High fives all round as IB top scorers soar

A total of 130 Hong Kong students have achieved top scores in the International Baccalaureate this year – more than five times last year’s 23.

This despite a total of 2,193 students in Hong Kong from 31 schools taking the IB exam this year – 131 fewer than last year.

Seventeen top scorers who received full marks were from Diocesan Boys’ School.

The surge comes as the number of IB top scorers around the world who got full marks of 45 points increased eight times to 1,155 this year.

Students who achieved high marks above 40 points this year also climbed 60 percent to 9,701 in 2020 to this year’s 15,513 globally.

The number of top scorers in Hong Kong is also way more than the time before the pandemic when 34 students received the full marks in 2019.

The average score of Hong Kong students this year was 38.93 points out of 45, higher than 32.99 points last year.

In February, IB announced it would adopt a dual route this year and allow students in some regions to be exempted from exams in May.

The IB exam last summer was canceled due to the pandemic but a dual route was introduced in November.

A total of 170,660 candidates participated in this year’s IB assessment in May, 3,700 candidates fewer than last year.

Among them, 104,275 students were in the non-exam route, while 65,576 took the exam and 809 split between both routes.

But all Hong Kong students had to continue with traditional exams.

The IB did not explain the drastic increase in top scorers and said the dual route provided students with an equal opportunity amid the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Students in Hong Kong can apply to local universities funded by the University Grants Committee through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), mainly for students with the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education exam results.

Students who hold non-local qualifications including a IB diploma, can apply through the non-JUPAS route.

Samuel Chan Sze-ming, managing director of Hong Kong-based education consultancy Britannia StudyLink, described the increase as “grade inflation” saying it would be more difficult for students to get into top universities due to keen competition.

“Getting into top universities next year will be even more competitive,” Chan told The Standard.

“[The universities] are going to be extremely conservative in the number of offers.”

The “risk of grade inflation” exists when education and exam authorities try to help students amid the pandemic, and students would face difficulties during university application even if they have high scores, he said.

Chan said the increase in IB top students was because more students with higher grades are more willing to study overseas now.

“Many top Hong Kong students would choose to do the DSE course in the past, but we found more students choose to study in international schools in recent years,” Chan said.

“More schools are introducing the curriculum as well and many of them would select capable students to study the course, leading to the increase in the number of top IB students.”

Chan added many students are now eager to leave Hong Kong and the IB exam is “one of the best ways” to universities around the world.

Ruth Benny, founder of consultancy Top Schools, said she was surprised to see the significant increase in the number of top scorers in Hong Kong as the number of candidates did not increase.

Although the IB offered a dual route for candidates, she said the marking was fair, for there was quality control in the assessment.

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