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Newsletter for international Higher Education Sector on the update of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education - Issue 1

Welcome to the second issue of the HKDSE newsletter, which provides information on the progress of the new HKDSE examination being developed by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) to be launched in 2012, when the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) will then be phased out.

In this issue, the following will be covered:

 First Teaching of the HKDSE Curriculum
 Close Collaboration with Teachers and Schools
 International Recognition of HKDSE

If you wish to make any comments or if you have any questions, please write to Rebecca Tam, International Recognition Officer ( rtam@hkeaa.edu.hk ).

     First teaching of the HKDSE curriculum       

Starting September 2009, the New Senior Secondary (NSS) academic structure will be implemented in Hong Kong. More than 500 secondary schools in the territory will be offering the three-year curriculum comprising 4 core subjects and 24 elective subjects, together with increased exposure to other important learning experiences in moral, physical and aesthetic areas.


The first cohort of students will take the HKDSE after completing S6 in 2012, while in the same year the last HKALE will be conducted for S7 students following the current two-year senior secondary curriculum. Either examination is considered a prerequisite for admission to universities and tertiary institutions in Hong Kong.

To facilitate selection decisions and to give appropriate recognition of students' achievements, the HKDSE has been designed to maintain a degree of continuity with past standards. Levels 4 - 5 in the HKDSE examination will be set with reference to the standards achieved by candidates awarded grades A - D in the current HKALE. It should be noted that this provides a description of the broad standards and should not be treated as a strict conversion table.

To ensure that the standard of the HKDSE examination is comparable to that of the A-level in the UK, the HKEAA has been working closely with Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) on the peer review of sample papers. There are three rounds of review and so far the comments from CIE have been positive. The review will be completed in June.

Students would be able to use the HKDSE results for admission to local and overseas tertiary institutions.
Students will be able to use the HKDSE results for admission to local and overseas tertiary institutions.


In Hong Kong, the Heads of Universities Committee (HUCOM) has announced that the four core subjects - Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics and Liberal Studies - will be considered as minimum requirements for admission to undergraduate programmes. Language standards of university entrants are expected to be at Level 3 under the standards-referenced reporting system. For Mathematics and Liberal Studies, the minimum requirement is expected to be set at Level 2. Announcements on more specific admission requirements at the faculty and programme level are anticipated for September 2009.

As HKDSE standards at the higher end are benchmarked against the standards of performance typically exhibited by candidates obtaining various grades in the HKALE, candidates who secure good results in the HKDSE should be able to use the results for admission to overseas tertiary institutions as well.

     Close collaboration with teachers and schools       

Great efforts have been made to support teachers and schools to facilitate the successful implementation of the NSS curriculum. Over the past five years, to help teachers understand the key features of the new curriculum and assessment framework, and to alleviate their anxiety in this regard, hundreds of workshops and seminars on the curriculum and assessment have been organized, together with other consultation sessions. On-going professional development courses will be provided for subject teachers to help them become familiar with the public assessment in the HKDSE.

Students would be able to use the HKDSE results for admission to local and overseas tertiary institutions.
The SRR Information Packages have been published from April to June this year.

As one of the salient features of the assessment system, School-based Assessment (SBA) will continue to be used in HKDSE, as it is in the HKALE and the HKCEE, to achieve a broader base for assessment of student attainment. In 2012, 12 NSS subjects will incorporate an SBA component. One of the reasons for introducing SBA is that it emphasizes the assessment of a wide range of students' abilities, thereby strengthening the tie between assessment and teaching, and enabling the utilization of assessment to support teaching. The validity of the assessments is therefore also improved.

To enhance teachers and students' understanding of the curriculum and assessment framework of each of the 24 NSS subjects, Standards-referenced Reporting (SRR) Information Packages have been produced. These include the assessment framework, level descriptors, sample papers, marking guidelines/ suggested answers and exemplars illustrating the standards of typical performance at different levels. An SRR Information Package and a School Based Assessment (SBA) Handbook will also be made available for each of the 24 NSS subjects from April to June this year. More details are available at:



     International Recognition of HKDSE       

The HKEAA has been working with international agencies to secure recognition for the HKDSE qualification, including the National Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in the UK.

UK NARIC has undertaken a two-part benchmarking exercise focusing on recognition of HKDSE for the purpose of general education and employment, and to demonstrate lines of comparison between the new HKDSE and similar qualifications. Their research has shown that the curriculum leading to HKDSE compares favorably with the other systems, in particular programmes offered in Australia and England.

HKEAA delegation visited UCAS in the UK for recognition of HKDSE qualification
HKEAA delegation visited UCAS in the UK for recognition of HKDSE qualification


UCAS is the official agency for admission to higher education institutions in the UK. The outcome of the UCAS study will be the allocation of UCAS tariff points to HKDSE examination results so that they can be linked to other international qualifications in the UCAS Tariff system. Recently, the HKEAA met with the subject expert groups of UCAS regarding the standards of the HKDSE and their initial response was positive. The HKEAA will make a first stage announcement by the end of 2009.


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