LCQ6: Liberal Studies examination of Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (May 9):


     The Liberal Studies examination of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination was held on April 2 this year, and Question 3 of Paper 1 required candidates to give answers in respect of materials on party politics in Hong Kong.  Quite a number of members of the press and the education sector queried that the Question was a leading question and even influenced the political stance of the candidates, and was suspected of requiring candidates to indicate their stance on political issues.  Furthermore, I also received letters from members of the public pointing out that the wording of the Chinese version of the examination questions concerned was inappropriate, and the syntax was disorganised as well as did not comply with the grammar of the Chinese language, and such persons offered recommendations for correction.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the guidelines, measures or complaint mechanism adopted by the Education Bureau ("EDB") to ensure that the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority ("HKEAA") is able to maintain impartiality in the relevant socio-political phenomena when designing examination questions for Liberal Studies;

(b) of the measures adopted by EDB to sanction or penalise HKEAA for its errors in designing examination questions, as well as how EDB protects the interests of the affected candidates; and

(c) whether it knows the mechanism adopted by HKEAA to ensure that the Chinese versions of the examination questions comply with the grammar of modern Chinese language?


Acting Madam President,

(a) The assessment criteria and examination questions for Liberal Studies have been developed by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) according to the Liberal Studies Curriculum and Assessment Guide prepared by the Curriculum Development Council - HKEAA Committee on Liberal Studies.  Moreover, the HKEAA has set up moderation committees for different subjects responsible for the development of examination questions.  Members of these committees include curriculum and assessment experts for the subjects concerned and experienced teachers in tertiary institutions and secondary schools.  Stringent guidelines and procedures in addition to an internal quality assurance mechanism are in place to ensure the quality and neutrality of examination questions.

     In fact, the contents of the Liberal Studies curriculum include the theme of "rule of law and socio-political participation", which aims to encourage students' discussion on Hong Kong people's participation in socio-political affairs.  It is therefore in line with the requirements of the curriculum to ask candidates to analyse socio-political phenomena in a public examination paper and such a question should not be regarded as a politically leading question.  In setting the question concerned, the HKEAA did not take into account any political considerations.  In fact, the public examination of this subject aims to assess candidates' ability in applying critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as making judgments and decisions from different perspectives and the question itself has no predetermined political stance or model answers.

(b) The HKEAA has put in place an in-house mechanism for disciplining staff who under-perform.  Every year, post-examination reviews are conducted on all subjects by the respective subject committees.  Any complaints about the questions, errors identified and suggestions made will be discussed by the relevant subject committees, which will subsequently report their findings to the Public Examinations Board.  If errors are spotted in a question paper after the examination, the HKEAA will assess the possible impact on the performance of the candidates and make appropriate adjustments in accordance with the standard procedures.  The incident will also be reported to the relevant subject committee and the Public Examinations Board.  Representatives from the EDB will attend the meetings of the Subject Committees and the Public Examinations Board to review and monitor the procedures and details of the development process and to make suggestions.

(c) All examination papers of the HKDSE Examination are set according to the established rigorous mechanism of the HKEAA.  When setting examination questions, the moderation committees will ensure that the questions are clear, fluently written and easily comprehensible.  As regards those subjects that candidates may choose to answer in different languages, the moderation committees will also pay attention to the consistency between the Chinese and English versions in content, style and meaning.  The papers will then be worked through by the assessors, who are experienced frontline teachers.  Amendments will be made according to the assessors' recommendations to ensure that the different language versions of the papers are consistent and grammatical in their wording.

Ends/Wednesday, May 9, 2012
Issued at HKT 14:38