Letters to the Editor, November 6, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 November, 2015, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 November, 2015, 4:31pm

Bureau should trust teachers over TSA

Assigned to be an oral assessor, I conducted the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) tests in two secondary schools two years ago. In School A, students seemed to have received substantial drilling in speaking that almost all candidates had the same style of opening, closing and organisation in their presentations. Consequently, they all got decent marks in the oral assessment.

In School B, the vice-principal told me frankly that they did not train their students for the assessment. Some students, when coming for the assessment, therefore felt a bit confused and underperformed.

If one just takes the marks into consideration, one may easily conclude that School A has better quality of learning or teaching. However, this is partly true. From my observation, School B students were actually smarter, in the sense that they used their self-taught strategies to get by the speaking assessment (although they had difficulty in organising their ideas and deciphering the question requirements because of a lack of training).

My question is thus: what makes the Education Bureau so confident that the quantitative data derived from the assessment could help analyse the quality of learning? The issue at heart is that the bureau does not trust teachers to produce equally high-quality tests, which they can make use of to analyse the problems of their students.

Given the controversy over the Territory-wide System Assessment ("'Bureau must act on vicious drilling'", November 3), it is high time teachers safeguarded their professionalism and autonomy by saying no to the TSA and told the authorities that they, too, have the ability to help their students learn better - even without the TSA.

Samson Yuen, Tin Shui Wai


Axing tests won't ease student stress

There's been talk that Territory-wide System Assessment for students should be abandoned. I don't agree with this view.

Many parents said the exams brought their children too much pressure and homework, which ate into their time for rest.

But the tests are designed to gauge students' attainment of basic competencies in the three main subjects. The results can provide a reference for improving learning and teaching.

As a Secondary Two student, I can tell you that the assessment involves only the basic content in the curriculum. It would make no difference to the studying we have to do if it were abandoned. It's true some schools pay too much attention to the assessment, and they give students too many exercises to do. However, in my primary school, it didn't happen.

I can imagine that if there were no such assessments, after-class lessons and tutorial classes will still continue. Parents want their children to do well in class, so they will still ask them to attend tutorial classes after school.

Au Yeung Kwong-fai, Tsuen Wan


Speak English confidently, as first lady does

Hong Kong, an international city and a former British colony, has always been proud of its English skills. We think our 12 years of free English education makes us superior to other Chinese cities and neighbouring countries. But I'm afraid that advantage is eroding.

Recently, China's first lady Peng Liyuan made an articulate and inspiring speech in fluent English at a UN meeting. Although it was a prepared speech, she spoke from her heart. Let us take a second to appreciate Ms Peng's efforts. She did not receive 12 years of formal English education but was bold enough to speak in an unfamiliar language in front of many whose mother tongue is English.

Have we in Hong Kong taken our English education for granted?

Indeed, we should be as confident as Ms Peng was in speaking English. This is what teenagers like us lack. I always try to speak in English, but people around usually don't. I admit my fear of not speaking clearly makes me shy to take the initiative sometimes. I believe many others in the city feel the same.

We should be more confident. Besides this, the government should stop paying lip service and do more to stress the importance of English, such as by using it from time to time in the Legislative Council.

Myra Fong, Wong Tai Sin

Rethink pay structure in public bodies

More than 1,000 public-sector doctors staged a mass sit-in at Queen Elizabeth Hospital last month, demanding an extra 3 per cent salary increase, in tandem with that for senior civil servants. They got their wish.

It's a tough job being a doctor in a public hospital. We highly appreciate their professionalism and dedication - there is no argument there.

However, the implications of the pay rise are far-reaching. It not only casts doubt on the financial sustainability of the Hospital Authority (which has to dig into its reserves to meet the doctors' demand), but also encourages other publicly funded organisations, such as the social welfare sector, to demand a similar pay adjustment.

Their argument seems reasonable, but we have to consider it from multiple perspectives.

Firstly, these publicly funded organisations were set up to promote independence, operational efficiency and flexibility in remuneration policy. If staff remuneration is pegged to that of the civil servants, these objectives would be nothing more than empty talk.

Secondly, the staff of some publicly funded bodies enjoy benefits that civil servants are not entitled to. The meal allowance for Hospital Authority staff is one example. MTR staff, to take another example, even enjoy double pay before the Lunar New Year. Then, should these employment benefits be abolished?

Finally, it has been reported that the remuneration package of the Hospital Authority chief executive is higher than that of Hong Kong's secretary for food and health. Is this reasonable given their positions in the hierarchy?

The contribution of these publicly funded organisations should be acknowledged, but, at the same time, the Audit Commission and the Legislative Council should more closely scrutinise their remuneration policies.

Stanley Ip, Tseung Kwan O


Concessions needed in Xi-Ma talks

The leaders from Beijing and Taipei are due to meet in Singapore on Saturday ("'Mister' sets the stage for Xi-Ma historic talks", November 5).

Taiwan is a developed economy. Its people enjoy freedom, democracy and human rights protection. They have everything - except a seat at the United Nations.

Taipei lost its membership of the very organisation it founded. If mainland China wants Taiwanese to accept the "one China principle", the China seat at the UN should be made rotational between Taipei and Beijing. Taiwanese voters, even the Nationalist diehards, would not be swayed by anything less.

The photo opportunity in Singapore would leave President Ma Ying-jeou a place in history. But without concrete concession, the meeting means nothing to Taiwanese people.

The US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact will create a parallel universe challenging China's dominance in manufacturing. If Taiwan is allowed in, the agreement, along with the mainland's ailing economy, will set Taiwanese free from their overreliance on the mainland for business.

Beijing will soon see the weakening of its influence in Taiwan. China will fade into irrelevance in Taiwan if the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party returns to power.

The window of opportunity for Beijing is closing fast so it should act decisively.

Leung Ka Kit, Yau Tsim Mong


Public interest trumps confidentiality

Whether the confidentiality of HKU council meetings should override other public interest concerns has caused controversy ("Experts query scope of HKU gag on media", November 3). Undeniably a breach of confidentiality would threaten freedom of speech, as it may make some people uncomfortable about airing their views in closed-door meetings.

That said, the University of Hong Kong's response to the leaked audio recording of one of its council meetings lacks consideration. With its court injunction, the media is now barred from disclosing the contents of the meeting. Yet, the information may reveal the real reasons behind the rejection of Johannes Chan Man-mun as pro-vice-chancellor, which the public should know about.

When public interests are at stake, transparency can help the public understand the issue and the consequences thereof. So the need for confidentiality should be not used as an excuse to cover things up.

Many of the university's students will be the future pillars of our society, and they should be led by people who are both morally and academically outstanding. Hong Kong people should be concerned.

Christy Wong, Tseung Kwan O