Hong Kong schools

All Hong Kong primary schools should take part in new competence exam, says education secretary

Education Bureau also pledged not to use test results to rate schools’ performance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 January, 2017, 3:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 2:42pm

Every primary school has the responsibility to participate in a new competence exam that will replace the unpopular Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA), Hong Kong’s education minister said on Tuesday.

Secretary for Education Eddie Ng Hak-kim added that the new assessment would be part of the daily curriculum. This comes a day after he announced that all primary schools were encouraged to join the test this year, without confirming whether it was compulsory.

If any school decides not to join, the government will ask educators to state a reason, he said during a Legislative Council panel meeting.

Ng added that if an individual pupil refuses to join the new assessment, the government will leave it to the school to handle the case.

But lawmakers, teachers’ groups and parent representatives remained concerned that such a move would put more pressure on schoolchildren, even though the Education Bureau had told schools not to drill pupils for the assessment.

Revamped tests extended to all Hong Kong primary schools

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also defended the new policy on Tuesday morning.

“One of the key [points] of the problem is the ‘training’ [that pupils have to go through] – the Education Bureau responded to queries about this and there will be relevant measures.”

“Last year, when the [TSA] topic was hotly discussed in society, I went to bookstores and bought a large pile of Primary Three TSA exercises. I compared it with the test papers, and found that the questions on the mock papers were much more difficult than [the TSA papers]. So I hope the schools, teachers and parents would pay attention to this issue,” Leung said.

Tong Chung-yee, a parent representative, said she had heard that some schools were now arranging additional classes to train pupils on the test, which will start in the second semester.

“As a parent, I do not feel assured ... The pressure of having TSA is already unbearable and has caused a lot of debates. How can the parents be assured about the new policy?” she asked.

Retired primary school principal Fung Pik-yee said some schools may still be under pressure to drill pupils for the new test as it remained unclear how the Education Bureau would use the test results.

But Jenny Chan Yuen-han, the bureau’s principal assistant secretary, said in a radio programme that the bureau will not use the results to rate schools’ performance.

The trial featured simpler and shorter exam papers, was conducted at just 56 schools last year in place of the usual citywide TSA and eliminated the issue of excessive training, while improving learning and teaching.

Ng explained earlier that by extending the trial to all primary schools this year, it would “allow more schools to participate and understand the new initiatives” and provide the bureau with “more comprehensive feedback to continue to review and enhance the arrangements for TSA”.

Ng also pledged that government-funded schools would take the lead by not buying supplementary exercise books to prepare for the TSA.

A non-binding motion proposed by education lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen requested that the Education Bureau allow schools, parents and students to have the right of freedom to decide whether to participate in the TSA or other new versions. A total of 11 legislators approved the motion, while one rejected and five abstained from voting.

These are the old TSA questions that have been replaced. Are they too hard for you?