There's an easy answer to the question of Hong Kong's citywide school tests. Scrap them
Our education secretary has been consistently ranked among the most unpopular ministers in public opinion surveys. That's a difficult feat considering Eddie Ng Hak-kim belongs to the most-hated administration since the 1997 handover.
Here is a chance for Ng to redeem himself at low risk to his career - or what's left of it - while actually doing some public good. Scrap the citywide tests for Primary Three pupils that have tortured young children, and caused endless anxiety to parents and teachers. Some 40,000 parents have joined a petition to end the tests. They have threatened to boycott them.
I say do it, don't take the tests. Just refuse and tell those schools that make a big fuss of them to stuff it. The problem, at the moment, is that everyone realises the tests are a waste of time and resources. But Ng's Education Bureau has blamed schools for drilling students when they shouldn't have, while schools counter they are under pressure to improve their assessment results, which in turn lead teachers to drill pupils for the tests in addition to teaching regular classes. And you do need to drill because the tests are ridiculously tough.
The tests were launched in 2004 to assess pupils' abilities in Chinese, English and maths. The idea is to help the bureau keep track of their progress and schools' academic standards. The tests are held for Primary Three and Six and Form Three pupils at government-funded schools.
For some reasons, many parents don't know - or refuse to believe - that the primary-level tests are not used as a reference in the allocation of secondary school places for primary school graduates. As a parent, I know because many of my peers are like that.
I often try to point this out to acquaintances and friends. But they still drill their kids. Their philosophy seems to be: if there is a test, you must study for it, if not for an immediate, then for a higher, unspecified, purpose.
Meanwhile, public schools have every incentive to drill their pupils if they are being ranked by the results. There is no solution but to scrap it. It's nothing radical. The bureau can keep the Primary Six and Form Three tests. But we should give younger minds some breathing space.