Chapter 8 Interface between Senior Secondary Education and
(A) University Admission
8.7 Universities support the idea of broader selection criteria so that students through programmes that have breadth and depth will enter a 4-year university programme that will be integrated and better prepare graduates for professions/careers by having a broader knowledge base and higher-level generic skills.
8.8 The use of a Senior Secondary Student Learning Profile is supported as it will provide more information on different aspects of student development to supplement examination results and will better inform universities’ admission processes.
8.9 Universities indicate understanding of the impact admission requirements can have on the planning of schools and studies of students. They support the announcement, as early as possible, of more specific information about admission requirements for different faculties/departments.
8.10 HUCOM has expressed early support to Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies as core subjects for students, and would consider study of each of them as a minimum entrance requirement.
8.11 There is considerable concern about the university/faculty admission criteria.
Schools in particular have urged for early release of the admission criteria.
8.12 There is general recognition that university admission criteria may carry negative wash-back effect on student choices, and in particular its impact might marginalise some subjects and inadvertently maintain heavy streaming towards science subjects.
8.13 There is concern whether universities should consider including Liberal Studies as one of the subjects for admission.
8.14 There is concern about the weighting of the NSS “Science” subject for admission to universities, compared to Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
8.15 There is some concern that universities should not set any entrance examination in addition to the HKDSE.
The Way Forward
8.16 A Working Group, comprising representatives of universities, HKEAA, UGC and EMB was established in October 2004 to provide a forum for liaison on articulation between the new senior secondary education with higher education and study the interface issues relating to “3+3+4”.
8.17 In support of the proposed “3+3+4” reform, UGC and HUCOM issued a joint statement in January 2005 indicating their support for all four core subjects – Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies to be considered as mandatory requirements for university entrance.
8.18 The Working Group is considering what level(s) of attainment might be required for the four subjects. This consideration involves careful modelling of what learning outcomes can be expected for the whole student cohort in the new system taking into account current benchmarked standards, particularly for Chinese and English languages, which will anchor the standards-setting process in the new HKDSE, together with the impact the extra demands of studying Mathematics and Liberal Studies may have on students’ overall performance.
8.19 Minimum entrance requirements for Chinese and English languages are likely to require a similar standard of performance as currently applies. In the case of Mathematics and Liberal Studies, it is likely that a lower threshold level of performance will be required.
8.20 Universities are committed to providing more specific information in mid-2005 on the broad subject combinations required for tertiary admission, and a preliminary indication of the minimum learning standards expected of each of the four core subjects. It is anticipated by mid-2006, they will provide details
of specific admission requirements at the faculty and programme level.
8.21 The Working Group is exploring with HKEAA the information that can be made available in the new assessment system to assist admission and selection processes. The working principle is that no less information, and more if possible, than currently provided should be made available.
8.22 There are three levels of requirements to support the entry of students to post-secondary institutions:
(a) minimum (or general) university admission requirements for students to enter university including core subjects, additional subjects if required and respective standards as needed;
(b) programme admission requirements which are pre-requisites over and above the general university admission requirements laid down by individual faculties/programmes, including number of subjects, specific (e.g. Chemistry) or from a group (e.g. one or two science subjects); and (c) selection criteria which are based on relative performance of applicants
and other information used in the actual selection process.
8.23 All the three, in particular the first two, will have significant wash-back effect on schools and student choices. This has been recognised by the universities.
8.24 The importance of early release of specific university/faculty admission criteria for school planning in the next few years is recognised. While the curriculum and assessment of the new senior secondary is still subject to consultation, further development and benchmarking, it is possible for universities/faculties/
departments to announce sufficient information, in advance of the final outcome, for parents, students and schools to plan ahead.
(B) International Benchmarking and Recognition
8.25 There is strong support for obtaining international recognition of the new HKDSE as students may choose to study overseas.
8.26 There is concern about the interface between the NSS education and overseas universities and how international recognition of the new HKDSE could be obtained.
8.27 There is concern whether exemption or credits from other qualifications such as IB Diploma would be provided by universities in the new 4-year undergraduate programme.
The Way Forward
8.28 Historically, international recognition has been of great importance to Hong Kong families wishing to enrol their children in overseas universities, especially in UK, but increasingly in a range of other countries, including Australia and USA. In the past, it was difficult because not many people moved overseas and overseas universities were not always set up to take overseas students and had few incentives for admitting overseas students.
There were often barriers to overcome to gain entry.
8.29 Globalisation has meant that many more people are choosing to study overseas and so what was an exception has now become a common pattern. There is equally a greater demand by overseas students to take the opportunity to study in Hong Kong.
8.30 In addition, around the world universities are vigorously marketing their services and are actively seeking to attract qualified full fee-paying/scholarship
overseas candidates, to further the status of their institutions and improve the learning environment for local students. As a result, there are far fewer barriers for those who want to study overseas.
The Hong Kong Situation
8.31 HKEAA negotiated detailed arrangements for students who want to study in the UK. These arrangements, which are in place today, work as set out below.
