Falling standards in language: DSE report notes common grammar and spelling errors

 “ROBOT was bitten by a snack.” This sentence may sound funny but that is what some Secondary 6 students wrote during the Diploma of Secondary Education examination (DSE, 中學文憑考試).

In its DSE examination report published last Thursday, the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority (香港考試及評核局) said many students used ‘snack’ instead of ‘snake’ and ‘robot’ for ‘Robert’.

The report said that in the composition paper, candidates made many mistakes in spelling and tenses. It said that quite a number of candidates had difficulty with the correct use of tenses.

It also listed examples such as spelling chalk as ‘chok’, ‘cholk’ and ‘choke’ and ‘bulid’ for build.It said weaker candidates had difficulty in writing correct simple sentences.

Similar errors occurred in the oral paper, with some candidates wrongly pronouncing healthy as ‘heavy’ and climb for ‘crime’. Some candidates had difficulty in pronouncing long words. In the reading comprehension, some students achieved only 30.7 marks out of 92.

The situation was just as bad, if not worse, in the Chinese paper. Some candidates could not accurately understand the basic vocabulary of ancient texts.

Columnists and writer Chip Tsao (陶傑) said secondary students today have little exposure with Chinese ancient texts.