TSA exam

Hong Kong schools

Activists step up efforts to get rid of controversial Hong Kong exam

They set up booths across city to urge parents of Primary Three pupils to boycott Territory-wide System Assessment

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:49pm

Opponents of a Hong Kong competence assessment test – widely criticised for the undue stress it puts on young children – have intensified their efforts to scrap the exam, setting up street booths across the city to urge parents of Primary Three pupils to boycott it.

Concern group Parents United of Hong Kong, and lawmakers, including those from the Democratic Party, Civic Party, Labour Party and Professional Teachers’ Union, set up 56 stations across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and New Territories.

The volunteers handed out flyers and stickers, explaining the negative effects of the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) on students. They also prepared a letter template so parents who wish to have their child skip the exam can submit it to the school, stressing they have the right to exempt their children from taking the controversial test.

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The TSA, originally designed as a tool to enhance learning and teaching, has in recent years become notoriously synonymous with the city’s high pressure education. Some educators claimed the assessment had been used as a basis to determine school closures, but the Education Bureau had repeatedly denied such claims.

The bureau announced in January that a revamped and less demanding format – tested in around 50 schools last year – eliminated the incentive to over-drill. It also added that Primary Three pupils in all government-subsidised schools would have to take part in a research study this year, involving a new exam called the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA).

Detractors dismissed the new study and said it would not discourage schools from overpreparing pupils for the test.

Lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said he would table an amendment during the budget debate to cut down on the expenditure for this year’s TSA. According to a Legislative Council paper, the expenditure for TSA and related studies under the project for the period of 2015 to 2018 is HK$73 million per year.

Another legislator, Lau Siu-lai, said it was not true that next Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s hands are tied until she takes office.

“As long as [Lam] announces that she will ask the Education Bureau to [disregard the results] even if pupils take the TSA this year, there will not be pressure [on the pupils and schools to perform well] and they can even boycott the examination,” she said.

Lam earlier pledged to abolish the unpopular test after taking office, but incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying insisted it could be scrapped only after June 30, when his five-year term ends.