Hong Kong’s exam authority has concluded that 38 per cent of candidates were possibly “misled” into answering that Japan had done “more good than harm to China” in the first half of the 20th century, in a controversial university entrance exam question that has since been scrapped.
Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (HKEAA) secretary general So Kwok-sang on Monday told a Legislative Coucil education-panel special meeting that 57 per cent of candidates said Japan did “more harm than good” to China, while nearly 5 per cent did not take a stance.
“Therefore, the HKEAA council believed that [up to 38 per cent of the] candidates might have been misled to reach a biased conclusion,” he said.
How a history exam question stirred up controversy over China, Japan and Hong Kong’s education system
More than 5,200 students who sat for the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) history exam on May 14 were asked whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” between 1900 and 1945, and were told to rely on two excerpts of reading material and their own knowledge to answer.
So said the proportion of candidates who answered that Japan “did more good than harm” to China was “unexpected” by those who helped draft the exam paper.
“As candidates were required to use their own knowledge to answer the question, they were also expected to be able to mention the mass casualties caused during Japan’s occupation of China between the 1930s and 1940s,” he said.
“But according to our initial screening of answers, it seemed that the question’s original intentions had not [been met].”
The question was on Friday invalidated by the HKEAA’s governing council after lengthy meetings.
The city’s Education Bureau had made the unprecedented request for the independent statutory exam body to drop the question a day after the test was taken, following outrage from Beijing’s foreign affairs office in the city and pro-establishment groups.
So emphasised that the question would not be marked: “The question was set inappropriately, so it would be difficult to formulate [an accurate] marking scheme. It would also be unfair to candidates as the question was misleading.”
Exam question on China and Japan sparked outrage – but debates on potential good from invasions have historical precedent in tests
At the same meeting, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung also reiterated that the decisions made by the bureau and the exam authorities were “purely professional, without any political considerations”.
“Some claimed that the bureau had interfered with the independence of the HKEAA, or even meddled with academic freedom,” he said. “The bureau is the leading institution of the city’s education system … and the exam body’s work should act in line with the education policies.”
The bureau had said the history question was leading and the reference materials were biased, adding that the feelings of Chinese people who suffered during the Japanese invasion had been ignored.
One of the extracts was from a 1905 article about Japan’s plans to receive Chinese students to study law and politics, while the other was a 1912 letter by revolutionary leader Huang Xing, who was seeking financial help from a Japanese politician.
Deputy Secretary for Education Hong Chan Tsui-wah said two representatives from the HKEAA would be joining a task force set up by the bureau to review the exam body’s existing question-setting mechanisms.
The HKEAA will also conduct an internal review, following which it will submit a report to the government.
The Legislative Council education-panel meeting also saw lawmakers from the pro-establishment and opposition camps repeatedly press HKEAA secretary general So and education minister Yeung to publicly apologise to all affected candidates, while some also called for the exam authority to release the initial marking scheme for the controversial question.
So said it was for the HKEAA’s council to decide whether the marking scheme could be made public, but neither official apologised during the two-hour meeting.
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More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong exam bosses agree to axe controversial history test question
- Hong Kong exam question on China and Japan sparked outrage – but debates on potential good from invasions and bloodshed have historical precedent in tests
This article HKEAA finds 38 per cent of candidates possibly ‘misled’ into answering Japan did ‘more good than harm’ to China in scrapped history exam question first appeared on South China Morning Post