The annual public examination season for local senior secondary school students kicked off with the Chinese Language speaking assessment this week. Through small group discussion on topics ranging from extra-curricular activities and social issues to marriage and personal appeal, oral abilities of entrants are evaluated. Although the 2018 exam has just begun, the next batch of candidates can already feel the pressure.
Under the New Academic Structure, the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE) is the only public examination for secondary school students upon completion of the six-year curriculum. Since its implementation in 2012, the HKDSE has been the final step for local Form Six students to secure their entry to tertiary education. This year, a total of 59,039 school and private candidates will sit for HKDSE 2018, competing for the 15,000 publicly funded degree places in eight local universities.
As competition in securing a first-degree place is fierce and the HKDSE syllabus is intense, it is no surprise that Hong Kong students have to devote an additional three to six hours on schoolwork each day, after spending seven to eight hours in school.
Joyce Lee, a Form Five student at a local secondary school revealed that she has been suffering from sleep deprivation since she started her senior secondary school years.
Students studying and taking a nap in the classroom. Photo: Christy
“When quizzes and homework are all due around the same time, I work till very late and I don’t have enough time to sleep. Not to mention any leisure moment, or time for exercise,” Lee said.
“We find it difficult to concentrate in class due to the lack of sleep. Still, there are always lots of homework and tests every day, making it impossible to finish every piece of work within the limited time. It’s just so tiring. We can’t get away with the vicious cycle,” added Lam Ka Lo, a HKDSE 2019 candidate.
Lam (left), Lee (right) and friends. Photo: Christy
Students also doubted that some assessment methods within the HKDSE curriculum are not designed to let them demonstrate their real ability. For example, Lee was only given 35 minutes to write a comprehensive report on a selected article for her Chinese Language School-based Assessment. Even though she had prepared for the test by analysing the composition, she could hardly put down everything she knew on the paper within the short time limit.
Speaking examination. Photo: HKEAA
For the Chinese Language speaking exam that is currently taking place, candidates are given ten minutes for individual preparation upon receiving the question and reading materials. They will then start a fifteen-minute discussion in groups of five randomly assigned by the examination authority. Candidate are not only assessed on how they deliver their own arguments, but also how they engage members of the group in a meaningful and productive discussion. So, the whole group could be marked down if someone refused to cooperate with the rest of the group, or if the discussion had an inaccurate focus.
The Chinese Language speaking exam will continue next week. Most written papers will take place in April, and the English speaking assessment in early May will conclude the 2018 local public examinations. Results Notices will be released on July 11.
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