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Hong Kong schools

Parents anger over continued drilling for TSA exams

TSA concern group is calling on parents to join their protest after a number of them felt that the city’s primary schools did not intend to put a stop to drilling exercises

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 2:58pm

Parents opposed to the Territory-wide System Assessment for students are refusing to heed requests from schools to purchase textbooks of drilling exercises for the exams for their children in the coming academic year.

Issuing a statement on its Facebook page, the TSA concern group is calling on parents to join their protest after a number of them felt that the city’s primary schools did not intend to put a stop to drilling exercises, despite an Education Bureau circular in December asking schools to stop arranging extra classes, training or mock exams.

The statement also named five primary schools which issued book lists with TSA exercises for prospective primary three students. Three of those even extended the exercises for prospective primary two pupils.

But one of the schools, the Hong Kong Institute of Education Jockey Club Primary School, insisted the exercise books were only used as part of their curriculum.

A spokeswoman surnamed Tsang explained the books were selected because they covered a wide range of learning aspects, and emphasised the school had never drilled students in preparation for the TSA.

Parents were angry that the schools seemed to have ignored their concerns and went ahead with the drilling.

“As parents, we definitely cannot be part of this unjust mechanism, which destroys our children’s learning ability and interest,” the statement read.

The group has written to education minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, and called this boycott only the first step of their struggle.

Introduced in 2004, the TSA requires primary three, primary six and secondary three students from publicly-funded schools to sit a range of papers to test their Chinese and English language, as well as mathematic competencies.

While education officials have always stressed no preparation was needed for the tests, schools which feared the results would be used as a benchmark resorted to drilling students to boost their performance.

Criticism centred on the exams for primary three students, as parents believe youngsters should never be subjected to such burdens. Others wanted the system abolished altogether.

An advisory committee was set up by the Education Bureau to come up with a fix, and in the end, the primary three TSA was suspended for 90 per cent of the school for this year, while the remaining 10 per cent - or 50 schools - were invited to take part in a trial of a “simplified” trial.

But education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen warned school programmes would still be formulated based on the TSA, which would make a full comeback next year.

“We cannot teach for the tests,” Ip said, adding conflicts between parents and schools would become more frequent if the government is adamant on keeping the exams.