Monday, October 13, 2014

Is the HKDSE worthwhile?

Sent to the South China Morning Post, October 13, 2014

I refer to a letter by Sandy Li Pui-shan ("Exam system is stifling creativity," October 13), pointing out that the emphasis on test performance (specifically the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education, or HKDSE) is discouraging creativity and limiting career choices.  The results of studies done in the USA using similar examinations given at the end of secondary school might be of interest.

American studies show that secondary school exit examination scores are not related to more college attendance, increased student learning or higher employment. In fact, researchers have yet to discover any benefits of having a secondary school exit examination.

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) claims to measure the potential for college success, but it is no more effective than secondary school grades in predicting first year college grades. Even combining the two provides, at best, only about 1/3 of the information needed to predict first year college grades accurately.  Grades alone provide about 25% of the information needed.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Holme, J., Richards, M., Jimerson, J., and Cohen, R. 2010. Assessing the effects of high school exit examinations. Review of Educational Research 80 (4): 476-526
Warren, J.R., Grodsky, E., and Lee, J, 2008. "State High School Exit Examinations and Post-Secondary Labor Market Outcomes." Sociology of Education, 81: 77-107
Grodsky, E., Warren, J.R., and Kalogrides, D. 2009. State High School Exit Examinations and NAEP Long-Term Trends in Reading and Mathematics, 1971-2004. Educational Policy, 23 (4): 589-614
College Board Research Report 2008-5. Validity of the SAT for predicting first-year college grade point average. www.

Exam system is stifling creativity
South Chine Morning Post, October 13, 2014
In Hong Kong's education system, emphasis is placed on getting into university and this undermines some students' creativity.
This has been made worse by the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) where it seems that all that matters is to get a degree.
Students are told the marks they will have to get to win one of the places available on undergraduate courses at a local university, and nothing else seems to be important.
Education should be about acquiring knowledge and nurturing the talents of young people. If they show a desire to be creative, that should be encouraged.
However, with so much pressure and such a competitive learning environment, the scope to be creative is limited. They often are reduced to learning what is needed to get high marks in the HKDSE exam.
The set-up in our schools is therefore restrictive. Youngsters are being brought up to think along straight lines and follow instructions.
They have been frightened of speaking out and being told they are wrong. They are discouraged from differing from the norm. They are encouraged to be doctors or lawyers, rather than artists, dancers or musicians.
The government should look into ways to reform our restrictive education system.
Sandy Li Pui-shan, Kwai Chung

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