Hong Kong schools

Political parties of all stripes call for scrapping of controversial Hong Kong tests

Alliance of 36 legislators comes a day after chief executive rejected call by his successor Carrie Lam for this year’s exam to be abolished

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2017, 5:44pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 12:07pm

Lawmakers from opposing ­political camps set aside their ­differences on Wednesday to jointly demand the government scrap compulsory assessment tests for Primary Three pupils that are widely considered an unnecessary burden.

The rare show of cross-party cooperation by 36 lawmakers came a day after outgoing chief executive Leung Chun-ying dismissed a call by his successor, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, to abolish the unpopular Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) in May.

Leung insisted it could only be scrapped after June 30, when his five-year term ends.

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“The cross-party coalition is extraordinary,”Ip ­Kin-yuen, the pan-democratic legislator for the education sector in the Legislative Council, said. “When even the chief ­executive-elect has pledged to scrap the test, the government should revisit the matter and ­decide whether it should still push it ahead amid the latest situation.”

The Education Bureau stuck to its stance that parents and schools had participated in a revamped version of the TSA, which was ­presented in January as the Basic Competency Assessment. The bureau said there was no extra drilling under a new format of questioning.

Allowing the schools and parents to freely join the test is a very desirable middle ground
Priscilla Leung, Business and Professionals and Alliance

The alliance of 36 lawmakers requested an urgent meeting with Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and education ­minister Eddie Ng Hak-kim, ­demanding the administration ­either shelve the entire scheme or at least let schools and parents ­decide if they want to take part.

Eight of the lawmakers were from the pro-establishment camp: Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, ­Michael Tien Puk-sun and Eunice Yung Hoi-yan of the New People’s Party; Jimmy Ng Wing-ka; Poon Siu-ping; Paul Tse Wai-chun; and Priscilla Leung Mei-fun and Abraham Razack of the ­Business and Professionals ­Alliance for Hong Kong.

The unlikely coalition came after two months of discussion between the different political parties involved in it, Ip Kin-yuen said.

Priscilla Leung urged the ­government to resolve the conflict by heeding their calls before angry parents and teachers take matters further by boycotting the test.

“Allowing the schools and ­parents to freely join the test is a very desirable middle ground,” she said. “I hope there will be a smooth transition between the two administrations and that the incumbent government can cool the tension down with our joint party consensus.”

The TSA was designed to ­assess competence in order to ­improve learning and teaching, but parents complain it encourages intensive drilling and places too much pressure on pupils.

Trust, not tests, is the real issue with TSA

Lam, who was elected as the city’s next chief executive on ­Sunday, said on Tuesday that she hoped to talk to Leung’s administration about abolishing this year’s test, as promised in her election platform.

But in what was seen as a slap in her face, Leung dismissed the idea, saying it could be done only after July 1, when Lam takes over.

Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan echoed Lam, saying it was meaningless to have the test in May when the incoming leader had already pledged to scrap it next year.

“Leung and Eddie Ng should not forcibly defend the scheme for the sake of saving face,” she said.