Hong Kong lawmaker urges Education Bureau to scrap controversial test

Study reveals the city’s Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment was used to rank primary schools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 10:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 10:54pm

Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen has renewed calls for the controversial Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment to be scrapped after claims the test was used to rank schools.

A study compiled by Ip’s team, including Bonnie Lam Lu-sai, who was a researcher at Chinese University’s faculty of education, alleged the test had become a tool to rank Hong Kong’s schools and found “no evidence to prove TSA’s help in improving teaching standards significantly”.

More than one sponsoring body also claimed they had been heavily criticised by senior Education Bureau officials for their poor results in TSA, the study said.

“This caused sponsoring bodies and schools to have to take the TSA seriously, resulting in the practice of drilling students,” Ip said.

Territory-wide system assessment is wrong target for Hong Kong education reform

Ip said his study, which interviewed 18 people including an Examinations and Assessment Authority official, former Education Bureau officials, principals and teachers, found that a report provided to TSA participating schools only indicated whether students were doing better or worse against the city average.

The bureau suspended this year’s Primary Three TSA after parents and educators voiced concerns over the pressure that the test and preparatory drills placed on students.

Instead, the bureau officially invited around 50 schools to take part in a revised and simpler trial version of the test. It also sent out notifications to Hong Kong’s remaining about 450 primary schools encouraging them to take part in the trial on a voluntary basis. However, a letter from the Ombudsman to concerned parents released Monday revealed that hundreds of schools snubbed the bureau’s request.

Of all the schools notified, more than 410 did not respond to the bureau’s request and around 40 said they would not take part.

Ip hit out at a committee tasked by the government to review the TSA for not addressing the root of the problem by only simplifying the test.

Primary Three pupils from 50 Hong Kong schools take revised Chinese TSA exam, but some sit out after controversy

The results of the revised version, taken from schools that did participate in the trial, are expected to be released in two months.

But despite the results not yet in, the bureau has confirmed the TSA’s will resume next year, drawing criticism again from educators and parents.

A spokeswoman for the bureau said the authority had strengthened its internal guidelines to clearly state that it would not use the TSA data to assess school performance.

She said schools that participated in the trial would receive three additional reports providing added details of the assessment focus of the questions and analysis of the options.