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Internal Assessments for Secondary School Places Allocation amid the epidemic

Mr Benjamin Yung
Principal Assistant Secretary

 

     To students progressing to Primary 6 (P6) in the new school year and their parents, arrangements for the Internal Assessments (IAs) amid the epidemic are a real concern. The Education Bureau (EDB) is fully aware of this and has met with relevant principals and their representatives over the past few weeks to discuss feasible contingency options.

 

Understanding the Secondary School Places Allocation (SSPA) Scaling Mechanism

 

     IAs are not territory-wide public examinations. They are school-based assessments that a primary school participating in the SSPA has to conduct in order to determine the order of merit of its students. Under the existing allocation mechanism, primary schools have to arrange school-based assessments for their students in Primary 5 (P5) second term, P6 first term and P6 second term, and submit the IA scores of these three terms to the EDB accordingly.

 

     IAs are school-based professional arrangements. Different schools may have their school-based approaches, including term examinations, term tests, quizzes, summative tests, coursework or other professional methods, and they conduct varying numbers of assessments to determine their students’ order of merit within school in a fair and just manner. Schools are required to consult parents and other stakeholders on the school-based assessment mechanism and ensure their thorough understanding of the assessment approach.

 

     Since schools have different curricula and assessment methods and standards, the students’ order of merit as determined by the IAs of one school will not be taken for direct comparison with that of another school, nor will it affect that of any school. The EDB will use the results of a school’s previous cohorts in past Pre-Secondary One Hong Kong Attainment Tests to obtain the scaled scores of the students of the current cohort by referring to these students’ position in the order of merit of their school. The scaled scores of students of all schools thus obtained can be compared, and a standardised territory-wide Rank Order List can be compiled accordingly for secondary schools’ reference during the Discretionary Places (DP) stage and for dividing the allocation bands to determine the order of allocation in the subsequent stage of Central Allocation.

 

Coping with the epidemic

 

     To prepare students for Secondary 1 admission in the 2021/22 school year, about 70 percent of schools have completed their IA in P5 at present; yet some schools were unable to conduct the relevant assessments as scheduled in July because of the epidemic. There are also schools that have to postpone their IA for all P5 students to September, as some cross-boundary students (CBS) were unable to resume classes and take the assessments in Hong Kong in June. In addition, a number of schools have to arrange make-up examinations for CBS and other examination absentees.

 

     The new school year is about to commence and schools are encouraged to plan ahead. Schools should make appropriate arrangements to conduct examinations/make-up examinations during the period from September to early October on condition that the epidemic has subsided and feasibility allows. If schools, after reviewing their own circumstances, envisage genuine difficulties in conducting examinations/make-up examinations, they may consider adopting internal assessments for the students concerned in a professional manner as a substitute for P5 second term IA. For example, schools may consider making reference to evidence-based assessment materials, including students’ performances in P5 first term examination, past term tests, quizzes, online learning, tests and/or other formative assessments, to assess their scores in each subject. In addition, schools could complement the above assessments with students’ performances in the continuous assessment that starts with the commencement of the new school year.

 

     Schools should consult parents on their proposed school-based assessment arrangements. With the endorsement of the School Management Committee (SMC)/Incorporated Management Committee (IMC), school should notify parents in due course that the proposed school-based assessment is to be adopted as a substitute for the usual IA. Schools are required to submit students’ scores or order of merit to the EDB on or before 20 October 2020.

 

One IA score submission at minimum

 

     Due to various difficulties, including students’ inability to attend classes on campus, some schools with CBS may manage to conduct only one IA, instead of two IAs as usual, before the DP stage. To enable schools to have greater flexibility in completing the IAs necessary for the SSPA, we have decided to allow schools with CBS to combine the two score submissions in P5 second term and P6 first term as one, and only submit one set of scores or order of merit for students. Results thus submitted by each school will be subject to scaling under the same mechanism. Schools may adopt this flexible arrangement upon consulting parents and obtaining the SMC/IMC’s consent, and should notify the EDB of this decision before 20 October 2020. Schools could then have more capacity for making arrangements for school-based assessments, and may defer the submission of scores or order of merit to the EDB to mid-January next year.

 

     Of course, it would be most ideal to have assessment results available at different learning stages in P5 second term and P6 first term, as should generally be the case under the existing SSPA mechanism. In view of the uncertain epidemic situation, however, the above-mentioned flexible arrangement is deemed practical and expedient. The possible stress of having to complete two school-based assessments in schools with CBS before the DP stage could then be alleviated for students. As indicated by the analysis of past statistics, this arrangement will have no systemic impact on the fairness of the SSPA.

 

Future contingency measures

 

     To reduce the risk of subjecting IAs to the impact of a changing epidemic situation, we appeal for schools’ early action to review and devise school-based assessment mechanism and strategies. Schools could actively consider having different forms of continuous assessments in place as a contingency measure, such that they could still assess the performance of the current cohort with their school-based professional continuous assessment mechanism when internal examinations cannot be conducted as scheduled amid the epidemic. Schools should consult parents and SMC/IMC on continuous assessments and IA-related arrangements when appropriate and make adequate preparation accordingly.

 

     We hope parents and students could understand that under the threat of the epidemic, the special situation has rendered it necessary for schools to make special or unprecedented arrangements. Yet we hold firm the belief that schools will definitely exercise their professional judgement in determining their students’ order of merit within school so that students could be assessed in a fair and just manner. Meanwhile, we call upon parents to work hand in hand with schools, to understand and support the school-based professional decisions made by schools, and to provide their children with more appropriate support, so that their children will be rightly positioned in the order of merit for school places allocation by means of assessment, and learn through assessment results what their strengths and weaknesses are and in which areas they could enhance their overall learning effectiveness.

 

18 August 2020