Hong Kong must not revive detested TSA exam
Philip Yeung says the chief executive should step in if the education minister insists on overriding overwhelming public opposition to bring back the unneeded test
God is said to move in mysterious ways. So, it seems, does Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim, until we remember who he owes his job to. The defining issue for the embattled education chief’s tenure is the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA). Considered a scourge of childhood, it goes against the grain of enlightened educational practices.
Amid an alarming rise in suicides among stressed-out schoolchildren, there has been an outcry against overtesting. In the West, there is even a movement against giving children homework. But here in Hong Kong, despite the vociferous opposition from parents and teachers, the education secretary is considering a cosmetic move to reintroduce TSA under a revised format. Any clear-eyed person can see this is just old wine in a not-so-new bottle.
Some 86 per cent of the teachers are against it. Parents overwhelmingly reject it; their response to the reintroduction is swift and unmistakable. They are openly threatening to boycott the test if it returns under any guise. But TSA opponents don’t realise that they are up against an unyielding wall: Ng’s career.
Ng is no educator. With a background in human resources, his educational coating came from a vice-chairmanship of the council of the former Hong Kong Institute of Education, where he sided with Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun in her fight with the president of the institute, Paul Morris, resulting in Morris’ contract not being renewed.
It was no surprise that Ng landed the plum post as head of the Education Bureau in the Leung Chun-ying administration, where Law wields much clout.
The TSA was Law’s brainchild when she was permanent secretary for education. If you remember this, you know that scrubbing the test means disowning one of her pet initiatives. Would the current secretary do that?
This is a sad commentary on the state of governance in Hong Kong. We desperately need a responsive government that hears the cries of the people. Does the chief executive not realise the political fallout from such an unpopular move and the potential for more angry protests on our already noisy streets? When a vital issue threatens to boil over, it is the height of folly to hide behind a fake consultation stage-managed by a government-appointed committee.
The chief executive should, before he goes, show some leadership and overrule his minister. Turning a deaf ear to genuine grievances is the final nail in the coffin of a conscienceless government.
Philip Yeung is a former speech-writer to the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. [email protected]