Education Bureau's promise to review school tests fails to satisfy union and parents

Committee will investigate parents' concerns about assessment scheme as education chief admits there may be 'implementation' problems

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 November, 2015, 3:20am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 November, 2015, 5:12pm

The Education Bureau has admitted there are problems with the controversial Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) tests for pupils and has set up a committee to review the scheme.

But a teachers' union and angry parents dismissed the measures, saying they could not solve fundamental problems.

It has been a week since tens of thousands of parents signed a Facebook petition calling for the scrapping of the Primary Three tests, saying they were too difficult and putting too much pressure on children.

Education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim finally admitted yesterday that there were implementation problems.

He said a committee had been set up to review the format and timing of the tests and to look at possible tweaks. Ng added that he hoped to get more parents involved and come up with suggestions in three months. Yet, he said he did not see the need to cancel the tests, which are held from March to June.

"We should value this vital tool which assesses student performance," Ng said.

"Problems might have occurred during implementation of the scheme. But what worried parents the most was the amount of homework and exercises. Not the TSA exams themselves."

Kau Yan School, a private primary school in Sai Ying Pun, announced on Friday that it would boycott the tests this academic year, saying the scheme was not in line with the school's mission and was no good for students.

Ng said there was no need for pupils to spend hours doing drilling exercises and cramming for the tests, as they would not affect the students' academic results.

Meanwhile, the Education Bureau sent out new guidelines to schools yesterday, stressing that rote learning, mechanical drills and repeat copying should be avoided.

Schools were asked to fully detail their homework plans online.

"[Homework] quality is more important than quantity. We want to promote happy learning," Ng said.

The guidelines also suggest teachers should help pupils finish homework at school, leaving them time to join extra-curricular activities after classes.

"If the tests have no relation to academic results, why not simply scrap them?" said Lucy Ma, a parent opposed to the scheme.

The Professional Teachers' Union, which also opposes the tests, said a review committee and the guidelines were not helpful.

"The government is not solving the problem but just buying time," said a union spokesman.

The union urged the bureau to suspend the tests so that discussions on the matter could be held without prejudice.

Pupils in Primary Three and Six and Secondary Three at government-funded schools have had to sit TSA tests since 2004. They are aimed at assessing students' abilities in Chinese, English and mathematics to help the bureau keep track of students' progress and schools' academic standards.