Endless TSA debate in Hong Kong is just a symptom: the illness is a high-pressure school system
I write to express my concern regarding the exam-oriented and overly competitive nature of the Hong Kong education system, as reflected by the prolonged debate over the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).
The question now is not whether TSA should be scrapped. It is why, even without TSA, so many of our students face tremendous pressure in coping with their schoolwork. As a schoolteacher, it is pitiful to see how students are being deprived of their childhoods, since many of them are overburdened with homework, assessments, after-school tutorials and extracurricular activities.
Nowadays many local parents are pressured to enrol their kids at elite preschools even before the children can talk properly. Given our highly competitive education system, it is not hard to understand why there is always the fear among parents that their child would fall behind if they did not put in the same, or extra, efforts to keep up with their peers. This often means having to push their children to the limit, despite the fact that they may have to sacrifice their free time or even physical and mental well-being.
Watch: How does a Hong Kong lawmaker fare in the TSA test?
Similarly, to help students cope with TSA, a lot of schools simply have to arrange their internal assessments based on the demanding requirements of this test. Though the Education Bureau stresses that drilling for the exam is not necessary and will diminish learning interest, there is always the underlying pressure for individual students and schools to compare and compete, which makes mechanical drilling unavoidable.
Given our deep-rooted exam-oriented culture, it is worthwhile to take a step back and ask ourselves the vital questions: what is the purpose of education and what are our expectations? Do we want to train our future generations to become exam-taking machines? Or do we want to equip our children with the correct attitude, essential skills and qualities that will help them survive, succeed and contribute to society, and, more importantly, to lead happy and fulfilling lives?
Laverne Cheung, Hung Hom