Hong Kong students to choose how much of Chinese history exam to take

Hong Kong’s education minister has said a move allowing students to answer fewer questions on the Chinese history exam for university admission will help boost interest in the subject.

The adjustment, which will allow students to sit only the exam covering the compulsory part of the subject and skip another testing their grasp of more advanced ideas, will better suit the different needs of students, educators have said.

“A lot of experts have said that raising the interest of students in a subject is also very important,” Secretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin said on Friday. “Besides using the method of examination … students can study different aspects of history based on their interests.”

The minister’s remarks came a day after the government announced students would be given a choice of writing one paper instead of the current two when taking the Chinese history exam for their Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE).

Paper 1 accounts for 70 per cent of their grade, and Paper 2 takes up the remainder. If students took only the first one, their maximum grade would be 5 instead of the full 5**. The arrangement will begin with Form Five students in the next academic year.

Choi argued the change would give students more options in studying the subject, while also catering to their different needs.

Education minister Christine Choi has also denied the change is being made due to any falling interest in the subject, noting it is one of the more popular electives. Photo: Jonathan Wong

“We hope to create the space to allow more interested students to take Chinese history or to allow students to focus and study Chinese history according to their ability,” she said.

The government had no goal in terms of how many students took Paper 2 following the change.

Choi also denied that the change was made due to any falling interest in the subject, noting it was one of the more popular electives.

According to data from the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, 5,852 DSE exam takers from schools, or 13.5 per cent of the total, took the Chinese history test this year, up from 12.7 per cent or 5,493 in 2023.

Chan Chi-wa, a veteran Chinese history teacher with about 30 years of experience, predicted the main difficulties with the change would be motivating some students to attempt both papers and how to arrange classes and manpower for two groups of pupils.

But he said the change would also create a dilemma for teachers, as some students would opt to sit only one paper when educators might believe they had the ability to do both.

“Should the teacher encourage the student to also sit for Paper 2 or should they respect the opinion of the student,” he said.

Lawrence Wan Siu-yin, the head of the Chinese history department at St Stephen’s Girls’ College, said allowing students to choose would help cater to their different needs.

“For students who are not as capable, allowing them to not study Paper 2 will give them more space … this will mean that there is less examination pressure,” he said. “It will also mean that these students can focus their time more on studying the compulsory components.”

The teacher, who has about 20 years of experience, added he doubted educators would face any difficulty in planning the curriculum.

Ho Hon-kuen, principal of the Centre of National History Education (Hong Kong), said he expected the adjustment would lead to more students taking up the subject as the curriculum would be more inviting.

“This arrangement is very good, as it gives students another choice,” he said. “They can be their own bosses by being able to make their own decisions.”

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