My Take

Territory-wide system assessment is wrong target for Hong Kong education reform

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 December, 2015, 2:01am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

It's good that some parents and teachers are finally rebelling against the learning-by-drilling culture in our schools. But their immediate anger at the Territory-wide system assessments (TSAs) for Primary Three pupils may have been misdirected.

A Chinese-language book called Don't want our Children to become Homework Slaves is making its way onto the local top-selling list. Some parents have started a boycott of classes at several schools in Tai Po.

In October, more than 40,000 parents and teachers placed a full-page advertisement in a Chinese-language newspaper appealing to education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim to cancel the tests. This followed a June survey by the Professional Teachers' Union that found 65 per cent of about 2,000 teachers believed the assessments should be scrapped.

If this revolt leads to a bigger social movement demanding reform of our high-pressure education, it's all the more welcome. But if not, they are picking the wrong target. The tests are used to access the performance of schools, not that of primary students.

Some parents and many pan-democratic politicians are using the TSA as another stick with which to beat the much-hated Leung Chun-ying administration, and also Ng, his most unpopular minister. As clueless as Ng is, he is not the real problem.

Even if you get rid of TSAs (for Primary Three, Primary Six and Form Three), most students will still have a miserable time doing regular homework and studying for endless tests and exams. Many lower-ranking schools don't like the TSAs because their students achieve low scores. What better way than to join the bandwagon and pressure the government to scrap the tests?

While there has been genuine criticism, there also has been much dirty politicking by those attacking the TSAs and the government.

Even if all TSAs are cancelled, your kid's life will still be made miserable by regular homework and tests.

As I have argued before, there is no need to cancel TSAs. In fact, you need them or something like them to fairly assess schools.

Those who want to reform our education system must first contend with parents and teachers who equate drilling with good education. They are the real enemies.