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Biased exam question prompts calls for education review

By Li Bingcun and Tommy Yuen | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-05-18 10:40

Hong Kong scholars and educators have called for a comprehensive review of the city's teaching of history, saying that a biased history question in the city's college entrance exams reflects serious shortcomings in the education system.

The call came after the Education Bureau requested exam-setting authorities to remove the question, which asks candidates to write whether Japan did more good than harm to China from 1900 to 1945, when China was invaded and partially occupied by Japan, and tens of millions were killed and hundreds of millions were forced out of their homes.

Instead, the question offered only Japan's aid to China in the early 20th century as the context that students should consider when answering the question.

Veteran historian Liu Shuyong told China Daily the question shows that political views have impaired, even overridden, the professional judgment of some history educators.

He pointed out that this faulty thinking will prevent the city's young generation from correctly and comprehensively understanding the nation's history, which will affect their judgment on issues regarding the nation's development interests and security.

Such an impact is extremely dangerous amid the complex situation in Hong Kong, as young people would more easily be misled by anti-China forces and harm the nation's interests, Liu said.

To prevent further consequences, he called for a comprehensive review on curriculum-setting, staff recruitment, and the examination design of the city's history education.

The view was echoed by another senior history scholar, Lau Chi-pang, who is also the chairperson of the exam authority's curriculum development council on history. Lau told China Daily that the question is inappropriate in both question formulation and the selection of reference materials.

He noted that if not removed, the question will have a profound adverse effect, as students may draw biased conclusion on the issue, and teachers may use the question as a reference point in educational activities.

Lau said the question exposes the unprofessionalism of test designers, and also the loose supervision in exam formulation. He urged the exam authority to seriously review the case and the supervision mechanism.

Lawrence Tang Fei, principal of Heung To Secondary School (Tseung Kwan O), worries that the question, which distorts history, will affect students' value system. He cautioned it will do more harm on their development than the lack of some specific knowledge.

Tang believes the one-sided question was framed by some politicized staff members of the exam authority. He urged the authority to seriously investigate the case to maintain the test's fairness and objectivity.

Wong Kwan-yu, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, said on Saturday that exam question-setting should be handled with greater care, especially when it is on issues that could hurt the feelings of people from nations that were traumatized by the experience, he said on a radio program.

In an article published on the Education Bureau's website on Sunday, Deputy Secretary for Education Hong Chan Tsui-wah stressed that the bureau is obliged to ensure the quality of education, and not just provide educational resources.

She strongly urged the city's educational workers to reflect on the mission of education and live up to it.

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