Hong Kong schools

What do similar results between BCA and TSA show about Hong Kong pupils and teaching system?

Education authorities release report on performance of Primary Three pupils in revised version of controversial test

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 9:57am

The latest results of Primary Three pupils in a revised version of a citywide assessment in Hong Kong are similar to those from the original test, which was criticised for the pressure it placed on children.

On Wednesday, the Examinations and Assessment Authority submitted a report to the Education Bureau. The report covered test results from a total of 150,000 pupils at Primary Three, Primary Six and Form Three levels.

Only Primary Three pupils sat for the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA). The test for Primary Six and Form Three pupils remained in its original form, also known as the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA).

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A bureau spokesman said of the results from all three levels: “Their performance in the three core subjects of Chinese, English and maths continues to be steady.”

The percentage of Primary Three pupils achieving basic competency in the various subjects this year did not vary greatly from results in previous years, despite the BCA being a revised form of the TSA, according to the bureau.

The TSA has long been criticised for causing undue stress on children, as parents have expressed concern about schools drilling pupils for the test.

A trial of the revised TSA was first conducted among some 50 primary schools last year.

For this year, 86.3 per cent of Primary Three pupils reached levels of basic competency in the Chinese language BCA subject, a slight increase of 0.5 percentage points from the trial last year. In 2015 the figure was 86.4 per cent, under the TSA.

Some 81.1 per cent of these pupils achieved basic competency in the English subject for this year’s BCA – identical to the result last year, and an increase of 0.7 percentage points from 2015.

For maths, the basic competency results dropped slightly to 88.2 per cent this year from 89.9 last year. But this figure was higher than the 87.6 per cent in 2015.

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The bureau did not disclose the number of Primary Three pupils who took part this year, but it stated that more than 470 publicly funded primary schools and more than 20 private schools were involved.

It cited changes in the design of questions as improvements to the latest test.

“Stakeholders generally agree that the enhancements are effective,” the spokesman said.

Hung Wai-shing, principal of SKH Tin Shui Wai Ling Oi Primary School, said the similar percentages of pupils achieving basic competencies in the BCA and TSA showed that teaching standards have remained the same in recent years. “It showed that the overall level of students remained similar and teaching standard has been stable.”

He added that the similar percentages between versions of the test showed that the standard for basic competency had not changed, but just that the revised difficulty levels were taken into account.

“When questions were harder in the past, a pupil might have to score 70 marks, for example, to be seen as reaching basic competency. But with easier questions now, he or she might have to score 90,” Hung said.

Despite easier assessment questions, education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said drilling for tests still existed in schools. “These exercises carrying model BCA questions may become a daily routine .”

He said the government should conduct a thorough study and consultation to decide whether to proceed with the latest citywide assessment.