Interview on Ming Pao: A Quiz on “Doing more good than harm” | 星期日現場:來一場「利多於弊」的小考(局部)


Interview on Ming Pao: A Quiz on “Doing more good than harm”  中文原文

Interview on Ming Pao: A Quiz on “Doing more good than harm” (17 May 2020 Mingpao excerpt)

Interviewee: Miss Lee Suet Ying (Former secondary school principal, Former Chairman of The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools, and a former Forms 1 – 7 History teacher in 1984-2000)


There is hot discussion on one of the questions related to the Sino-Japanese relation in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) History Paper this year. “In 1900-1945, Japan did more good than harm to China.”  Scrapping this question brings more good than harm.  Do you agree to this saying?  Please explain your answer based on your own knowledge.


I can only see the harm and not anything good.  If I answered that question in the HKDSE History Paper this year, this would be the answer. 

Before deciding whether that question should be scrapped, we first need to understand the objective of the design of Data-based questions.  Data-based questions aim to assess students’ ability to examine the historical evidence (skill-based), and to induce students to think and to analyse. In the data given, snippets of historical materials are provided as lead in to motivate students to think.  Students need to give their answers based on what they have learnt in the History course but not just the data given.  The sources from different countries give their different political stances. The objective of data-based questions is to train students’ ability to critically analyse these different data.  If students are only exposed to one-sided data, how can they know how to defend their country if some other countries twist some historical facts intentionally?

While there are different criticisms on the question in debate saying that the data is biased, the data given in the question are not fake though they might not be the best. The extract in Source C is more neutral description.  Source D shows that the loan from Japan was not granted without conditions.  It required mortgage and high interest rate; and the exchange rate was decided by Japan.  This is economic aggression and did only harm to China. While some said that the question is misleading, it actually requires candidates to answer whether Japan did more good than harm to China in 1900-1945, a period which is longer than that is mentioned in the data.  Candidates need to demonstrate what they have learnt and their knowledge to give a comprehensive answer.  “The Twenty-One Demands”, “The Mukden Incident / 918 Incident”, the full invasion of China in 1937, and the eight years of resistance to the Japanese invasion are the historical facts which students are very familiar with.  I strongly believe that the most reasonable answer to this question is that Japan had inflicted a lot of harm on China as a result of its military aggressions. Data-based questions similar to this one is very common. The question in last year’s HKDSE History paper also had a similar design.  The main idea of the question is on how China and Hong Kong joined hands to fight against Japan together (c.f. HKDSE History 2019 Paper 1). So, the question on Sino-Japanese relation this year does not seem to have any problems. The marking scheme for History will not require students to argue for “Do more good than harm” in this type of question.  When students give their answers, they can absolutely choose to say there is only harm but nothing good. While students’ answer scripts have not yet been marked, it is too early to scrap the question and say whether students are mis-guided.

There are two parts (with 2 questions in each part) in this data-based question paper.  The first two questions are about China and the history of Hong Kong (The first question is about the colonial rule in Hong Kong; and the second question is about China and Japan in the first half of the 20th Century, which is the question in debate).  The last two questions are on European history (The economic integration in the Post-World War II Period, and the War and Peace in the Pre-World War I Period).  All are compulsory questions. If the question in debate is scrapped, the assessment will be based only on the two questions on European history and one question on China and Hong Kong. If some candidates who are native speakers and have a better knowledge of European history, with this 2:1 ratio, will it be unfair to other candidates?  Besides, that question in debate about the Sino-Japanese relation is not a difficult question. Everyone can write some reasonable answers no matter whether they have good revision before examination or studied History.  Japanese invasion is common knowledge.  Who will not know?  When candidates sit in examination with time constraints, they will consider examination strategies.  If they have chosen to answer the question in debate first before answering the first question, they may not have enough time and therefore will write their answers for the first question hastily. Compared to those candidates who attempted the first question first, this group of students will suffer if the question in debate is scrapped.  The competition for university admission is keen and the examination result is critical.  Scrapping an 8-mark question will affect students’ results significantly.

In the last few months, the education sector including the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) collaborated well to ensure the HKDSE run smoothly.  We spent a lot of effort on arranging quarantine areas, sourcing face masks, working on appropriate seating arrangement, etc. to serve our students right. They have worked very hard for so many years and should be given the opportunity to attain the result of their hard work. Has it been considered the negative impacts on the candidates who study History due to the present contentions and the suggestion of scrapping the question?  There will still be the examinations for Chinese History and Geography in the following week.  How much will it affect the candidates who study History, Chinese History and Geography?  Scrapping the question in debate did happen in the past in different subjects in public examination.  They were done in accordance with the proper handling mechanism.  After the examination and the marking process were completed, the question would be scrapped if it was discovered that most candidates mis-read the question. That is to be handled after all the examinations are completed. In accordance with the handling mechanism, if the experts in History education find the question in debate problematic and misleading, and if students’ answers are confusing and only paying tribute to Japan, the question could be scrapped as it is not the original intention of the question.  But it should not be done at this moment as students have not yet finished all their examinations.  Some suggested that the marking scheme should be revealed to the public right now.  I do not agree to that.  How can the candidates have the psychic energy to cope with their remaining examinations if they know the ‘model answer’ now and feel that their answers are not good compared with that in the marking scheme?

Today, many discussions have turned from examination assessment to daily teaching and even teachers’ professionalism.  This incident has been fermented for some days and there is still no consensus on how to handle this question. It is not easy to understand how an examination question could lead to the accusation on teaching and teachers’ professionalism. When teaching this topic, all teachers quoted a lot of incidents like how the Diaoyu Islands were being invaded, how the Comfort Women were being humiliated, and how Hong Kong people underwent the terrible suffering for three years and eight months, etc. Assessment is not daily teaching.  Daily teaching will help students know all historical facts.  It is a very rough and incorrect logical inference which is unfair to teachers if the quality of teaching (for around two and a half years) is evaluated based on the questions in public examination (which is to be completed in three and a half hours).



星期日現場:來一場「利多於弊」的小考(局部) English version