Test Hong Kong's primary pupils can do without
Of all the useless exam atrocities inflicted on young lives in Hong Kong, the territory-wide system assessments (TSAs) must rank very high.
Some functionaries at the Education Bureau came up with this wicked scheme and the bureau launched this city-wide test in 2004.
Ever since, in addition to all the exams, texts and study drills, pupils at Primary Three and Six have had to prepare for TSAs as well.
Yet, what's the point of TSAs, which test English, Chinese and maths?
As a parent, I would say there is absolutely no point, for pupils or parents. A new survey by the Professional Teachers' Union finds 65 per cent of teachers want the test canned. They are right.
The assessments are supposed to track a student's academic progress and the schools' education results. But who uses the data? It's useless for parents and pupils because TSA results are not used as a reference for allocation to secondary school places. Supposedly, TSAs don't affect the academic future of pupils. So why study for them?
Essentially, students drill for the school's standing in the bureau's rating or scaling system, but not for themselves. I believe that's the main reason why the purpose of TSAs is often not spelled out to parents; otherwise, smart parents and students would just ignore them, and that, of course, would affect a school's education outcomes and standing with the bureau.
But you can't blame the schools because that's how the bureau sets up the game.
TSA data is probably useful for at least two purposes. Since the band one to band five system was modified into band one to band three, schools still need to be classified, and TSA data helps with that. Secondly, three exams in Primary Five and Six mostly serve to determine a pupil's allocation to secondary school places. But the exam materials and outcomes may vary from school to school, so the bureau needs to scale and rank the schools for comparison. TSAs can be used for that, too.
In other words, TSAs serve an administrative, but not an educational, purpose.
We did without TSAs before 2004. We would surely do fine without them if they were abolished now.