Parents who spend hours preparing children for Hong Kong TSA exams have 'herd mentality', education expert says

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 November, 2015, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2015, 4:47am

About half of the parents of Hong Kong pupils have spent time preparing them for the controversial Territory-Wide System Assessment (TSA) - even though the majority do not believe the tests are useful, a survey has found.

Education experts said the findings reflected a herd mentality among parents.

"When everybody else is doing it, you feel like you also have to do something," said Dr Tik Chi-yuen, chief executive of the Hong Kong Institute of Family Education (HKIFE), referring to exercises designed for the exams.

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The non-profit HKIFE interviewed 527 parents of Primary Three and Six pupils by phone from October 28 to 31. It found that around half of the parents had spent time with their children preparing for the tests in the past six months.

A third of those parents had spent at least an hour a day on TSA exercises with their children, in addition to their regular homework, while a quarter said they spent more than two hours a day preparing for the tests.

The survey also showed that the majority of parents did not feel the tests were a useful part of their children's education.

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Since 2004, pupils in Primary Three and Six and in Form Three at government schools have taken the test, which aims to assess pupils' abilities in Chinese, English and mathematics so the Education Bureau can monitor their progress and their schools' academic standards.

Even though the bureau says extra drilling is not required to prepare for the tests, many schools end up piling on more exercises in the hopes they will help students perform better.

"The TSA should be like a regular body check. You wouldn't suddenly go and do more exercise and change your diet the week before your body check," Tik said.

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The HKIFE said the TSA had strayed away from its original purpose of helping teachers fine tune their curriculum. Instead, the data collected was apparently being used as another method by authorities to put pressure on schools to perform better.

Last week, tens of thousands of parents signed a Facebook petition calling for the Primary Three exams to be cancelled, saying they put too much pressure on children.

But some educational experts say cancelling the exams is not the most effective way to solve the problem.

"Scrapping the test is no use. Some new system will come up in its place sooner or later. The bureau needs to make sure that the test is implemented in a way that matches its original intent in the first place," said Christopher Yu Wing-fai, director of the HKIFE.

The bureau has pledged to review the assessments.