8.32 A sample of examination papers (3 A-level and 3 CE-level) and scripts are sent to one of the examining boards (University of Cambridge International Examinations) each year. They vet the papers and scripts and provide a report on the standards. The HKEAA uses the information to adjust standards in Hong Kong on an annual basis. As a result, HKEAA is able to print on students’ certificates that:
A grade of “C” or above is equivalent to a British GCE O-level pass HKALE:
A grade of “E” or above is equivalent to a British GCE A-level or AS-level pass.
8.33 This helps students applying for entry into British universities as the standards associated with GCE are well known, even though O-level examinations were discontinued many years ago. However, they still need to meet admission requirements of individual institutions. For students who wish to study in other countries, these equivalences are not as important. These institutions have their own requirements which do not give special recognition of British GCE results.
In the Future
8.34 The Secretary General of HKEAA wrote in November 2003 to UCLES to initiate the process of securing international recognition for the proposed HKDSE and received their reply in April 2004.
8.35 UCLES confirmed that there would be no problem in gaining recognition for the new credential using the current approach to establishing equivalence with GCE.
8.36 They also suggested that HKEAA should make direct contact with individual institutions about the new credential.
8.37 HKEAA proposes to work with UCLES to ensure continuity of equivalence with GCE. Certain levels within the new five Level standards will be benchmarked to a pass in GCE. HKEAA plans to benchmark these standards before the first student cohort takes the HKDSE.
8.38 HKEAA also intends to move in the direction successfully taken by other countries/jurisdictions which have six years, rather than seven, of secondary education with a baccalaureate style examination, by negotiating direct recognition of the HKDSE with individual institutions, particularly those that have already taken in Hong Kong students.
8.39 HKEAA will start the process by seeking recognition of the current examinations, paving the way for the HKDSE when it is introduced.
8.40 Generally speaking, standards of Hong Kong students in subjects such as mathematics and science are world class. Our standards of English understandably need particularly careful benchmarking to ensure acceptance of the HKDSE results. HKEAA has recently carried out a special study of standards in English (Syllabus B) and Use of English with IELTS, so that we are benchmarked internationally. In the future, HKEAA will consider benchmarking standards in English with other international standards and a range of English as a Second Language (ESL) qualifications.
(C) Articulation to Post-secondary Studies and Vocational Training Institutions
8.41 The post-secondary institutions have expressed initial support to the senior secondary student programme.
8.42 There is concern that smooth articulation between NSS and post-secondary sub-degree and undergraduate programmes should be ensured.
The Way Forward
8.43 The post-secondary institutions consider that the four core subjects provide the necessary knowledge and skills to study in post-secondary institutions. The articulation to post-secondary studies like Associate Degree programmes would be further discussed.
8.44 Vocational training providers such as the Vocational Training Council, Construction Industry Training Authority and Clothing Industry Training Authority have established internal working groups to study various matters essential to enabling students under the new system who have an interest in pursuing a vocational education. These matters include admission criteria, articulation arrangements and curriculum design.
(D) Moving to 4-year University Programmes
8.45 The move to a normative 4-year course will allow our higher education institutions to initiate a host of changes which will benefit both the students and society. These fall into three themes:
(a) Whole-person development
Having one additional year will allow much more time for all-round development of the student. For instance, students can benefit from more and longer student exchange possibilities and enhance their understanding of other cultures and languages. A longer period of stay in hostels may encourage participation in a wider range of campus activities. There will also be more time for outside classroom experience, such as internships and integration at work and education.
(b) A more student-centred learning experience
With an additional year, the institutions will seek to provide a more
“personalised”, “student-oriented” learning environment, e.g. more small group tutorial opportunities. There will be a greater focus on learning outcomes. Students will have greater choice and freedom in selecting programmes.
(c) An integrated and broadened curriculum
With four years, it will be possible to design a curriculum to support broad learning across several disciplines. This will give students much wider perspectives and enable them to be more flexible in choosing and combining study programmes as is needed to meet today’s rapidly changing demands. The scope for interdisciplinary studies will be greatly enhanced and potential for having some research experience at undergraduate level will be widened.
8.46 There is overwhelming support for 4-year undergraduate programmes as they will enable students to build a broader knowledge base and a more solid foundation for whole-person development, pursuing life-long learning, and provide community with all-rounded leaders.
8.47 There are various concerns raised about specific articulation arrangements in the transition years, especially the double cohort year.
The Way Forward
8.48 The institutions will develop the themes and approaches (para. 8.45) over the coming years. They have stressed that they are also constantly improving and developing the current 3-year programmes. They are fully committed to weaving into the 3-year programmes new elements that stand out as being of particular importance and worth. Moreover, individual institutions will review their degree and sub-degree programmes as well as human resources plans to support the transition to the new system.
8.49 Universities are exploring how to provide a flexible curriculum to accommodate the two cohorts of students who will be pursuing 3-year and 4-year undergraduate degrees concurrently during the transitional period.
Different measures such as introduction of foundation courses, a “no year”
concept and exempted courses are possible strategies.
8.50 The Government will provide additional non-recurrent resources to support the development and implementation of the new curriculum in the universities.
UGC has started to discuss with its funded institutions the enhancement of physical facilities like teaching space, hostels, libraries and canteens to accommodate the additional students. The Government will assist by reserving space for campus expansion and providing funding for the capital works. Some institutions have already started to draw up campus development plans to ensure sufficient teaching space and facilities to meet the increase in overall undergraduate enrolment.