My Take

Blame game: The shameless take on the spineless over Hong Kong's flawed TSA tests for primary school students

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 December, 2015, 12:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

It's the shameless versus the spineless. Two school associations have denounced the Education Bureau for sending a warning letter last week to primary schools not to drill pupils before they take the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) test.

But what's wrong with the warning when we all know most primary schools drill - sometimes mercilessly - their students to get higher scores in the TSA's language and maths tests.

This is not for the students' benefits, but to boost the schools' rankings according to the bureau's internal benchmarks.

The scandal is not that the bureau sent out the warning, but to have been so late to do so after having tolerated the schools' dirty drilling for more than a decade when it has been an open secret.

READ MORE: Schools violating policy against extra TSA drills may get written warnings, says Education Minister

Essentially, the drilling has rendered the whole TSA system meaningless.

Now the Aided Primary School Heads Association and the Subsidised Primary School Council say they are "furious" about the letter because it shows the bureau's "lack of understanding" and "indifference to education", adding it has damaged "the mutual trust between schools and parents".

Really? Can someone fill me in on how that's the case? Their "furious" complaint sounds more like crooks complaining police have given them a warning not to commit fraud again after having turned a blind eye to their misdeeds for a long time.

In response, our education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim, ever hapless and spineless, offered a grovelling apology, saying the sending of the letter was "too rushed" and "lacked communication." Oh, please Eddie, the problem is not that you have been too tough but rather not tough enough with arrogant and narrow-minded principals and senior teachers for whom their schools' standing takes priority over the welfare of their pupils.

READ MORE: Hong Kong primary schools told to stop drilling to prepare for controversial exams

Ng didn't start this whole fiasco, but he has proved completely incompetent in handling it.

It's common in many countries to use TSA-like assessments to gauge or benchmark schools. The problem in Hong Kong is that schools have been cheating by drilling pupils almost as soon as the TSA was introduced more than a decade ago, and the bureau had turned a blind eye.

Now many parents are rightly angry. They should direct their anger as much at the schools as the government.