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Hong Kong’s largest teacher body claims most instructors still felt pressure to drill for revised controversial exam

Union also calls for assessment to be suspended until proper review is done

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 10:05pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 December, 2017, 10:58pm

Nearly 90 per cent of Hong Kong teachers said a revamped competence assessment carried out last school year had pressured them to drill pupils despite it being a simpler version, the city’s largest organisation for the profession found.

The poll released on Sunday by the Professional Teachers’ Union also revealed that while officials had yet to announce whether the unpopular exam would continue next year, close to 40 per cent of schools continued to make youngsters do related practices or have additional classes. The survey included 1,741 primary schoolteachers.

In light of the finding, the union urged the assessment be suspended until a proper review could be done.

Administered across the city, the Territory-wide System Assessment (TSA) was designed to enhance learning and teaching by providing the government with data to review policies.

But in recent years, the assessment, particularly the version for Primary Three, has become associated with teachers drilling pupils amid a widespread belief that the Education Bureau uses data to rank schools. The bureau has repeatedly denied such claims.

The committee lacks representation and did not do a comprehensive study on teachers’ opinions
Ip Kin-yuen, lawmaker

Last year, the government suspended the Primary Three TSA for all but about 50 schools to facilitate a comprehensive review. And despite significant objections, the bureau earlier this year launched the Basic Competency Assessment (BCA), seen by many as a mere repackaging and simpler version of the TSA.

With a government review committee set to announce this month its verdict on whether the exam will continue next year, union vice-president and education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen expressed doubt over the panel’s credibility.

“The committee lacks representation and did not do a comprehensive study on teachers’ opinions,” he said.

It consists mainly of people from the government or government-affiliated organisations as well as principals, with a few department heads and university academics on board. Only teachers holding management roles were included.

Ip called for the government to suspend the exam until a more representative committee could be set up to review the matter comprehensively.

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During her election campaign, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor promised to suspend the Primary Three TSA before the completion of the comprehensive review.

The union’s poll also found that about 80 per cent of teachers opposed carrying out BCA or TSA next year, and about the same percentage believed the pressure to drill pupils would increase if the exam were rolled out.

Union president Fung Wai-wah said his group would request to meet Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung. Fung did not rule out taking more actions to ensure the teachers’ voices were heard, including conducting demonstrations.