Nearly 75 per cent of Hong Kong schoolteachers polled in a survey sought further postponement of the local university entrance exam amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the city's biggest teachers' union.
Survey findings released on Wednesday by the Professional Teachers' Union (PTU) also found most of the 3,600 teachers polled believed universities could defer the start of the new academic year by a month until October to fit the delayed schedule.
More than 52,000 candidates were expected to sit Hong Kong's Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exams from March 27. The exams have now been postponed until April 24 amid the public health crisis. However, international exams, including the International Baccalaureate (IB), were already cancelled worldwide last month.
Education officials recently met with the heads of local universities and secondary schools to discuss whether the DSE exams should be further pushed back or called off. But Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said on Tuesday the latest plans were still for the exams to go forward on April 24.
In the PTU survey, which was conducted earlier this month, some 3,473 secondary schoolteachers and 212 principals were asked to submit their preference for three possible scenarios in case the exams could not take place in April. The scenarios were: further postponement of the exams, cancellation, or asking all candidates to retake the exams next year.
Nearly 75 per cent, or more than 2,700 respondents, supported the DSE exams to be postponed until June or July with universities postponing the new school term until October. Most felt the final exams were the best way to assess students' ability.
Unlike international curriculums such as the IB diploma programme, the DSE exams rely heavily on final exams while school-based assessments account for only a small proportion.
No more than 30 per cent of the teachers felt the exams should be cancelled, with many worrying that if the final exams were scrapped, it would be difficult to settle on a widely-accepted replacement method to indicate students' grades and performance.
The least popular option was having all pupils retake the exams next year, with only 18 per cent of the respondents showing support.
Tin Fong-chak, a secondary schoolteacher and vice-president of the 100,000-member PTU, said teachers and parents hoped the impact could be minimised on students as many pupils had been anxious about when the DSE exams would be conducted.
"Students have been preparing for the exams over the past three years. When there are significant changes in the plans, they might feel worried and concerned," he said. "They don't know what they can do. They don't even know whether they need to keep studying."
PTU president Fung Wai-wah also urged the government to take a decision on this as soon as possible, instead of making announcements only days before the exams.
On Tuesday, the 35,000-member Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers also said the exams should be pushed back to July to minimise uncertainties.
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