“What do you think about the Green Dam?” asks HKU admissions


Why do you like Michael Jackson?

An editor from Henan, Yue Jianguo, wrote in to the Beijing Youth Daily to comment on the questions asked by Hong Kong universities - in this case the University of Hong Kong - to their mainland applicants.

His central thread is how the creative, open-ended questions foster discussion and non-textbook answers. Questions varied from students’ view of Michael Jackson, and the Green Dam.

The Beijing Youth Daily also reported on the highest scoring student in the Arts, Liu Tingmei, and her interview with the Hong Kong universities.

HKU interview questions: cracking examination-based style of education

by Yue Jianguo / BYD

Lately, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has been conducting interviews in Beijing. “Why do you really like Michael Jackson?”, “Why are girls better at studying compared to boys?” are the kind of questions asked at the interviews. The interviewees must split into groups and discuss these topics and talk about what they think. A number of interviewees think that the interview questions of the HKU won’t leave you “speechless” (from Legal Daily, June 27).

Face-to-face interviews are just as important as the written examinations for HKU, and it is definitely not just a formality: if the interviewee does not pass, then they are not accepted. And in such important examinations, questions which are so close to real-life events and even ones which are contentious, of course has shocked many people. And because of this, it’s worthy of discussion.

I think that these questions from HKU provides a sudden flash of inspiration because this sort of question and the thinking behind the questions is a kind of “breakthrough” for people who are used to a kind of exam-taking and ideas about education.

For example, the question about Michael Jackson. Using an event that has just occurred, the student is unable to prepare, and this does not abide by the rules of exam-based education. The life of Michael Jackson does not appear in the textbooks, and teachers won’t all know about him, and he died suddenly before the exams - there would be no way for the teachers to give lessons about him. Therefore, the students’ general reading, interests and whether their school has taught them skills apart from the ones needed to pass an exam, will be detected instantly.

Michael Jackson is a popular figure, and you can say that his is a anti-mainstream cultural phenomenon. But mainly he is about song and dance, and he is also a foreigner, and this won’t affect the mind of the students because of the seriousness of the topic: but instead a lively debate topic is presented, where any one will have something to say in the midst of an open atmosphere. This also enables a lot of students to really show their powers of expression and ability to answer questions spontaneously.

This kind of question has another specialty: there is no authoritative conclusion to the matter, so it’s asking the student to make a conclusion on a complex topic. Jackson was definitely someone who affected the world, and overturned many ancient rules and orders: his art won’t ever fade, but at the same time, during his lifetime he was plagued by a lot of negative news. He is a very complicated and multi-faceted character, and it is hard to give an objective conclusion about him. This would be the way to test students who can can both see the overall point of view as well as the slimmer details.

HKU’s exam questions has no set answers, and only aims to ask students to justify their answers and be spurred on by it. “Why do people like Michael Jackson?” Many people say different things to answer this, for example some people like his music, some like his dancing, many are converted after the achievements on being King of Pop, some like his ideas and actions, some revere his talent, and some are impressed by his generosity in the charity field. For this kind of phenomenon, not only don’t you have time to design the standard answer, but any kind of standard answer would seem shoddy.

The student who had achieved the highest score in Beijing for the Arts, Liu Tingmei, who’d previously expressed interest in attending university in Hong Kong (as well as Peking University) was also interviewed by HKU. Also from Beijing Youth Daily:

Yesterday morning, the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology interviewed candidates in a hotel near Wangfujing. Liu Tingmei, who scored the highest in the Arts in Beijing also showed up - whether she will choose a Hong Kong university or Peking University will be decided after the results of the interview is out, she said.

The students being interviewed have all scored 630 or above. According to the spokesperson for the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the financial crisis this year has caused applications from the mainland to drop by 30%, but students applying from Beijing rose 10%. The interviews of the Hong Kong University of Science & Technology took place in groups, with 4 to 5 to a group, the topics included, “What is your proudest experience?” “Why do you want to apply to this university?” The examiners also asked questions in relation to the subject matter that the applicant is applying for. For example: “Who designed the Bird’s Nest?” and “What is the biggest prize in the computer world?”

Around 10am, Liu Tingmei, dressed in a white top and black skirt, attended an interview with Hong Kong University of Science & Technology, the question asked was, “Please discuss your views on the Green Dam software.” On the 26th, the University of Hong Kong interviewed Liu Tingmei. After half an hour the interview was over. Liu Tingmei felt that her performance was average.

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