The GCE examinations are aimed at just the top 20 per cent of the ability range. But they also stay elitist in a much more profound sense. They embody in microcosm a political arrangement with basically hierarchical, non-participatory and alienating tendencies. Organized by universities and topic associations and administered through the university boards, knowledge becomes congealed into different bundles of subject matter which constitute a type of transmittable property. Teachers who pass on the certificated knowledge derive authority from it. Students who receive it become distinguished from others, as owners, and are given access to additional rewards in consequence. Via the examination structure teachers and pupils are socialized into ideas of competition and failure, of hierarchy and bureaucracy, of knowledge for a possession that differentiates, stratify and excludes.
Examination Credentials help make hard observable distinctions; they help transform benefits which lead into inequalities which seem intellectual. GCE A-levels are now the significant university selector, and the syllabus will represent the most pre-university teaching that cannot be crammed in, especially in the sciences and older areas. The ib class pressure of choice imposes excessive specialization on students. The narrowness of these assessments is such that half of those candidates who sit A-level neglect, and in any case only one-third who take A-level will go on to a university or polytechnic diploma program. Nevertheless, any suggestions to expand the sixth-form course, as to supply more topics examined to a lesser standard have brought the threat of university needs for more four-year courses to maintain degree standards.
The examination boards are therefore kept securely under university control. Their overriding preoccupation with a certain view of criteria and secrecy must inevitably restrict the participation of teachers, the selection and range that could be available in the syllabi, and the sorts of skills which can be tested. Teachers on the panels and boards are usually older and from particular schools, or from top forms and discerning streams; and as many as one third of the markers are not practicing teachers.
gce a level hong kong can only be introduced to the newspapers at the price of variability of criteria. And innovation is slow due to the difficulties of indicating changes to the schools: teachers often use old examination papers as teaching devices, and also to adopt textbooks targeted to the assessments; The boards are not kept on their conclusion by competition: they borrow syllabi, and have mostly regional catchments; and next criticism they brought their timetables into line, a movement which prevented schools from entering candidates for at least 1 board examination and so from direct and invidious comparisons of criteria.