HK exams body names Lingnan University economics professor as new head, after chief leaves following controversial DSE history question

01-Dec-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s exam authority has selected an economics professor from a local university as its new head, after the current chief decided not to renew his contract following a controversy over a history paper question on Sino-Japanese relations.

Professor Wei Xiangdong from Lingnan University will succeed So Kwok-sang as secretary general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) when So’s term ends next March.

“With profound knowledge in e-learning research and rich experience in administration and management, Professor Wei will be able to reinforce the HKEAA’s pursuit of excellence in delivering examinations and assessment to meet educational needs of the community,” said authority chair Samuel Yung Wing-ki in a statement announcing the appointment.

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Wei’s appointment comes after a tumultuous period for the exam authority.

In May, HKEAA, an independent, self-funded statutory body, became the target of pro-establishment politicians and Beijing’s foreign ministry arm in the city over a compulsory question in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) history paper, which asked students whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” between 1900 and 1945.

They said the question hurt the feelings of the Chinese people who remembered the atrocities committed by the Japanese while the two countries were at war.

The Education Bureau then made an unprecedented move to ask the authority to scrap the question a move some said was political interference into professional work.

Three authority employees, including one responsible for developing history questions, quit over the scrapped exam question, or because of reports by pro-Beijing media that accused them of showing strong political affiliations in their social media posts. So later also announced he would not renew his contract when it ended next year, saying he would spend time on his personal vision instead.

In her policy address on Wednesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor again name-checked the HKEAA and pointed out the “wrong question” in the history exam. She said she expected the authority would improve its question moderation mechanism to prevent the same thing happening in the future.

Though independent, most members of the 17-strong HKEAA council are appointed by the chief executive, including its chair. The HKEAA appoints the secretary general, which oversees the authority, through its own recruitment process.

According to his biography on the Lingnan University website, Wei received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Zhongshan University in China, and a master’s in money, banking and finance, and a PhD in economics from the University of Birmingham.

Legislator for the education sector Ip Kin-yuen called Wei’s appointment unexpected, raising some questions about the academic’s ability to manage the city’s exam authority.

“Compared to previous secretary generals, who were usually university registrars, Wei was a faculty head. The management skills used are very different,” Ip said, adding that registrars generally had a better grasp of both secondary and tertiary education systems.

“Whether or not an academic is suitable to manage it remains to be seen, although Wei’s background in economics and mathematics could be helpful as well.”

Ip also said Wei’s attitude towards the core values of the HKEAA, “a strong sense of professionalism, independence and confidentiality”, would be closely watched by many, as it was a sensitive time in light of the recent controversy.


Category: Hong Kong

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