Talks needed to bridge gap between policy makers and parents in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 4:51pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 February, 2017, 10:48pm

The ongoing saga over the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) for schools is unnecessary.

Had it not been for the wilful neglect of the government, this could have been an opportune moment for not only a review of the system, but a revamp.

Following a report on a trial of the revised TSA submitted last year, Education Secretary Eddie Ng Hak-kim announced that the recommended “professional enhancement arrangements” under the trial would be extended to all primary schools in 2017. The fine-tuning, however, does little to address the plethora of concerns parents and schools have.

The announcement about reviving the TSA followed recommendations drawn up by a review committee.

However, it has to be asked whether the recommendations are worth adopting.

We do not need a year of experimentation to tell us how the fine-tuned version would turn out.

The review should have gauged the views of stakeholders. If recommendations fell short of expectations, as the government would have anticipated, they should have been shelved.

The TSA has become dysfunctional, given its largely warped objectives. Mr Ng is therefore missing the point in renaming the TSA under the guise of the “basic competency assessment”.

The question lies not in what should be done to perfect the test or to avoid drilling, but what better alternatives we have in place of the TSA which will serve the purpose of gauging students’ performance, and have those inform learning and teaching.

The strong public backlash from schools and parents points to the need for something more than a facelift. A revamp is a painstaking yet much-needed process.

The government should show the public it is willing to optimise the testing system by engaging stakeholders in a citywide discussion, instead of engaging a review committee.

With most Hong Kong parents having the mistaken belief that learning takes place only when their children are preoccupied with work, a territory-wide discussion would also help bridge the gap between policy planners and parents as to what sorts of outcomes they aspire to achieve.

Now that the impossible mission for the government to talk parents and schools into accepting the TSA has failed again, the government should get real. It should steer the discussion from the false dichotomy of whether the TSA should be scrapped, to a more substantial discussion of what else would be a mutually agreed upon option between parents and the government.

Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Happy Valley