing their internal academic performance in their own school, with adjustments based on the HKDSE Examination track record of the school. As regards private students, it is inevitable that they will not be given any rating. In their admission of undergraduates, universities will of course adhere to the principles of fairness and impartiality by taking into account candidates’ academic and non-academic performance and making further assessment as necessary.
That said, we are still taking 24 April as the commencement date for the HKDSE Examination and making full preparation for this. In the event of any special circumstances, we will make an announcement as early as possible.
Pressure understandably mounting for candidates
We fully understand that candidates feel insecure because of uncertainties. The epidemic is constantly changing and its development also depends on what we achieve in preventing and fighting the virus in the community. A hasty decision to postpone the HKDSE Examination will equally upset the candidates’ plans, while cancellation will be a disappointment to many who fear that the assessment they eventually may fail to reflect their actual abilities. Neither scenario helps relieving the pressure on candidates.
It is the wish of all candidates as well as that of the EDB and HKEAA that the examination timetable will not be affected by the epidemic time and again. Yet nobody can tell what lies in store and how the epidemic will evolve several weeks or months from now. But for sure, we are always mindful of candidates’ safety and their needs for further studies, and prepared to make appropriate arrangements for them in light of the epidemic development.
Fight the virus together
Easter is around the corner. I hope that candidates fully absorbed in their preparations and revisions can squeeze time for relaxing. It is a good idea to have some “empty moments” in life, just in the same way white spaces in Chinese ink painting allow room for adjustment of rhythm. Candidates are advised to have more rest and more communication with their family. Physical and mental well-being, coupled with others’ support, is more likely to bring success.
I wish to call upon everybody to give ample support to candidates. Apart from showing encouragement, we can contribute more by observing personal and environmental hygiene and social distancing in everyday life. Staying home and avoiding gathering of all sorts help prevent the spread of virus in the community. When each of us can do our part, we are also making it more possible for candidates to take their HKDSE Examination.
7 April 2020