Hong Kong secondary school students answered questions on the city’s ethnic minorities, levels of happiness and China’s economic development on Monday morning as part of the city-wide Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examinations.

The questions were included in the Liberal Studies paper, which was introduced as a compulsory subject in the local school curriculum beginning in 2012. Hongkongers often scrutinise each year’s questions to observe whether they touch on controversial local political topics, and how such topics are framed.

DSE liberal studies examination paper 2017.

Provided with data on survey responses by various ethnic minority groups in Hong Kong, the first compulsory question for Form Six students in this year’s paper read: “‘Hong Kong is an ethnically integrated society.’ To what extent do you agree with this view?”

The second question asked students to provide supporting and opposing arguments for the assertion that relocating impoverished rural Chinese to wealthier areas would help reduce poverty in mainland China.

The final question asked students to compare the levels of happiness in Hong Kong and Singapore based on empirical data provided, and asked how enhancing the quality of life could improve happiness levels.

Non-compulsory questions touched on electronic cigarettes, globalisation and the modernisation of wet markets.

‘Stressful’ exams

RTHK quoted liberal studies teachers as saying that this year’s questions were easier than those last year, which asked students for their views on local constitutional issues.

In particular, one compulsory question last year asked whether Hong Kong’s global competitiveness ranking could be improved if the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive Election Committee was reformed to become more “representative.”

Diploma of Secondary Education examination.

However, Apple Daily cited survey results from pro-Beijing organisation Hok Yau Club as stating that stress faced by Form Six students has increased compared with last year. Out of 1,721 students interviewed, 18 per cent said that they “could not withstand their levels of stress.”

Hok Yau Club attributed the increase in stress to the fact that examinations for all four compulsory DSE subjects – Chinese, English, mathematics and liberal studies – will be held within eight days this April.

See also: I took the Liberal Studies HKDSE exam; here’s why it’s a waste of time

The Hong Kong government began to implement a “3-3-4” local education system in 2009, whereby the length of secondary school education was reduced from seven to six years, and DSE exams would be taken in Form Six.

In turn, the length of most university undergraduate courses was increased to four years.

Elson Tong

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.