Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung and a written reply by the Secretary for Education and Manpower, Professor Arthur K C Li, in the Legislative Council today (April 30):
Regarding the incident in which a secondary school suddenly refused to lend out its venue for holding the Advanced Supplementary Level Examination on March 28 this year -- the day of the examination, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the details of the incident and how the authorities handled it;
(b) whether similar incidents had happened before; if so, of the details of the incidents and how the authorities handled them;
(c) whether the affected candidates have lodged any complaints; if they have, of the number and details of the complaints and how the authorities handled them;
(d) whether the marks of the relevant examination paper of the affected candidates will be adjusted; if they will, of the adjustment details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(e) whether disciplinary actions will be taken against the secondary school concerned; if so, of the details of the disciplinary actions; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) According to the April 2 press release issued by the concerned secondary school, located at Tai Koo Shing, Eastern District, ("the school"), the school had received notice from the Department of Health in the afternoon of March 27 confirming that one of its students had contracted atypical pneumonia. On the same day, the school tried but did not succeed in contacting the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA). Approximately after 7 a.m. on the following day of March 28, the school succeeded in informing the HKEAA that due to the necessary disinfecting and cleansing required subsequent to one of its students contracting atypical pneumonia, it had decided not to provide its hall as the examination centre for the advanced supplementary level subject of "Chinese Language and Culture" of the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE).
As the HKEAA could not convince the school then to change its decision, the HKEAA immediately informed the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) and contacted another school (located at Braemar Hill Road, North Point) to provide its hall as examination centre and arranged three coaches to transport the candidates to this new examination centre at around 9 a.m.
The examination was originally scheduled to start at 8.30 a.m. Due to the contingency arrangement, the affected 120 candidates were delayed to start Part A of the examination's Paper I at 9.48 a.m.
To prevent the opportunity of the affected candidates contacting candidates who could have left other examination centres thirty minutes after the examination had started, HKEAA had already ensured that the affected candidates had not used mobile phones or other forms of communication making external contact. At the same time, in order to minimise the delayed duration, the break of 45 minutes between the two parts of the examination's Paper I in the morning was adjusted to 30 minutes. The lunch break was also adjusted from 1 hour 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes. (The planned 1.30 p.m. examination for Paper II was rescheduled to 2 p.m.).
Although the arrangement of examination centres is under the purview of the HKEAA and it is not necessary for the Government to intervene in the arrangement, EMB had contacted the school that morning, trying to change the school's decision under the special situation of the atypical pneumonia. The school's decision remained unchanged. Concurrently, on March 27, EMB had formulated detailed guidelines, issued press release and issued circulars to schools about the arrangement during the period of suspension of classes including the guidelines. This whole set of guidelines includes those to parents and the "No change to public examinations" guidelines provided by the HKEAA which specify that "In consulting the Department of Health, the Authority is given the understanding that the school premises are suitable for use as examination centres as the premises are cleaned and sanitised everyday, and ventilation is good." EMB had also issued supplementary notes to schools on March 29 making it clear that all school premises for use as examination centres should remain open for public examinations. The whole set of guidelines "Handbook on Prevention of the Spreading of Atypical Pneumonia in Schools, Resumption of Classes and Schedule of Events Prior to Resumption of Classes" has been posted on the EMB website.
(b) No similar incident had happened before.
(c) A parent wrote to the HKEAA on March 30 requesting special adjustment of his son's examination results because his son was worried and had felt sick after the rough trip from Tai Koo Shing to Braemar Hill Road. As at present, the HKEAA has not received other complaints via phone or letters directly addressed to it. Besides the above complaint, the HKEAA was aware that two candidates had phoned the Radio Television Hong Kong expressing their dissatisfaction of the shortened breaks.
EMB has not received complaints relating to this incident.
(d) The School Examinations Executive Committee under the HKEAA Council is responsible for making decisions on irregularities and special cases of the public examinations. This Committee will seriously assess the impact of this incident on the affected candidates, including the aforementioned March 30 request for a special adjustment of results, with an objective and fair attitude.
(e) The HKEAA had sent a letter on March 31 to the school supervisor reprimanding the principal's un-cooperative attitude and requiring the school to provide the hall as an examination centre for four days of the public examinations from end of April to early May, as originally scheduled. The school has agreed to this arrangement.
The HKEAA is an independent statutory body. It has its own rules to handle the arrangement of examination centres which is under its purview. Therefore, it is neither necessary nor appropriate for the Government to take any disciplinary action against the school. However, to prevent the recurrence of similar incidents under the special situation of atypical pneumonia, EMB also sent a letter on March 31 to the school's supervisor expressing disappointment to the school's decision, requested the school to provide a written report and ensure that the school would open the premises for the purpose of public examinations as arranged.
End/Wednesday, April 30, 2003