Hong Kong parents and educators slam use of personal student test data for breakfast study

Critics worry that the information could be used to identify test takers and affect their future prospects

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 December, 2016, 10:23pm

The use of “personal data” from the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) tests for a recently released study by a university academic has sparked concern among parents and educators that such information could be used against the students.

On Sunday, professor Hau Kit-tai, an education psychologist from Chinese University, released a study detailing the importance of breakfast in student performance in tests. He said he used TSA data in compiling the results.

On Wednesday, two parent concern groups issued letters to the Education Bureau, raising concerns about the release of data from the tests for purposes other than those stated by the bureau.

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The bureau has said the TSA is used to gauge overall student attainment of basic competencies at the territory-wide level and school level so as to improve learning and teaching in schools.

An Education Bureau spokeswoman explained that the academic institution conducting the study was given permission by schools and parents, who were participating on a voluntary basis.

“The information from the survey was matched with the TSA data by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority. The TSA data was coded before the academic institution further analysed the results,” she said.

Hence, she said, the institution could not approach or identify the students.

But Eiffel Chau, a spokesman for the Hong Kong Parents League of Education Renovation, who did not participate in the study, said he was “shocked” that “personal data” was found in the TSA papers. which he said was something he was not aware of.

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“While the bureau had often stressed that the TSA was done anonymously, students have to disclose their identity as they have to write their school code, class, and class number on the test papers,” he said.

“This meant the bureau had access to every student’s grade.”

The bureau has repeatedly said that individual students’ TSA results will not be disclosed and they will not affect the advancement of pupils or secondary school place allocation.

Education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen warned the fact that personal data was found in the TSA test papers could have an effect on students’ future.

He called for the bureau to explain under what circumstances it would release TSA data to a third party and how long it would store such information.