Hong Kong education chief insists controversial school competence test should go ahead in May
Eddie Ng cites Canadian experience, but lawmaker says it is dangerous to cite one case in a comparative study amid concerns that exam places drilling pressure on pupils
The education chief defended his decision to maintain a controversial competence test for all local primary schools in May, insisting the plan should not be aborted due to “political change”.
Eddie Ng Hak-kim spoke up on Thursday after his boss, outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, also insisted the test for Primary Three pupils should remain in place.
Chief executive-elect and former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Tuesday called on the current administration to drop the exam.
Lam’s call was echoed by lawmakers, who in a rare show of cross-party cooperation, urged the administration to scrap the compulsory test scheduled for two months before the government’s current term expires.
The secretary for education struck an uncompromising stance in favour of the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA).
“It is a highly effective assessment tool, involving zero risk and no drilling,” he said.
“I really hope education [policy] can be steered by professionals ... It should not become retrogressive due to political change,” he added without elaborating.
Ng stressed that the test was different from the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), which was suspended last year amid widespread dissatisfaction because of the drilling pressure it placed on pupils.
He also said the upcoming exam would serve as part of a research study to provide data for a new long-term assessment system.
Educators and parents say the two tests are basically the same.
Ng cited two Canadian provinces, one of which saw its students perform below the national average after dropping a common exam. The other recorded improvements with the test in place, he noted.
The examples showed the “bad consequence” of removing a standardised exam for schools, he said.
Lam and the three other chief executive hopefuls, including Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, all called for the abolition or suspension of both tests during their campaigns.
Education-sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen challenged Ng to provide more details of the Canadian examples, saying it was “very dangerous” to cite one single case in a comparative study.
“Ng said education should not be affected by political change, but it is the call of all chief executive candidates who listened to the voice of students and educators,” he said. “The government should be accountable and listen to the public.”