Hong Kong parents angry after being barred from meeting to discuss controversial assessment exam

Senior government official pledges to hear more views about controversial assessment exam

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 2:52am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 November, 2015, 2:52am

The education authorities yesterday promised to collect opinions from more parents on a controversial city-wide exam, after concerned parents expressed anger about being shut out of a closed-door meeting to discuss the issue.

This came ahead of a Legislative Council public hearing on the Territory-wide System Assessment today, which education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim had said he would not attend because of a previously arranged out-of-town trip for personal reasons.

Over 130 parents who oppose the exam and want it scrapped for Primary Three children are expected to voice their concerns at the hearing. Critics suspect that the bureau arranged the closed-door meeting - to which only a few parents were invited - to collect biased opinions to counter those of opponents.

Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said yesterday that staff members collected contacts from parents who were barred from the meeting on Friday evening and that the bureau would contact them and listen to their opinions later.

The exam was introduced in 2004 to assess Primary Three, Primary Six and Form Three pupils' basic knowledge in Chinese, English and mathematics. But the exams have been heavily criticised for leading to drilling and excessive homework.

"We regret that [Ng] refused to attend [the] hearing," said Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers' Union. He said the bureau appeared to be trying to "hastily collect" opinions in favour of the exam before the hearing.

Ivy Ho Shuk-yi, one of the 13 parents who were barred from the meeting at the Education Bureau's Kowloon Tong Education Resource Centre, said she and other parents were told that they could not enter the meeting venue because they were not registered. She said the meeting room, with only around 20 parents inside, was half empty.

"We are worried that the bureau was trying to collect only the opinions it likes and the meeting was just for show," said Ho.

Yeung said the parents who attended the meeting were invited by parent-teacher associations so staff members did not allow participation by uninvited people. He said the bureau would arrange more meetings to collect opinions and would follow up with the parents who left their contact details.

"Consultation can happen many times and on many levels. I don't think we should focus on a specific meeting and say it's a fake consultation," said Yeung. "This is not a very fair comment to those parents who attended the meeting."

Concerned parents will stage a rally outside the Legco building today. They will host family-friendly games and activities during the event.