PTU News Reporter
As the epidemic continues, its impact has reached beyond regular classes and now puts the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) at risk. PTU Executive Committee member Cheung Yui-Fai is a secondary school vice-principal. He says he strive to help students overcome challenges and prepare for the exam through phone messages even though he cannot meet with them in person. He urges the Education Bureau to announce the arrangement of DSE as soon as possible to allow students and schools to plan and prepare accordingly.
(Editor’s remarks: EDB later announced on 25th Feb that the HKDSE would commence on 27th March under safe conditions. HKPTU said keeping the DSE exams in March would limit the impact on students, yet the authority must take measures to ensure the safety of both candidates and invigilators.)
52,000 candidates have been gearing up for DSE this year, which was scheduled to commence in late March. The Education Bureau proposed earlier two options, one being the postponement of all the written papers for four weeks, which means the examinations would take place from 24th April to 25th May. Practical examinations of Physical Education and Music would be postponed to late May to mid June whereas speaking examinations of Chinese and English would be cancelled. This would guarantee the release of results in July.
Urging the Education Bureau to Announce Arrangement as Soon as Possible
Cheung Yui-Fai is a Liberal Studies teacher. He says that students have been preparing for DSE for three years, are “very concerned” and “wish to sit for complete examinations”. Cheung holds that the Education Bureau should do its best to retain the speaking examinations of Chinese and English and should only cancel if it is left with no options. “It is unfair to make last-minute changes (cancel speaking examinations). The assessment of speaking examinations is comparatively simple. Postponing the examinations should not be too difficult.” But he also emphasises that students’ health should be a priority in the Bureau’s consideration, all decisions must be made after careful evaluation of the epidemic, and arrangement should be announced at the earliest possibility to allow students and school to prepare and plan accordingly.
Cheung goes on to say that classes are generally completed for Form 6 students. Most schools scheduled mock examinations after the Chinese New Year holiday, but were disrupted by the epidemic. At the moment, some schools are trying to make it possible for students to complete the mock examinations at home. Some schools use the mock papers as practice papers and have uploaded them online for students to complete. Form 6 students used to go on study leave after the mock examinations to prepare for the examinations. Cheung said students used to make use of this time to consult teachers or form study groups at school, both of which made impossible by class suspension now.
Cheung resorts to contacting students through WhatsApp to help students resolve problems, discuss topics, and encourage students to ask questions, but it is far less effective than face-to-face teaching. “Motivating students proves to be challenging when the only way I can get in touch with my students is through technology”.
Phone Messages to Encourage DSE Candidates
In face of the imminent DSE, Cheung says that support amongst students themselves is extremely important. “‘Grit your teeth and get through DSE together’ is no longer possible for students now. The lack of peer support does have an impact on students.” Cheung is sorry to not be able to encourage his students in person and resorts to more frequent messaging. Some students are quiet in class, but during class suspension, Cheung gets to know students with whom he had had less contact, encouraging closeness between the students and him and letting students know they have his full support.
When it comes to online teaching, Cheung says all colleagues are doing their best to adapt. “More preparation is required now for the same lesson. Teachers need to spend more time and efforts on online teaching, taking into consideration how to motivate students when they cannot see them face-to-face.”
Epidemic severely impacts the day-to-day operation of schools. Cheung says most schools have enough sanitary and protection products for teachers and staff members to use when they work at schools during class suspension. He continues to say that the supply of surgical masks and sanitisers are tight in the market. It would be challenging for schools to purchase disinfectant products in preparation of class resumption. The Education Bureau should coordinate purchases to ensure abundant supply when class resumes as well as to provide schools with financial aids