HK’s university entrance exams go ahead amid pandemic, but more than 300 candidates miss out

27-Apr-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hong Kong’s long-awaited university entrance exams began on Friday morning amid the coronavirus pandemic, with at least six candidates unable to take the tests due to fever or other illnesses, while almost 300 others withdrew either because they were sick or outside the city, according to the supervising authority.

Many of the 3,300 candidates sitting the visual arts exam at 8.30am arrived more than an hour early as traffic was mostly smooth in the morning.

They were among the 52,000 candidates who originally expected to begin their Diploma of Secondary Education exams on March 27. But the tests were pushed back amid a daily surge of Covid-19 infections, despite the cancellation of overseas exams such as the International Baccalaureate and IGCSE.

Among the 350 exam centres located at secondary schools, 51 were hosting the visual arts written exam. Candidates were required to have their temperature checked upon entering the venues and had to fill in and submit health declaration forms.

Officials said anyone with a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 Fahrenheit) would be asked to leave and see a doctor, and would be assessed using their internal results at school.

Exams authority chief So Kwok-sang said six candidates were unable to sit the tests because of fever or other illnesses. Five of them called in sick and stayed away. One reported being ill upon entering the exam venue, and she was asked to leave.

The exam authorities also revealed that 298 candidates had withdrawn because they had other study plans, fell sick or were outside the city.

So added that he was confident exams could proceed as scheduled following more than a week of either daily single-digit increases or zero cases of Covid-19 in the city.

A candidate at Lock Tao Secondary School in Sha Tin recorded a temperature higher than 38 degrees when entering the campus and was requested to leave. When approached by the Post, principal Choi Hong-nin said he would not comment on the matter due to privacy concerns.

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who visited a Ho Man Tin school, said some candidates had initially had temperatures over 38 degrees, but cooled down after taking a rest.

Test centres were also asked to strengthen infection control measures, including distancing tables about 1.8 metres apart, and requiring all candidates and invigilators to wear masks during the exams.

At St Joseph’s College in Mid-Levels, where 31 candidates were taking the exam, four hand-sanitising dispensers were placed at the entrance, while an infrared machine screened temperatures as they entered.

Students said they would sanitise their hands more often and avoid using the washroom to reduce infection risks.

Lily Ho, 17, arrived more than 90 minutes before the exam began after taking her temperature twice before leaving home. She said she was not too concerned about the health risks during the exams.

“I was a bit worried initially, but the number of infected cases has dropped to single digits recently, so I feel it’s still safe,” she said.

It should have been done before in March. I prefer to end this nightmare earlier and be free

Travis Lau, 18

Jenny Lam, 17, believed having to wear a mask had hindered her ability to perform to the fullest.

“That’s because we have to create an artwork during the exam, but wearing a mask partially blocked my eyesight, which delayed my progress,” she said.

Principal Perrick Ching King-bor said that apart from desks being further apart, candidates were asked to keep their distance from each other in the waiting area before the exam began.

“If candidates have [mild symptoms] such as some coughing, we have prepared one extra classroom which only accommodates one person,” Ching said.

At the exam centre in True Light Girls’ School in Yau Ma Tei, Travis Lau, 18, said he had been revising using previous test papers for at least a month.

“The exams should have been done [in March],” he said. “I prefer to end this nightmare earlier and be free.”

Although he had some concerns about infection during the exam, he said: “If you get infected, so be it. We must finish the DSE, there is no other way to go to university.”


Category: Hong Kong

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