Concern group urges more gradual approach and an increase in funding and support to handle radical structural changes An academic concern group has accused the government of gambling with students' futures by pushing assessment reform without providing sufficient support. In a review of curriculum proposals for the new upper secondary system - the so-called '3+3+4' structure - Education Convergence said the 'rushed' introduction of school-based assessment would jeopardise students' education. 'If we try to bring it in too quickly, it is not possible that there wouldn't be mistakes. That is not fair on the students,' said Tso Kai-lok, a vice-chairman of the group. 'If universities could not do this well, how do you expect secondary schools to cope?' At the start of this academic year, school-based assessment was introduced to the English and Chinese language curriculums. The system is scheduled to be introduced across the board when the 3+3+4 structure is implemented in 2009. School-based assessment means course work counts towards final marks, rather than grades being based entirely on student performance in the final exam. 'In basic principle, we are in agreement with school-based assessment, as far as the method is concerned,' Mr Tso said. 'But we feel it should be brought in more gradually, in a step-by-step fashion.' Education Convergence said the government should not extend school-based assessment for at least five years and then phase in the system in stages. The group also called on the Education and Manpower Bureau to provide more funding to cope with increased teacher workloads and at the same time reduce class sizes to 30 students. Mr Tso said that once provisions to ensure impartiality were taken into account, the extra marking would be a considerable increase in the burden on teachers. As very few teachers had relevant experience, there was a lack of peers who would be able to give support or advice. 'You would need at least one extra teacher for each subject,' he said. Aside from teachers' workload, there was also a danger that students used to a purely exam-based education system could have difficulties adapting to regularly writing reports and handing in projects. 'Some students could be taking all of the courses that have changed,' Mr Tso said. 'That is a lot of pressure.' However, Peter Hill secretary-general of the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, said that although there would be some extra work setting up school-based assessment mechanisms, it would not add significantly to teachers' workload in the long run. 'Teachers assess their students now,' Dr Hill said. 'When they do that they have to develop their own tests.' Under the new system, much of that workload would be centralised. 'Of course it has to be marked very carefully and properly, but this is one of your professional responsibilities as a teacher.' A spokeswoman for the EMB said the bureau would continue to monitor the situation. While the bureau would 'listen to all the different voices', it saw no reason to alter the schedule if the reforms were running smoothly.