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Hong Kong education chief calls for less homework during Lunar New Year

Homework is a contentious issue in the city where parents have complained about their children being sent home with more than two hours of assignments each day

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 11:02pm

Schools should ease the burden of homework for students over Lunar New Year, the education minister said on Monday, as he vowed his bureau would make a decision on a controversial competency assessment by next month.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the festive season, the Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung urged school operators to lessen homework for pupils to free up time for traditional activities such as visiting relatives, which he said were also important for a child’s development.

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“One operator I spoke to said it had asked its schools to not give out any homework during this period,” he said.

Yeung also said his bureau had been discussing with schools ways to improve the city’s homework policies, with a focus on making assignments more diverse and interesting.

With an increasingly competitiveeducation system, homework is a contentious issue in Hong Kong, with some parents and children complaining of spending more than 2½ hours on homework each day.

Reverend Peter Koon Ho-ming, provincial secretary general of the Sheng Kung Hui, the Anglican Church in Hong Kong and Macau, said the church had advised its schools to reduce homework for the Lunar New Year period, and to avoid assignments that are based on drilling – or a rote learning approach that relies heavily on memorisation.

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The guidelines were issued in view of parents’ growing unease on the amount homework being given to their children, he said.

The Education Bureau is still deciding whether to continue the unpopular Basic Competency Assessment (BCA) as it was awaiting a government-appointed committee reviewing the test to submit its report, Yeung said, adding that he believed the bureau would reach a decision by next month.

The test is widely regarded as a rebranded version of the Primary Three Territory-wide System Assessment, which became notoriously associated with teachers drilling pupils amid a widespread belief that the bureau uses data to rank schools.

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The bureau has repeatedly denied such claims.

Amid calls for the assessment to be scrapped, the test was suspended for all but around 50 schools in 2016, which took a revamped version that was shorter and easier. All public primary schools then took the new test in 2017, but parents and educators have said the motivation to drill still existed.

The education secretary previously said the committee would submit recommendations to the bureau by early January this year. Yeung explained the delay was because of committee members spending more time gathering feedback to be more comprehensive in their recommendations.

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He also said that regardless of the decision, he hoped the public would face it in “a calm and peaceful manner”.

The committee will next meet on February 14, and should the BCA continue this year, the written assessment would be held on June 12 and 13.