It’s not just the TSA; Hong Kong’s education system is built to ruin happy childhoods

The Territory-wide System Assessment is simply a symptom of the malaise that plagues our schools and young pupils

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2016, 2:10am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2016, 2:59pm

There is nothing inherently wrong with the TSA. The test for Primary Three and Six, and Form Three students stands for the Territory-wide System Assessment. It’s used primarily to assess schools, not pupils. But clueless bureaucrats, selfish teachers and principals, hysterical parents and opportunistic politicians have completely distorted its purpose. As a result, the hellish life of an average local student is made even worse for having to prepare for the TSA.

I can’t for the life of me understand why parents couldn’t just allow their children take the TSA without studying for it. The problem is that bureaucrats pile pressure on schools. Teachers prep students to make sure they perform well so their results reflect well on their schools. Parents, not knowing what the TSA is really for, follow blindly. Politicians, sensing another propaganda coup against the government, capitalise on the widespread discontent among parents.

And of course, faced with such pressure, education chief Eddie Ng Hak-kim has proved as clueless as ever. He hasn’t learned a thing from the rebellion over national and moral education in 2012.

To get an idea of the absurdity of the situation, compare it with that of independent and international schools. These schools also have their own assessments, which include the widely administered annual tests for the International Baccalaureate. But few teachers or parents in those schools ever complain. The reason is simple: the schools don’t drill their students for the tests. In fact, at my children’s school, the principal sends mass emails telling parents not to prep their sons and daughters for the tests, and only advise pupils to get plenty of rest and sleep the night before.

But in the fiercely competitive environment of local education, any test, regardless of purpose, must be prepared for to ensure high scores.

Under criticism, an official committee now recommends revamping the TSA by exempting 90 per cent of schools from administering it; allowing parents to opt out; and making the tests easier.

In that case, why bother having the test at all? If you need to do all that, then I agree with those parents who demand scrapping the TSA. But if the Education Bureau does scrap it, it will be a pyrrhic victory for the parents. Their children will have to study just as hard and face the same exam pressures that ruin a happy childhood. That, alas, is what the local system is all about.