For discussion on
19 September 1997

Information Paper for
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Education

Security measures of the Hong Kong
Examinations Authority


Recently, a Subject Officer of the Hong Kong Examinations Authority (HKEA) was convicted under the Hong Kong Examinations Authority Ordinance of permitting his son, who was a candidate for this year's Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, to have access to confidential examination papers and marking schemes. The incident has aroused wide public concern. This paper sets out the security measures of the HKEA with regard to the development and safekeeping of examination question papers and marking schemes. These measures are currently under review.


2.The HKEA is an independent statutory body responsible for, amongst other things, the administration of the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE). The HKEA has a full-time Secretariat headed by the Secretary. The work of the Secretariat is monitored and regulated by the Main Board of the HKEA consisting of 24 external members from the education sector and other professions appointed in accordance with the Hong Kong Examinations Authority Ordinance. Over the years, the HKEA has maintained the credibility of the two public examinations.

Existing Security Measures

3.The HKEA has a well-established system in ensuring the security of examination papers, from their development to the actual conduct of the examinations. The Development Section of the HKEA Secretariat is responsible for the development of examination papers. It is headed by a Senior Subject Officer (SSO) and comprises 25 Subject Officers (SO) and 13 Examinations Assistants (EA). The setting and moderation of all examination papers are carried out by moderation committees. For each examination paper, there is a corresponding moderation committee. A moderation committee will normally comprise the following members: a Chief Examiner as the Chairman, a setter, two moderators and the SO responsible for that subject, who serves as the secretary to the committee. Apart from the SO, all are external members appointed by the HKEA. The drafts of examination papers and marking schemes produced at the end of each meeting are dated and kept by the SO in the safe at his office. The documents are prepared by the EA on computer and the files are kept on floppy diskettes which are also kept in the SO's safe.

4.The key to the SO's safe is kept by the SO alone. There is also a spare key which is kept in the SSO's safe. The spare key is reserved for emergencies only. When needed, the SSO will use the spare key to open the safe of an SO in front of a witness, who is normally the SO's EA.

5.All drafts of examination papers and marking schemes are kept until after the examination. When they are duplicated, the work will be carried out by the SO concerned or his EA in the copying machine within the Development Section. The photocopying log book records the name of the examination paper and the number of copies duplicated. When these confidential documents, including their photocopies, have to be destroyed before the examination, they are destroyed by the shredder in the Section by the SO or EA concerned and details are recorded in a log book

6.The examination papers are printed by the Government Printing Department, which also has a set of security measures and guidelines to safeguard the confidentiality of the examination papers. All examination papers are packed and sealed in security envelopes at the Government Printing Department before collection by HKEA staff. The examination papers in security envelopes are kept in the security stores of the HKEA and are dispatched to examination centres only on the day of the examination. The envelopes are opened by the Centre Supervisors in front of the invigilators and candidates at the start of the examination. The marking schemes which are for distribution to markers are printed after the examination by the Printing Unit of the HKEA.

Declaration System

7.The HKEA has a declaration and monitoring system covering all persons who have access to confidential information related to the HKCEE and HKALE, including HKEA staff, setters, moderators and examiners. Every year, these persons are required to declare whether they have any close relatives taking the examinations administered by the HKEA. For those with close relatives taking the HKCEE or HKALE, where possible, redeployment of duties will be arranged as far as possible. As a rule, the results of candidates who are associated with HKEA staff are checked before the publication of the HKCEE and HKALE results. Where necessary, reference is made to the school results of the candidates. Non-HKEA staff members will not be appointed as setters, moderators and examiners for the relevant subjects if they have close relatives taking the HKCEE or HKALE.

Review of the System

8.The HKEA places great emphasis on the security of its operations. The internal operational procedures are regularly reviewed and the Corruption Prevention Department of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) was invited in the past to examine various aspects of the HKEA's operations. The general security system has been considered basically sound.

9.In view of the recent incident, the Main Board of the HKEA has invited the ICAC again to assist in re-examining the security system of the HKEA, especially those concerning storage and safekeeping of confidential documents. The ICAC will make recommendations for upgrading the security system for consideration by the HKEA Main Board at its meeting in October. Subject to the approval by the Main Board, the recommendations will be implemented prior to the completion of moderation work for the 1998 HKCEE and HKALE.

Education and Manpower Bureau
September 1997