Letter to the HKDSE 2022 Candidates – Are you still fine?
The Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools (HKAHSS)
21 March 2022
The more than two-year senior secondary school life is coming to a close soon. After the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), your secondary school life will end. Is this end a bit incomplete?
All of you are a special group of students. You have missed some of the experiences that others had, but you have also experienced what others have not had.
When you entered the senior secondary, the effects of the social incident and the pandemic come one after another. School suspension for a long time, online lessons, half-day face-to-face classes, then school suspension … this cycle keeps repeating. The days with whole-day face-to-face classes are limited. The senior secondary curriculum is more difficult than the junior secondary curriculum. It is difficult to seek help in the online lessons and half-day face-to-face classes when encountering problems in learning. Not having a thorough understanding of the basic concepts makes it even more difficult to follow what are taught after them. Finally, you have listened; you have read. But have you learnt?
Besides study, the other learning experiences which are most important in senior secondary have come to almost nothing. School Picnic, Sports Days, Study Tours, Extra-curricular Activities and Inter-School Competitions are cancelled. Though being elected as School Prefects, Students’ Union Executive Committees or House Captains, there is no opportunity for you to organise activities. There are very few items which can be recorded in the Student Learning Profiles (SLPs) for JUPAS.
There is a saying that lifelong friends are those made at secondary school. It is a pity that during the pandemic, you cannot see your friends or you have to see each other with face masks on. There is no chit-chat at lunch break or after school; there is no after-school study together; there is no face-to-face interaction with teachers during the study break; there is even the impossibility of having face-to-face Mock Examination. When losing the school life which you found boring and hard in the past, you find that school life is valuable now.
It is also because of the lack of those, you learn to treasure more. You learn to treasure the limited time with your teachers and classmates; you learn to be more independent, more self-disciplined, more flexible and adaptable, and have a calm composure. We strongly believe that you can make good use of what you have learnt, and go further optimistically, positively and with ease.
The HKDSE examination will begin soon. This is an important stage for your future. The arrangements for school-based assessments (SBA), oral examinations, written examinations and practical examinations are constantly changing. There are also various versions of HKDSE examination timetables. Is this road of examination a bit rugged and difficult to walk on?
What makes one puzzled is that the arrangements for the HKDSE are announced in bits and pieces at different stages though the pandemic situation continues. When you were in the middle of your Secondary Five, in February 2021, it was announced that the SBAs for 10 subjects were cancelled. But some of you had already started your work for the SBAs at that time. Approaching the end of your Secondary Five, in June 2021, it was announced that the Oral Examination for Chinese Language was cancelled and the written examinations of many elective subjects and the assessment requirements of the practical examinations of Physical Education and Music were streamlined. Two to three months before the HKDSE begins, in January 2022, it was announced that the Oral Examination for English Language was cancelled. In February 2022, it was announced that the written examinations would be held from 22 April to 14 May. The examination dates are reduced by 7 days. 60% of the candidates will finish all the examinations within the first two weeks. Some candidates even need to sit for their examinations on Sundays and public holidays; or sit for the examinations for two elective subjects on the same day. We hope that you can take good care of your physical, psychological and mental health to face these challenges.
As your teachers, how can we not worry when seeing your learning journey is seriously affected? In the last two years, we have expressed many times the effects of the pandemic on you in different ways to the Education Bureau (EDB) and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA), suggesting them have earlier planning and announcement: Will SBAs be conducted as usual? Will there be any adjustments on the content and the formats of various HKDSE subjects? This morning, we continue to communicate with the HKEAA on your concerns: Can the candidates who are in the restricted areas have the priority to take the compulsory testing? Can the candidates who are affected by the compulsory testing notice be arranged to take the HKDSE at special centres? Will there be a fairer arrangement for mark projection for candidates who are not able to sit for the HKDSE because of the pandemic? Besides, we hope the HKEAA will consider that the learning of the HKDSE 2022 candidates is incomplete; and your learning time and opportunities for practice cannot be compared with those candidates of the past. When formulating the levels of performance and those for the distinction levels (5*and 5**), we hope the HKEAA can have them to reflect your academic level in a fairer way.
While the HKDSE is getting close day by day, the pandemic situation is still not improving. Does the unknown make you feel upset? The pandemic situation is not what we can control. You and many other people are also facing different kinds of stress. This environment is beyond your and our control. What we can handle is our thinking and attitude. We can choose to “face it positively”. You can encourage each other, organise online study groups, discuss with your teachers and schools about the support you need, etc.
Do not spend time on pondering whether there will be any other changes in the HKDSE! It is like no one can predict whether the pandemic situation will suddenly become better or worse. You should be focused, keep yourselves physically and mentally healthy, and revise well in whatever way you can. You may also step back and think: Predicament may be a trial that everyone has to undergo in life. There is always a way no matter how difficult the road is. Let’s transform the environment with our mind! We hope all of you can stay positive and wait calmly for the beautiful rainbow after the rain. We sincerely send our blessings to every one of you.