About 1,100 fewer would-be students will compete for placements at Hong Kong’s eight publicly funded universities this year, as the number meeting the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam’s minimum requirements dropped nearly 6 per cent from 2019.
The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority on Tuesday also announced that only seven students who sat for this year’s exam achieved a perfect score across its seven subjects, down from 12 in 2019.
Of the 50,000 full- and part-time candidates who sat the exam, about 45,000 were day school candidates, those who recently completed their secondary education.
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Among that group, 18,572 achieved the minimum requirement for local undergraduate programmes, a 5.6 per cent drop from last year’s 19,676. They will compete for just 15,000 subsidised local first-year degree places.
“With the decrease of eligible students, obviously, I think it will be easier [to enter local universities] to some extent,” said Dr So Kwok-sang, the exam authority’s secretary general.
“But it [still] really depends what programme choice the candidates take … the choice of the programme, the various criteria in terms of admission, would impact on actual or final outcomes of the admission figures.”
All candidates will receive their individual exam results on Wednesday morning, mostly through online platforms, amid the third wave of Covid-19 infections.
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The authority also revealed that four male and three female students had attained a level 5** – the highest score possible – across all seven DSE subjects. Two of that group also earned a level 5** in an extended mathematics elective module.
Two students with special educational needs attained 5** in six subjects.
Last year, twelve students from nine schools scored the highest grade of 5** in seven subjects.
So said it was difficult to pinpoint why there was a drop in top scorers this year, as similar fluctuations had also happened over the past years.
“The number varies each year [and] we cannot say what were the actual reasons [behind the drop], whether it was the [Covid-19] pandemic or the papers were difficult, or because of the actual performances or ability of the cohort, I really cannot say,” he said.
This year’s exams, originally scheduled to take place in March, were delayed by a month because of the pandemic. When they finally did take place, about 310 candidates were absent because of illnesses or other issues, and applied for assessed results.
The exam authority said there was no significant change in the overall performance in the English and Chinese-language exams, despite the cancellation of oral tests in those subjects due to the pandemic.
Scrapped Sino-Japanese question would have demanded a ‘sound and balanced’ answer, exam authority says in revealing marking scheme
In the history elective exam, sat by about 5,000 candidates, one compulsory question asking candidates whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” in the first half of the 20th century was scrapped after it sparked outrage from Beijing’s foreign affairs arm in the city and pro-establishment camp.
The Education Bureau ultimately took an unprecedented step of asking the exam authority to disqualify the question, which they did following lengthy meetings about a week later.
The authority on Tuesday said the 4,958 candidates’ history grades were largely unaffected following adjustments to the grading scheme. Still, grades for those attaining level 3 or above in the history portion dropped by about three percentage points this year, to 74.6 per cent.
James Lam Yat-fung, the principal of Lions College and former chairman of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said as DSE results would be released online this year, his school had planned virtual meeting sessions between teachers and students to offer emotional support to pupils and help them with their plans for further studies.
He added that if any students were really eager to return to the campus to meet the teachers, they might be allowed to do so after following proper infection-control arrangements and social distancing.
The 50,000 candidates marked a record low in the DSE exams since they were introduced in 2012, a reflection of the city’s shrinking number of high school students in recent years.